Tag Archives: italki

From online to offline

While here in Korea I have met two people I have otherwise only known online though Italki: my professional tutor and a language partner with whom I have only exchanged text messages through Kakaotalk. For privacy reasons there will be no pictures, though 🙂

I have taken quite a few lessons with my tutor over the past 8 months and we have spoken about so many things that we know each other quite well by now. Meeting in real life, having dinner, drinks, looking at shops, and going to watch a play together – it’s been such a treat to be able to do these things!

In the case of my language partner, I haven’t mentioned her a lot, but we have been in touch for some months. Our contact has been a little more sporadic because of our work situations and the time difference working against us, and until yesterday we had only exchanged texts. However, we recognised each other without any problems when we met at Gangnam Station and then we went café hunting before heading out for dinner. We are 동갑, the same age, and thankfully we also got along well in real life and managed to speak a good mix of English and Korean. When in need of an unknown word, Naver was never far away. We have agreed that when I return to Denmark we should try to do voice talks from time to time so we can continue speaking; just 15 min for each language so we can stay in touch and practice speaking, but not so long that it becomes impossible to schedule 🙂

A year ago I hadn’t even heard of Italki, but I have been really lucky to meet some great people who have helped me improve my Korean as well as make my stay here even more unforgettable.

Great great week

This week has been one heck of a ride with great news at work and loaaads of Korean practice. It started with a job interview for a permanent position at my current workplace followed by some 27 hours and 34 minutes of semi-angst (hey, you never know!) before being offered a position plus a grant for my thesis – for which I have finally decided on a topic as well. That means that I have secured myself a position after the summer holidays! 대-박! I will continue working while writing, but I will limit my working time to just two days per week so I will actually have time to write as well. It’s been a little bit surreal – but in a very very good way.

So, without further ado, here is what I have done related to Korean this week:

Speaking and listening:
Italki lesson #8 (Thursday, 45 min):
As we have done the past two times that we have spoken, we spoke mostly in Korean about regular things – my job offer, what have I bought for my siblings for Christmas, how old were my parents when they retired since they retired early and so on. Everything I couldn’t initially phrase in Korean I would say first in English so she knew what was going on in my head, and then she would help me restructure it from English to Korean with some leading questions along the lines of “how do you say ABC? How about XYZ?  how would you combine those two grammar points?”. I even got a bit of homework at the end of the class concerning grammar points that would improve my fluency.

Also, I learned that when speaking about somebody else’s wishes -고 싶다 changes to -고 싶어하다. AHA! good to know…

Italki lesson #9 (Thursday, 1h 24min):
The strange duration of that class comes down to us going a tad over time, but towards the end we chit-chatted mostly in English until my connection inexplicably died. This was a rescheduled lesson because my tutor wasn’t feeling well on Sunday. Normally I wouldn’t schedule two lessons on the same day, but it worked out fine and I wasn’t completely worn out before this one. During this lesson I didn’t speak as much Korean as in the one before it, but I got myself a wicked collection of vocabulary. To share a few words with you:
건달: a close equivalent could be a “hustler”. For the Danes out there, it should translate to the wonderful word “sjuft”.
잡치다: to make a mess of something or put slightly more colloquially: “to fuck up”. If ever in need of an alternative to 망하다 for the sake of variation, this might the word for you.

Italki lesson #10 (Friday, 45 min):
I spoke a lot of Korean again in this lesson and managed to incorporate some of the grammar patterns from previous lessons. We went over homework, talked about sleeping times, travel, movies, and entertainment programs on TV. For a 45 minute lesson that seems pretty intense, but it didn’t seem rushed. Speaking of the Danish sense of humour, which is on the rather dry end of the scale, we ended up talking a bit about the show “Abnormal Summit”. I have watched a few clips here and there, but so far I hadn’t watched a lot of it. Apparently the German guy is renowned for his somewhat special sense of humour, which Koreans tend to find a bit difficult to understand sometimes. I should check it out properly to see if his sense of sarcasm matches that of the Danes. For our next session I should go through the new grammar points that we covered, and write a few sentences with two grammar points of my own choice.

Italki lesson #11 (Saturday, 30 min):
This was an introductory lesson with a new tutor, since one of my other tutor’s schedule doesn’t always match mine. To not risk ending up going too long without speaking and falling back into my old ways, I decided to try one more. She was super up-beat and stuck to Korean for the entire 30 min that the lesson lasted. Before the lesson she had messaged me to ask for a bit of information about my level, and we agreed to just speak as much as possible. Towards the end of the lesson she sent me some material that she thought would be suitable for my level, and it seems to be pretty spot on so I look forward to going through it.

Revised: -(으)려고 and -지 모르겠어요. The latter I never learned formally before, but I’ve heard it it so many times, that I knew the structure already. One thing is recognising it, though. Using it in a natural way is slightly different.
Learned: -에 따라 and -고 싶어하다

I texted with friends over Kakaotalk and made sure to tell them to please correct me if I write something that seems off so I don’t get bad habits when writing. Some of them already do when something comes out strangely, but telling them again has already earned me a few “this sounds a bit more natural”, which is great.

My homework consists of written assignments, so I got a bit of writing practice as well.

It didn’t happen this week. I worked some 25 hours and had to deal with some thesis stuff. I think I learned a lot from my italki lessons, though, so I won’t beat myself up over lack of readings. I plan to read some Korean over Christmas where I will stay away from academia and work 24th-26th before returning to normal on the 27th – hopefully full of new energy.

Speaking practice

Yesterday I had a 45 min lesson which was great, but incredibly tiring (by 7 PM I was basically ready to just go to bed). At the end of the lesson she suddenly said that she was going to ask some questions to see if I remembered some words and expressions from last time. It makes so much sense to follow up, but I still had a brief moment of fear that I would have forgotten everything. It went well enough, though, and we will continue our endeavours next week.

My short time on Italki has got me wondering what it is that makes me feel comfortable enough to speak – and obviously make plenty of mistakes – with some people, but clam up when around others (I can think of a few people who have this effect on me).

It’s probably a less fortunate combination of perfectionism and a sense of embarrassment which I’m now slowly forcing myself to let go of since it’s downright necessary for me to improve at this stage. And of course these are paid language lessons so the very concept itself entails that one of us is learning the language.

While I couldn’t afford putting in 30-40 USD, which is the hourly rate of many professional teachers, several times per week, the hourly rate of an informal tutor adds up to about the same as a large cappuccino and a cake in a cafe in Copenhagen. That allows for more regular classes, which is exactly what I need right now, and so far I have been very happy with the informal tutoring.

So far I’ve only had 6 lessons so it’s obviously too early to notice any major differences. I wonder when my Korean friends will begin to notice any improvements in my level when we write together… Time will show.

Update: Visiting Sofie and italki skype tutoring

WordPress deleted my draft so here we go again. Since my last post I spent 5 days in London on a family visit, and I visited Sofie from sofietokorea in her home city for an extended weekend – my first visit in that city in about 15 years!

Sofie had a whole program planned for my weekend there; we had dinner at her home with her husband and LP, we went to museums and restaurants, and I just got to see the city close up in general – snow and all. It was great to away from things for a short while, but I have to say it was also a bit of an eye opener in terms of my Korean skills.
What I learned during my weekend stay:
– I have a surprising soju tolerance considering my normally very limited intake of alcohol.
– I understood most of what was said around me in Korean, but I really really really need to speak it more.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read her blog that Sofie’s Korean is amazing, but she sure is also working for it – most conversations with her LP are strictly in Korean. As a bonus I got to hear a bit of banter between her and her LP, which was frankly hilarious. An example:

Sofie: oh, by the way, you sent me a message using that expression, which you said I couldn’t use in XYZ context. But isn’t it the same when you write that to me?
LP: I was just messing with you…
Sofie: … wait, so it is wrong?
LP: hehe yes, I was just making a little fun of you
Sofie: well, I’m glad I asked then!

Before I went home, Sofie really sold the idea of italki to me, so I immediately went home, signed up and found a tutor. Yesterday I had my first lesson, which started off a little awkwardly in the sense that he forgot about me… However, I sent him a skype message and he contacted me soon enough, apologised profusely, and we had the lesson an hour late so I didn’t mention it when scoring him in the Italki sysem afterwards.

I only scheduled 30 min, but we ended up speaking for an hour and 15 minutes in total. Going that much over time is probably not sustainable in the long run, but it was really nice for a first lesson since I got a much better idea of who he is. We started off in English with basic introductions and then switched to Korean to talk about the weather, where we have lived, and our jobs. When things got technical (“trial”, “legal advisory services” and so on) I really depended on the glossary that I was being fed over the skype chat. In the end we ended up speaking English, though. He offered that I can also send him audio messages inbetween classes to practice my pronunciation more. 

Next week I’m on study leave from work so I sent a request for 4 lessons to speed up my learning now that I have time (I know that sounds backwards, but since I won’t be working and my classes ended, I should have an hour here and there for Korean speaking practice and our schedules match next week). So far he hasn’t accepted my request for more lessons, though, so let’s see if I need to find another tutor. At least I think I have taken a small step in the direction of speaking Korean more readily.

Again, thank you for taking such good care of me during that weekend 언니~~~