Day 649 - Language Study Methods

I love reading Ask a Korean! because it's really easy for me to fall into the "Korea is wrong! My way is right!" mentality and The Korean does a good job of reminding me to be less emotional/culturally sensitive about things. Sure, sometimes American/Western society has some good points, but many times Korea has equally good -- if different -- ways and attitudes.

Anyway, I was reading through his blog, procrastinating my Korean language studies and generally pitying myself because it's so haaaaard to learn Korean and why does everyone make fun of my pronunciation and why can't they just see that I work so hard to learn their language and other very shameful selfish thoughts. In one article, The Korean describes how he learned English after his family moved to America. I figured I would share because I think it goes in reverse, too.

"It seemed obvious to me that without knowing words, my English would go nowhere. I decided that I should memorize every single word in my sight that I did not know. I bought many boxes of empty flashcards and wrote the words I did not know on one side, and the definition on the other side."
Suddenly my plastic shopping bag full of index cards doesn't seem so anal!

Working on one diagnostic SAT took weeks, because I was so terrible in the verbal section to the degree that it was comical.
The go-to study method for TOPIK that I took was to just print out all the past tests and take them. I would underline all the words I didn't know and circle all the grammar points I didn't understand. I guess that was a good choice, too!

To develop speaking and listening, I watched at least 3 hours of television every day.
I guess I need to watch more Korean dramas... it's hard for me to get interested in most of them and I'm not a TV person in general, unfortunately.

Then came reading and writing. I started by reading my favorite books that were originally in English -- started with Les Miserables, then Brothers Karamazov. Even after I built a decent-sized mental storage of vocabularies, I still had trouble reading a long sentence with a complex structure. Well then – you can guess what’s coming. Whenever I had trouble deciphering a sentence, I wrote it down and memorized it whole. Whenever I had a chance to write, I tried to incorporate the new sentence structure I learned, plugging in different vocabularies that I memorized.
I've been meaning to pick up some kind of young adult novel translated into Korean, but honestly it sounds so hard that I keep putting it off. Apparently, I should just suck it up and do it.

In other words, I went from basic English skills to college-level English proficiency in two years.
And with that, suddenly I feel like a lazy b*tch that should stop complaining and get back to studying, because I've been in Korea for two years now and I don't think I'm going to get a level 4 (college-level Korean) on the TOPIK.
(cue womp-womp trombones)

The Korean continues in his article with a really interesting summary of why his method of rote memorization worked best, rather than "immersive" language learning methods. However, I'm going to go study so I don't have time to pull the most interesting quotes and then uselessly apply them to myself in a way that most of you find completely disinteresting anyway. To the books!


Day 646 - Imminent TOPIK. Army English Class, Korean Weddings

Just five more days until the TOPIK. I took a practice test the other day and scored a 71% so now I feel even more pressured to cram because there's the sssllliiiggghht possibility that I might be able to pull of the level 4. Maybe?

Today is also the first day that I'll teach a volunteer English conversation class at DY's Army base. I met with a handful of the soldiers last week for a dinner meeting, and they all seemed extremely excited about the class. Honestly, their commander wanted to pay me a good sum of money for the classes, but contractually and morally I couldn't accept the money. Instead we compromised that while I won't be paid, they'll cover all my costs to get to and from the base and every now and then take me out to dinner. Deal!

When I first came to Korea, I wondered how Amy*, ( whose blog I followed before I came to Korea, managed to get so many offers for private tutoring and little daycare/church group classes. She got so many that recently she quit her "regular" teaching job and now makes BANK teaching little "informal" style classes. (*Note, I think she's able to do so, visa-wise, because she's married to a Korean guy now and has whatever visa a spouse gets?)

But you really do start networking after a year or two in the country, especially if people like the way you teach. I gave a presentation at the F*bright spring conference in Jeju two weekends ago about teaching conversational English. My main point was that lessons should encourage confidence, first and foremost. I think as teachers, we tend to look at all the things the students CAN'T do, and try to make lesson plans about THAT. However, most of the native-speaker teachers in Korea only see the students once a week, so that's a grand total of 20 hours a semester. And THAT's assuming none of those classes get canceled due to testing/school trips/testing/random holiday/testing. So realistically, you're probably only going to see them for 15 hours a semester. Trying to "fill in" the holes in their conversational English is, most likely, fighting a losing battle. It's more productive for both you and the students to work with their strengths and give them the tools they could use in other aspects of their life, too. Problem solving, creative thinking, confidence -- these are things you can exercise in the classroom but also help them with English. (For example, circumlocution -- describing a word without actually saying the word -- is a skill that I've found many Koreans struggle with. How important and useful is that, though? And it doesn't depend on the English level at all. With my low level students, we did this lesson and used easy words like "mother", "cat", and "coffee".)


Went to Seoul last weekend with DY for his friends' wedding. Korean weddings are very different from Western weddings, and I don't mean the "traditional" Korean wedding. Western style weddings are really popular here, but they do it very... differently. I'm used to the "planning weddings involves many decisions and lots of planning and stress and lots of anticipation and excitement". But in Korea, you just pop down to the local "wedding hall" (웨딩홀) and pick out a package deal that includes everything from a buffet meal to the photography to the dress rental. All you do is point to the package you want (cheap - midrange - expensive, basically), pay the wedding hall, and show up on your wedding day.

I think that's why there's not as much pomp and circumstance attached to the ceremony. During the 15 minute ceremony, people walk in and out of the venue, talk on cellphones at a conversational volume, carry out discussions with each other, leave early to hit the buffet, or skip the ceremony all together and just head upstairs for the food. You also don't bring gifts for the newlyweds. They have envelopes at a desk in front of the venue where you're expected to drop money. If you don't drop some money (amount you give is written next to your name), you don't get a buffet ticket. There's no guest list or anything, anybody can show up and as long as you drop enough money at the desk, you get a ticket for the buffet. Very different from a Western wedding.


Day 477 - Catching Up with the Ex Homestay Brother

[오후 12:40:44] Lindsay: you should make a website like "" but for living in America
[오후 12:40:55] David: so...
[오후 12:40:57] David: I have to make
[오후 12:41:19] David: