Improve your Korean in 6 unique ways

You may have just finished your Korean textbook or passed your first Korean class. Now you feel accomplished but not sure where to go next. You might be bridging the gap from beginner to intermediate, or making your way from intermediate to advanced. Wherever you are in your journey, there are a few things you can incorporate into your day to improve your Korean fast. Note that most of the tips in this post might not apply to beginner learners.

1. LISTEN TO PODCASTS IN KOREAN (NOT JUST ABOUT KOREAN)

If you’re over listening to podcasts and audio lessons like TTMIK and Koreanpod101, you might want to try listening to podcasts made for the Korean market. Here are my favorites that I listen to on Google Podcasts:
🎧 2018 문장의 소리 (The Voice of Text)
Description (KR): 이 방송은 한국문화예술위원회에서 운영하는 인터넷 문학 라디오 <문장의 소리> 팟캐스트 버전입니다.
Description (EN): This is the podcast version of the Internet literary radio program called “The Voice of Text”, run by the Korean Culture and Arts Council.

🎧 [KBS]라디오 다이어리 그 남자 그 여자 (That man, that woman, KBS Radio Diary)
Description (KR): 우리는 누구나 일기를 씁니다. 연필로 쓰는 그 남자, 휴대폰에 쓰는 그 여자, 그리고 마음에 쓰는 그 남자, 그 여자. 우리 일상의 일기로 영화 같은 꿈을 꾸는 시간입니다. 좋은 음악과 함께 듣고 싶다면 매일 밤 자정 KBS 2라디오 101.6Mhz를 찾아주세요.
Description (EN): We all keep diaries. There’s the man who writes in pencil, the woman who types on her phone, and then those who write in their hearts. Through our daily diaries, we have time to dream like our life is a movie. If you want to listen to good music with this, tune into KBS 2 Radio every night, on 10.6Mhz.

🎧 [MBC] 박경의 꿈꾸는 라디오 (Park Kyung’s Dreaming Radio)
Lindie’s description: This radio show is hosted by Park Kyung from the Kpop group Block B. He’s quirky and has a lovely voice for the radio. The only downside to this is that the songs are cut short, but for language learning it’s good because the radio show will mostly be him talking. He talks about various daily life topics with different guests and relates the topics to music.

🎧 [MBC] 음악의 숲 정승환입니다 (Indie Radio, Live Forest)
Singer Jung Seunghwan runs this radio show, and has a soft voice that might relax you so much that you’ll fall asleep – but if you stay awake, it’ll be good language practice because he speaks at a natural speed and talks about daily topics. He’s funny and I often find myself laughing out loud and things he says. He also reads messages from listeners and these are great to learn new vocabulary from.


You can make listening to a podcast a learning experience for yourself by trying to write down what speakers say. Some podcast apps like Google Podcasts let you slow down or speed up the pace, so don’t worry if you can’t understand natural speed at first! Then, go over the script and highlight new words. Write them down in context with their example sentences, and write down new expressions and slang you hear too. Read them out loud in different voices, paces and mental situations so you can solidify it into your memory.

To summarize: 1. Listen to the podcast once through > 2. Write down sentences you hear > Highlight a new word > Write the definition of the word > Make your own sentence using the word.

You can get your sentences checked by native speakers on websites or apps like HiNative, HelloTalk, iTalki or even Facebook groups dedicated to learning the language.

2. SPEAKING PRACTICE

You can talk to yourself when you’re walking around the house. You can also record yourself sometimes. What I like to do is shadowing dramas and podcasts and repeating what people say. I’ve found that after watching a movie in one language, my brain tends to try and think in that language after, or I’ll find myself walking around the house repeating phrases I’ve heard in the movie. Can you picture how much your accent and vocabulary will improve if you’re immersing yourself by speaking and listening practice every day? If you encounter new words, and you hear those words repeatedly, it’ll start to solidify in your memory. I’ve learnt many words without ever needing to write down what they mean, just because I expose myself to hearing the words as much as I can.

Improving speaking skills by talking to yourself is good, but it’s even better to talk to native speakers. The best way to get proper speaking practice in if you can’t find native speakers near you is to get a tutor on italki. Having a native speaker to chat to or correct your mistakes is one of the best ways you can start sounding more natural in a language and increase your vocabulary, as well as working on your listening skills. I use italki for Mandarin Chinese and Tagalog practice, and it’s boosted my confidence in speaking by leaps and bounds.

Many people write to me and say they’re afraid of getting a tutor because they don’t feel ready to speak – but you’ll never really feel ready until you throw yourself in the deep end and try. Even if you know only a few words, the tutor is there to help you – it’s their job to teach you and guide you, and they’re the last person who will judge your or laugh at you. If you’re keen to use italki, feel free to use this link to get $10 in italki credits after booking your first lesson! Note that I titled this post ways to improve Korean without needing lessons – you don’t need to go to a class or book specific lessons with someone on italki – there are many tutors and regular native speakers who are more than happy to book single sessions with you to get your speaking practice in.

Alternatively, you can try apps like HiNative, HelloTalk, Wakie, Goodnight, Saito-san, Tandem or a website like MyLanguageExchange or Penpalworld to meet native speakers and practice talking to them.

3. JOURNAL IN KOREAN

I’ve been journalling in Korean for years. It’s so funny to look back at my high school diaries and see how bad my Korean was but how passionate I was to try and express things in the language!

Things you write in your journal are related to your daily life, which is exactly what your daily conversations are about with others. If you don’t know words, you can mix languages! It’s OK to just throw in a few Korean words here and there until you know enough to make a full sentence. Use as many vocabulary words you know in Korean and mix languages until you look up the words and learn them and use them. Be sure to get a native speaker to correct it though!

4. VOCAB NOTEBOOK OR WORD LISTS ON YOUR PHONE

You can use a small notepad and write words down and keep it with you when you are commuting or waiting in queues. Alternatively, make a word list on your phone or use Quizlet. I’ve recently started using Quizlet to make flashcards of new vocabulary words, having shifted away from a larger notebook. I find Quizlet more user-friendly than Anki, mainly because as a UI/UX designer, I’m very sensitive to the way things look and function. I found Anki clunky and boring to use, but I know many people who can’t live without Anki. Although I don’t use it anymore, you can see my Korean vocabulary notebook in use in this video:

5. JOIN KOREAN FORUMS; USE KOREAN SEARCH ENGINES

Some of you might be asking where to encounter new words. All you need to do is start living like you are Korean. If you’re Googling something, do it in Korean. You can start using Korean search engines like Naver or Daum.

If you’re a Kpop fan, you can try joining a fancafe, or follow some Twitter threads in Korean about your favorite artists. Hashtags on Instagram and Twitter are useful – if you learn a new word you can search its tag and join communities online related to it. Fully immerse yourself in your hobbies and interests – but try to do it in Korean!

6. PARTICIPATE IN ONLINE CHALLENGES

If you’re having a hard time staying motivated through self-study, you can always participate in online challenges and join a community of fellow language-learners who will keep you motivated. Some of these challenges include:
Add1 Challenge
Record Yourself challenges on Instagram
90 Days with Drops
LanguageJam (though for this, you’re assigned a language)

If you’re active in the language-learning community on Instagram, you’ll see lots of people doing these kinds of challenges and it’ll be easy for you to join in and learn about them.

Summary

Thanks for reading! I hope these tips are helpful for you. Remember to check out my Korean learning playlist on YouTube and to follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more language related content.

Advertisements

See you at Polyglot Conference 2019!

Hello, friends!

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at this year’s Polyglot Conference in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference runs from 18 to 20 October 2019. You can buy tickets and get more information here.

I’d like to share with you the outline of my topic:

Holistic language learning through cultural immersion and culture shock: stories from a Third Culture Kid

Acquiring fluency in a language requires a holistic approach to learning: through immersing yourself in the language fully. With bringing a new language into your life so deeply, you’re sometimes met with culture shock too, in the form of adopting a new culture and linguistic identity. In this talk I’ll focus on the role that immersion and culture shock play in languages. I’ll discuss how to learn a language through the internet, pop culture, humour and stepping out out your comfort zone. With reference to how I learn Asian languages, I’ll discuss how we can create immersive spaces for ourselves to learn languages without necessarily needing to travel. You can expect to hear stories about faking it till I make it in Japanese, multilingual prank calls and accidentally going viral in Korea.

That’s it! I’ll keep the rest of the content a surprise – you’ll have to see me there or watch the YouTube recording after the conference if you can’t make it. I’m super keen to meet all my polyglot inspirations in person. I’ve been following notable polyglots like Richard Simcott for years, I’ve watched a lot of Bong Sou’s videos, and I’ve always wanted to meet MissLinguistic to name a few. Here’s the speaker list for 2019! I also know a lot of you who follow my blog will be there too! Here’s to a wonderful Polyglot Conference – the first in Asia! See you there!

In the mean time, feel free to check out my videos on YouTube, Tweet me, or ask me anything on my Tumblr.

Women In Language 2019 is coming!

Women In Language is a three-day, online seminar featuring some of the most influential women in the online language-learning community. From 7 to 10 March, more than 30 female speakers will be sharing their thoughts on language learning and culture. If you haven’t already, make sure to register here for Women In Language! There will also be raffles and exciting events where you can interact with speakers during their calls. And it’s all digital, so you don’t even need to leave your couch.

Speakers will be presenting on the following topics, as stated on the Women In Language website.

  • Learning Languages – talks for learners of any level who want to learn effectively with winning strategies and masterful methods
  • Living and Working with Languages – tips and shared experiences about international/intercultural love, cultural differences, running a language-based business, volunteering, language jobs and stories of how languages can change your life
  • Travel with Languages – stories from the road, travel tips, retreats, and introductions to other countries and their languages
  • Language Discoveries – NEW FOR THIS YEAR! Minority or unusual languages, little-known communities and quirky learning techniques that usually don’t get center stage

I have the honor of speaking alongside some of my favorite polyglots, like Ophelia Vert, Abigail Lang, Language Bae and more! My talk is titled Identity Crisis: The ups and downs of living, working and dating in a foreign language.

11.png

Register for Women In Language here! 

Tickets are $29, meaning its only $1 per speaker – you can attend all the talks on all the days if you register! Proceeds also go to Wikitongues – a nonprofit that I was a co-founder for a few years ago.

Some FAQs:

I’m a man/gender non-binary/I don’t identify as a woman. Can I still attend?

Absolutely. This is an event designed to showcase some of the many women doing many amazing things in the world of languages. That means that although the speakers are all female, the audience is definitely not. In fact, we encourage you to attend regardless of your gender. It’s important everyone sees how much awesome stuff is being done by women in language.

What if I’m busy between 7th and 10th Mach and can’t attend all the talks?

No problem! You will have lifetime access to all the talks after the event so can catch up as and when suits you. Also, you will have free access to the Women In Language Facebook Group that will be a place you can ask questions to Kerstin, Shannon, Lindsay, and even some of the speakers at the event. So you won’t be left behind!

I hope to see you there!

Credit to Women In Language 2019 for the images

Tips & tricks for vocabulary acquisition

New language learners often look at others and think learning vocabulary is something that happens quickly. They seek for ways to speed up their vocabulary retention. It’s not wrong to look for ways to learn faster, but one needs to keep in mind that having vocabulary words stick in your long-term memory takes a while!

Methods to try

GOLDLIST
Lots of people use the Goldlist Method for remembering vocab. However, it is not my favorite because of the long time between learning a word and reviewing it again, but it’s nice and structured.

FLASHCARDS
Write the word on one side of a card/paper and on the back write its meaning/pronunciation/usage. If you don’t like paper you can use apps like Anki. You can go further and categorize the cards into piles of “know” “review” and “new”.

REMEMBERING WORDS 
Make sure to use your words as soon as you learn them. You can write them in sentences and have them checked on websites like italki, or you can use it with a native speaker and ask them to correct you if you use the word wrong.

LABELLING
You can label things around your room/house. Stick a piece of paper to your fridge that lists the word for “fridge” in your TL. You can do it with anything from your mirror to your closet to your potplant.

SHOPPING LISTS/PLANNERS
I usually write my shopping lists and planner/diary entries in another language. For example, if I have a “meeting”, I won’t write it in English, but rather in a language I’m learning. Especially if it’s a new word (like “call plumber”, for example), writing it down more than once in your planner will engrain it into your memory if you use it enough.

NOTETAKING
I find it much faster to write notes using Chinese characters/Korean words mixed in with English. It sounds insane, but writing “名” is much faster than writing “name”. Fellow students in university used to get frustrated when they asked to borrow my notes because half of it wasn’t English. I guess this is just for speed rather than vocab retention. You can make up your own ways to write things. For example, instead of writing “design”, a word I use a lot, I take the Korean word 디자인 and shorten it to ㄷㅈ – two characters which are super fast to write!

Finding new words

Watching TV shows/movies/dramas can help you pick up new words easily if you make sure to write them down when you encounter them. Korean/Japanese/Chinese shows are especially good because they often put the word being said on the screen (especially with explanations or something funny someone said). You can also watch shows with subtitles in your TL rather than your native language so you’re sure about the spelling.

Listening to music/radio/podcasts: Same concept. You might not know how to spell the word that you hear, but you can try, and then type it in to a dictionary app and check if you were right. In terms of checking word meanings, you can also do a google search/other search engine search with the word to see what pictures come up.


tl;dr: Here’s a video to go along with this post!

How to study Japanese grammar

Grammar is either your favorite part of a language, or the most frustrating part of a language. Here’s my guide on how to study Japanese grammar:

1. Take a grammar structure and practice writing it in your own way. Then, get it checked by a native speaker. 
For example, if you have the structure ~てみる which is to “try”, then and your example is 「この本を読んでみてください」 (please try reading this book), then you can take the sentence and replace words to make it your own. e.g.:
このパンを食べてみてください Please try eating this bread
その車を運転してみてください Please try driving that car

2. Don’t just rely on one textbook.
There are great grammar forums that you can use for reference to read more about grammar structures. I suggest the following:
Jgram (so good, even has JLPT level indicators and study lists)
Take Kim’s guide to Japanese
Maggie Sensei

3. Use the structure as soon as, and as much as you can
As soon as you learn something new, don’t just write it down in your notebook and forget about it. You can make an Instagram post using it, write a blog in Japanese using it, or even just talk to yourself or make a video where you use it. The more you say it, even if you just speak to yourself, the more it will become cemented in your memory.

4. Keep listening and reading Japanese
If you constantly listen to Japanese music, TV or radio, you might hear the grammar structure being used and then you’ll say “Oh! I remember that. Now I see how it’s being used in daily conversation”. You’ll feel good about yourself and you’ll be reminded of what you’ve learnt.

5. Get a grammar reference dictionary
My FAVORITE grammar dictionary is A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui. It’s full of examples <3 There are 3 dictionaries: One for basic, then intermediate, and finally advanced. I use the intermediate one. I kind of use it like a reading book and just look at it for fun, which is super geeky, I know. It’s so beautiful.

6. Don’t focus exclusively on grammar. Learn from daily conversation and remember not to neglect reading, writing, and listening. Think of it as a workout. You can’t go to the gym and just do leg day every day. Your arms won’t be toned and your legs will be insane. You might be excellent at grammar and vocabulary but you may not have confidence to speak because you’ve never practiced speaking. Everything is connected, so by practicing Japanese daily, you’ll be ingraining grammar into your memory too. Just remember, practice makes permanent, not perfect… so make sure you check things with native speakers if you’re unsure.


Header Photo by Jezael Melgoza on Unsplash