It has officially been 2 years since my sister and I flew to Korea for the first and only (so far!) time. It doesn’t at all feel like two years have passed and to be honest, I was sure that I would have returned to Korea by now. And while I, of course, have my moments of a sudden need to go back asap, I haven’t really thought much about making actual plans of returning. However, now that Facebook is showing me all the pictures and posts from 2 years ago, I feel an intense need to go back. I want to see my friends. I want to walk through all the small alleyways in Hyehwa and enjoy the smell of food that is to find everywhere.
I know I won’t be able to go back this year. There’s simply too much for me to do here and I am already all over the place as it is. I have to prioritize and that’s okay. But I think it’s time for me to actually start making plans about a well-deserved trip to the place that was my home for 3 amazing weeks. Perhaps in the spring?
There are so many things that I want to do in Korea but most of all, I just really want to see all the people that I haven’t seen for so long. Simple things like sitting outside the CU with a cold drink and an ice cream while chit chatting about whatever. I also have a list of things that I never got around to doing or seeing last time, so I definitely want to do them this time!
Two weeks ago I went on a little adventure that turned out to be quite the rollercoaster. On Thursday I drove to my sister’s house in the evening and then we took the train together the next morning, headed to køge for the annual taekwondo summer camp. I was feeling really nervous and anxious which isn’t at all unusual for me however this time it was a bit worse as we were only 3 people – including me – from my club who had joined the camp this year and the 2 others were both there as instructors for the black belt team and the children’s team, which then leaves me ‘alone’ in my team. In fact, we saw each other so little that they were both surprised when they saw me at dinner on Saturday night and asked when I had arrived since they hadn’t seen me around.. Well.. I had been there since Friday morning, several hours before they themselves had arrived haha!
I had so much fun last year though, so I was determined to go this year as well even though I knew I would be on my own during all the lessons, as my sister doesn’t do taekwondo and was only there as a guest. Also, while taekwondo has triggered my anxiety many times before I know it’s only there before we actually start. The second we start lining up and gets ready to greet the giant 태극기 hanging on the wall and the 사범님 in charge, it completely vanishes in an instant.
And that was indeed what happened on Friday when we had our opening ceremony and our first lesson as one giant team. I had so much fun until the very last 10 minutes where we had to partner up, have a 10 second long(short?) fight and then the person to the left had to jump ahead to the next row and start over until we had had a fight with people from all belt colors and degrees. I was the person on the left which meant that I was the person to travel through the rows and it was fun and interesting until I got to the very last row. Everybody had been kind and smiling up until then and took it a bit more easy if they were fighting people from lower ranks. But the at the last row I was teamed up with a guy who is basically the 대사범님’s right hand. I don’t like him. And I say that coming from a personal point of view and not a professional. He is super talented and has been doing taekwondo for ages, but I don’t like him as a person – but I believe that’s a story for another day!
I generally don’t let my personal feelings and opinions take over so I greeted him with a big smile and in return, he looked at me like I was a piece of sh*t that he couldn’t even be bothered to deal with. The 10 second fight starts and I do my best even though I’m tired from already having done it around 15 times and he then dramatically rolls his eyes at me and starts yelling in my face “MORE MORE MORE” even though the 10 seconds is up and I have run down to the very back and start over with the white belts. He forced me into an uncomfortable situation where I had to either ignore him or ignore the 사범님 in charge who at the same time was yelling at me that the time had already ended.
That night I went to bed feeling really sad. I felt like I should have stayed home as I obviously wasn’t good enough. I didn’t deserve to be there. I tried reminding myself that it was totally okay to feel intimidated by him. He’s older than me, taller than me, broader than me and he has been doing taekwondo for more than 40 years compared to my 2 years. I tried so hard to stay optimistic but for some reason, that tiny little part of the lesson had erased all the joy I had felt about being there, even though the first 50 minutes of the lesson had been absolutely great.
Saturday morning I got up early with my sister, had breakfast and got ready for my first lesson of the day. The first lesson was about – you guessed it! Fighting! – and after the Friday lesson, I was dreading the entire thing even though this specific lesson was the one that I had been looking forward to the most. The lesson was being taught by Nuno Damaso who is insanely talented and really good at teaching as well. Our team was from white to blue belts which meant that I, as a blue belt, were the second highest graded person on the team and therefore had to stand on the very first row, and I felt like such a fraud. I felt so strongly that I didn’t deserve standing all the way up there..
During this lesson we had a few uhm.. mishaps I guess. We were only wearing chest guards during his lesson because that was the main area we would be focusing on and he said we should be able to take a bit pain from blocking with our arms and legs (Head was off limits so headgear wasn’t relevant either) and we were all pretty much fine with it. However my partner had a few issues with his aim as he started to get tired and as a result, I was left with some pretty bad bruises everywhere and especially on both of my hips, as well as a bruised rib.
But it was fun. I had so much fun and forgot all about those depressing thoughts that had been haunting me since the previous night. My adrenalin was pumping and I felt so good after that lesson, that after our 15-minute break I jumped straight into the next lesson of the day and it wasn’t even until halfway through it that I realized how bad my injuries from the fight was. I obviously couldn’t see my bruises yet but due to my bruised rib, I was struggling a bit with breathing and moving in certain ways.
I still managed to power through and then I went to change my clothes for the lunch break. At this point, I knew that the 4th and final lesson of the day would be off the table as it was self-defense and involved at a lot of grabbing, punching and throwing, but I still thought I could power through the 3rd lesson after lunch as it was about stamina and explosivity and with no contact. My sister was not agreeing though haha! She was immediately in mother mode and wanted me to stop for the day until we had a clearer idea of the injuries I had. I was determined to take one more lesson but when I grabbed my 도복 I noticed that the thread in my pants had broken and taking another lesson would 100% end up with my pants ripping and me flashing my behind to the entire team. I decided to take it as a sign from the universe, telling me that enough is enough. It could also be due to the fact that I have gained 9kgs since December but I would like to stick to the first explanation, hahahah!
In the end, I was out of the game for the last half of the weekend but I had a lot of fun watching all the classes from the side bench. On Sunday I met up with my Korean friend whom I had never met face to face before and when the camp officially ended my sister and I continued to Copenhagen where we stayed until Monday. While sitting at a Starbucks with my sister, all the pictures from the camp got posted online and when I saw this picture of me it suddenly hit me why that first episode had been so rough on me.
This picture was taken right as we were ending the fighting lesson on Saturday morning. A lesson that physically took a way bigger toll on me but take a look at my face. I was totally fine. And it hit me. On Friday I didn’t feel intimidated by his size, his strength nor his belt degree. I’m okay with the pain. I was feeling intimidated by him as a person. I felt he was attacking me and who I am, and not my body. I felt worthless and ridiculous.
And on Saturday it was the complete opposite. I got some somewhat bad injuries but my partner and I was smiling and laughing through the entire thing. We were cheering each other on and the instructor was as well.
I think everybody needs to remember this. You don’t have to act like a tough person or belittle people to stay ‘strong’. Smiling at people, cheering them on and telling them that they did a good job does not make you weak nor does it make your win any less of an accomplishment. You can be opponents and still be friends.
My main listening practice comes from podcasts, youtube, and dramas but a few days ago I discovered that my favorite podcast app 팟빵 also have an Audiobook menu. There are plenty of book reading podcasts but this menu is just ordinary audiobooks that you can buy and listen to via the app. I have wanted to try listening to audiobooks for a while as there’s a big difference in following people chat about this and that (which most of my favorite podcasts are doing) and listening to a story. I was curious to see if I would be able to hold on and follow along. I was looking at a few titles and ended up picking 시시한 사람이면 어때서. I knew nothing about the book but I really liked the title and felt a need to listen to some sort of feelgood story, and as I just threw myself into this new mini-adventure, I discovered that it was exactly what I needed. It’s an essay collection and almost all of the thoughts and stories hit home so hard that I ended up listening to the entire book in one go. It took a little over 2 hours and I not only managed to follow along but I actually felt a lot better about myself afterward. I definitely recommend that you read or listen to this book or any other feelgood book if you don’t feel great. I also really recommend audiobooks in general. It’s a great way to get some practice in while doing mindless work like cleaning.
Almost a year ago I started a new project. I started my language journal as a test to see if it would change my writing skills and vocabulary and the plan was to try and write something at least once a week. I found it really hard to get my thoughts out at first and as I had made a rule of not having any rules, other than writing everything in Korean, I quickly ended up with a lot of study notes, stickers and tape to fill out the pages. However, I slowly shifted to writing my actual thoughts on different topics as well as diary entries from days that I wanted to revisit and remember in the future. I still decorated my pages a lot. I have always LOVED stickers and used to collect them as a child, and I love washi tape too but have never had a reason to buy any. I had fun decorating as much as I had with the actual writing and then one day I got a comment on my Instagram from a girl in Korea. It was nothing special but as I checked out her pictures I saw that she too wrote a diary and spent time decorating it. Looking at her pictures I discovered a bunch of hashtags and I immediately felt super excited. It turns out, diary decorating, is an actual thing! Especially in Korea. #다이어리꾸미기 #다꾸기 Who would’ve known? There’s a huge community online of people who share my somewhat newfound love for both journaling and decorating, and I instantly felt right at home! There are blogs, Instagrams, Youtubers, chatrooms, and forums. It has been about 6 months since I discovered this new and very beautiful world and my sticker, stamp and washi collection has grown very big, very fast! And my vocabulary has grown too, though I wasn’t really in the way I had planned, haha!
As for the more study related part, I actually do feel a lot more comfortable with writing. I start by writing my entry on my laptop and then I send it to my italki teacher who then returns it with corrections. And then I rewrite the corrected version into my actual physical diary. By now I have done it so many many times that I know that one page takes 150-200 words to fill out with the way I decorate. If I have more to say then I write more pages, if I have less to say then I add more stickers. It’s so much fun, super helpful and it doesn’t at all feel like studying to me.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that whatever hobby you have, try emerging it with your language learning. I have made several new friends through my journaling and I’m so happy I discovered this little world.
From the very beginning of my language learning journey, I have been very clear and vocal about my love for reading. I started reading webtoons in Korean almost immediately and I continued with easy and short books not long after. There are so many benefits, and in my case it has been one of the most giving methods for learning vocabulary and natural sentence structures, not to mention how it has been so incredibly helpful when it comes to my writing abilities as well. And while I have absolutely no regrets and still a 100% urge everyone to read, I have noticed one frustrating thing about expanding vocabulary through reading, which is that it easily becomes passive knowledge. I can’t even tell you guys how many words that I can reckognize perfectly in an instant when I’m reading a book, but then when I’m trying to tell my friends or italki teacher about the amazing book that I’m currently reading, then I struggle so bad to recall those words that I have otherwise read and understood so clearly, so many times before. It’s so frustrating and as I have found myself reading a lot more this past year, these frustrations have been growing and growing while I have been trying to figure out how to activate all of these hidden gems in my brain. But then, one magical afternoon when I was spending money on gmarket once again, the answer came to me! Well sort of anyway.. I knew that as with everything else, it mainly comes down to a matter of actually using what you learn actively. But honestly, I just don’t get to use words like ‘전과자’ (ex-convict) or ‘종신형’ (life in prison) that often. So when I was ordering my new study planner and buying refill pages a while back, I discovered that this particular planner (Indigo Monster Study Planner) have other types of refill pages as well. They had some with games which I also bought, but way more importantly, they had refills made for book reviews! How absolutely perfect! These pages comes with space to write a short review / other thoughts on the book you are reading, as well as a few questions like start/finish date, general rating, genre and most memorable sentence from the book. It’s a great way to sort of kickstart your thoughts on the book you have been reading. There’s also book wish lists and a few other goods to help track your reading if you are like me (obsessed with tracking I mean lol).
I’m basically just going to give myself this as homework for each book / story I read. Hopefully it’ll help me to actually sit down and actively think about what I have read and how I feel about it. It gives me a great opportunity to also use what I have otherwise only read, while alsobeing great writing practice at the same time. Making such pages about movies could be a fun challenge too, so maybe I’ll try that too, but for now, I’m perfectly happy with my book reviews. It’s time to activate this brain of mine and turn all of these words into active knowledge!
I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while, as it is one of the questions I get the most from fellow students. The answer is really simple and while I hope I don’t come across as a total downer, I think we need to get rid of this naive way of thinking. The answer is; I don’t. I simply don’t rely on being motivated. I work hard even when my motivation is nowhere to be seen.
There’s a saying that goes ‘If you find a job that you love, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ I strongly dislike this saying as I find it naive rather than motivational and it gives an unrealistic goal to chase after. Let me just make this super clear. Even if you get your dream job, you will have crappy days. I mean think about it. If you get into your dream school, do you really think that you’ll be able to complete it without feeling any burden or tiredness? I’m sorry to burst anybody’s bubble, but the answer is no. No matter how happy you are about your school or your job, there will still be that co-worker that you just can’t stand. There’s still going to be cold, dark, rainy and stormy Monday mornings where you would give anything in exchange for getting to stay in bed. There’s still going to be things that you don’t understand and things that you don’t want to do. Getting your dream job doesn’t magically create more time in your day or more energy to your body. You won’t automatically start liking everybody around you and you won’t automatically get your life together.
I find that this type of mentality is closely connected to the whole “If only XX then everything will be solved” mentality. ‘If only I lose weight, then everything will be okay.’ ‘If I just get this job then all my problems will go away’ I’m sorry but life doesn’t work that way. And becoming obsessed with these ideas can cause your mental health some serious harm. It’s so easy to fall in those traps and end up feeling really bad about still struggling with something. ‘I have such a great job, why am I still feeling like this?’ You can feel truly happy about something and still struggle with it. You can want to learn Korean with all of your heart, and you’ll still struggle with motivation sometimes. And that’s okay. It’s completely normal.
I guess what I’m trying to say is just that you really can’t rely on motivation for results. What you can rely on, however, is the work you put into your dreams, even when you don’t feel motivated. Trust me. I can guarantee you that even the great Oprah has days where she just doesn’t feel it. So that’s it. I just work hard. Always.
I have been using Memrise pretty much since I started studying Korean and while I don’t use it religiously, I still consider myself a somewhat regular user.
I know that Memrise is often connected with the idea of simply memorizing, which some are for, some are against, and others just don’t really care. I have already talked about my thoughts on memorizing here so I won’t be talking about any of the pros and cons today.
However, I do want to talk about how to actually get the most of using the Memrise App or Website.
I assume that you all know about Memrise but in case you don’t, it’s a basically a flashcard App/Website with both premade and user-made sets, that uses spaced repetition to get the best results out of the time you spend on it.
Create your own sets.
Memrise comes with a ton of already made sets for different languages and topics, made by Memrise themselves, as well as access to all of the other users’ sets. Naturally, it is very tempting to simply pick a course or set and get started immediately.
However, by making your own set you, first of all, make sure that the words you enter, are words that you actually need learn right now. That’s why you’ve come across them in your studies in the first place, right?
Secondly, by sitting down and looking up each word on your own, and then writing them down along with their meaning, you will already get a pretty good foundation to continue building on. The words will attach to your brain in a completely different way than when you simply see a new word and its meaning.
Use the Meme option to add a sample sentence.
Memrise has a Meme option for each added word. You can add a picture, an actual meme or my favorite, add a picture with a sample sentence on it. That way you will keep the context no matter if you are learning a new word, an expression or a new grammar point.
You can make your own sample sentence or if you want to make sure that there are no mistakes in it, then simply copy the sentence where your first came across that word or expression.
Set goals for the streak.
Memrise has a streak system, and you can set goals for each set. That way to can create a goal of how much you wish to practice every day, no matter how much or how little time you have available each day.
The streak itself does nothing for your learning, however, it adds some accountability as well as a game-like aspect to studying. It gives you a visual overlook of your studies and I personally find that even though I don’t really think about it on a daily basis, I do find myself slightly upset by the thought of missing a day, when my streak is over 10 days.
Don’t use your hints.
Depending on whether you have a standard or a pro membership, you might have ‘Hints’ available when you are practicing your sets, and my advice is to simply ignore them completely. The thing is, that if you use your hints to guess a word, it doesn’t get marked as a wrong answer even if you use hints to guess every single part of the words. And that means that the word will show up less and less during reviewing when you actually need it to appear more often instead since you obviously didn’t remember it on your own. Also, when the words get marked (mistakenly I might add) as correct, then the words won’t be added to ‘Difficult words’. I’ll talk more about that further down!
Don’t spend too long on figuring out the answer.
Sometimes all you need is a little time to think, however, I recommend that you don’t spend too long figuring out the answer. I usually tell myself that if I was having a conversation right now and wanted to use that specific word, would I be thinking about it for this long, or would I have skipped it and reformed my sentence by now to keep the conversation going. If I would have skipped it in a conversation then it’s time to skip it during the review as well. This will automatically mark it as wrong and it’ll start appearing more often for practice so that you will be able to recall it faster in the future.
Difficult words are your friend.
Memrise has a special set called ‘Difficult words’ under each created set. While it sometimes seems like a failure to have any words in that set, it truly is your best friend. Whenever you get a word wrong or skip it, they all end up in that set where you get the chance to practice those words a bit more than the other words. If your goal is to be able to actually use all of these words without hesitation, then don’t feel bad about your difficult set. Just give them the extra love that they need.
Don’t study words without context.
Avoid studying words from a random list without any context. Many words have several meanings and it’s SO HARD to unlearn something again, no matter how wrong it might be. The context itself will also help you remember whatever you are learning.
Also, I don’t see any reason to learn from such a list. I mean, I already find tons of unknown words while reading and studying, so why not just work on those words, that you have actually met in a proper context?
Avoid set where words are in alphabetical order.
If you do decide to practice sets that are premade or words that are based on a random list, at least avoid sets that are made in alphabetical order. Seriously. Just don’t. The words will be introduced in the order they have been added which means that you might get 10 words in a row that all starts with 인 and it. will. mess. with. your. brain.
Every single word will blend together and so will the meanings of each word. It is the absolute worst thing you can do.
I hope you guys find this helpful and feel free to add your own tips for Memrise in the comments. I think we all need the help we can get, haha!