Posted in Podcasts, Resources, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

How I practice my listening skills

In general I don’t think that one point or area of language learning should ever be considered more important that other points, however to me, I seem to have been the most worried about my listening skills. When I finished TTMIK Level 1 grammar lessons, I tried the audio test to see whether I was ready for Level 2 or not and when I listened to the mp3 track, I didn’t catch the words at all. I listened again and again and after 6 times I was able to follow along and I felt ready for Level 2. This was of course great, but it really freaked me out that my bad listening skills could cause THAT much trouble and confusion, so since that day I couldn’t help but to focus a bit extra on listening, whenever I was studying – And also when I wasn’t studying!

How to improve one’s listening skills obviously varies depending on what works the best for you, and during my language learning journey I have tried out several things. I try to expose myself to a lot of Korean even when I’m not paying attention, I watch Korean television without subtitles (I find that I forget to really listen if I have subtitles, but I know several people who just zone out after a while, so as with everything else, it depends on you), I’m listening to Korean songs (I try to listen to a lot of different songs so that I can get exposed to as many different pronunciations as possible. Also I find it really helpful to look up the lyrics as words can sometimes be pronounced in so many ways and be split up to match the melody. This means that you sometimes can’t recognize an otherwise well known word, and looking up the lyrics will make you aware of that specific word and then make it easier to spot it in the future.), but there’s mainly two methods that I have found really useful;

  1. Conversations! When having a Korean conversation (even if it’s just partly in Korean) I find that you focus in a completely different way than when you are just sitting at home, watching a drama. I’m not completely sure what makes that difference in my focus, but I ALWAYS find it easier to listen when I’m skyping with an actual person, having an actual conversation.
    I have talked a lot about Italki and I definitely recommend that everybody at least gives it a try. Of course you can find free language partners or friends online, but one the best parts about Italki is that since you pay for it, you don’t really feel the same pressure about being liked as a person and you can easily control how personal you want the sessions to become. Another great thing about Italki is that most people already have some experience with teaching and they are very well aware that you are not a native speaker, so they are patient and won’t judge you even if you ask them to repeat the same sentence 6 times, not to mention that you can easily ask them to adjust their speaking pace unlike with dramas and music.
    At least that’s my personal experience.

  2. Dictation! This has always been one of my favorite methods! When I was younger we did this a lot in all of our language related classed (including the lessons on our native language) and I have always felt that it really forces me to focus on what I hear and it also helps you practice your spelling skills as well as your handwriting if you want to make an effort on that part too.
    I have often done this with short podcasts or YouTube videos and usually I simply listen and write down the words. When I come across words that I am unfamiliar with then I try spelling it as well as possible and then look up the words. Sometimes I look them up as I come across them and other times I wait until I’m done writing everything down. Even if you don’t know the meaning of the word, it can still be very helpful to write it down as you hear it. It might mean that you loose the understanding of whatever you are listening to but it can also feel really amazing when you discover that you heard and wrote it correctly even though it wasn’t a part of your vocabulary. This too depends on you though. I personally don’t mind the not knowing part but my boyfriend can’t stand it when he doesn’t understand something, which is also why he never listens to anything else than Danish and English. This is also why I always wear headphones when watching dramas – I can literally see him get all tense and frustrated if he can hear them speak. If you feel this way too, then this type might not be for you! In that case I recommend sticking to dictation through materials that have a transcript. That way you can make sure that you write it correctly in your dictionary and thereby feel more relaxed when you know that you’re looking up the right words.
    I have come across podcasts with transcripts before so you might get lucky, but if not then here’s 3 resources that I have frequently used for dictation:
    1. TTMIK – You can find their free audio level tests on their website including the transcript, and they also have a ton of great e-books with corresponding videos or audio clips.
    2. YTN News – There’s plenty of videos with a transcript below. The videos are of different lengths and have different topics, so I really enjoy using this site!
    3. Previous topic listening tests – you can always find these online and on this site you can always find a transcript of the test. Here you also have different people, different situations and different lengths. Not bad right?

Two general tips for studying:

– Get yourself in an comfortable environment. In my case I don’t listen well if I’m surrounded by people  like on a train or bus. I can focus completely on a book but not listening. Also I can’t focus if my desk is messy. I can handle a lot of mess, but if my desk is messy then I can’t do ANYTHING. I can’t enjoy a movie on my laptop, I can’t read a book, I can’t study – NOTHING. I know this part of myself very well and if you have any problems like these, then you need to fix them before even trying to practice. If not it might lead to unnecessary failures that will cause even more struggles
– Remember to stick to short dictation sessions if you aren’t very comfortable with listening. Focusing as much as you can on listening and writing down, can be extremely exhausting and there’s no reason to make this an uncomfortable part of studying.
– Correct your mistakes in your notes as soon as possible so that you won’t make the mistakes become a habit. Also, review new words if that usually works for you!

Posted in korea, Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

TOPIK, new goals and changes

I already told you guys about my TOPIK experience and I also shared the fact that I passed level two as hoped (and expected) which of course means that I need new goals. I’m definitely the type of person who need a lot of specific goals in order to thrive and I also feel that my studying becomes a lot more organized when I’m working towards something specific. So what’s my new goal? Well. TOPIK 2 was definitely not a challenge for me, but my 쓰기 skills are lacking a lot more than I want to admit and that combined with the rest of my Korean skills means that I am still not good enough to pass level 3. I’m in a frustrating place somewhere in between everything and nothing. Sigh. But it’s OK. There’s only one way to get past this place and that’s to continue to work hard, right? Anyway, to make sure that I actually challenge myself I set my next goal to be Level 4 in July. I feel like it’s a very suitable choice for me!

Now some of you might be wondering about July, because TOPIK in July is only in Korea – right? Yes, correct. My sister and I decided go to Korea in July instead of May, due to some personal reasons. My sister also really wants to celebrate her birthday in Korea, so when we discovered that it would fit perfectly with the TOPIK dates, we decided to just change all the dates! So far our plan is fly on the 13th and return on the 31st(July 2017)! We will be finalizing the rest of the details until September 1st, where we will buy the tickets and everything will be official! I can hardly wait!

I have a few other goals in mind as well but I’ll be keeping them to myself a little longer!

On another note – On Friday, I’ll be having my last session with my lovely Italki teacher. Her schedule will be changing so she will no longer have time for italki which is something I can definitely relate to. It’s going to be odd though! We have been talking on a regular basis for almost exactly a year now and we have gotten to know each other so well. According to my Italki statistics, we will be having our 70th session on Friday! That’s crazy! She have been following me from so early in my journey. We already talk through Kakaotalk outside of our sessions and I’m sure we will continue like that!

I though about taking a break from Italki too instead of looking for a new teacher, but I just feel like I might regret it later. These sessions have been such a great help to me and even though I know that I don’t try nearly as hard as I could (and should), I have still improved a lot since my first session and I want to try a lot harder when it comes to sticking to Korean, in the future. I have looked at a couple of available teachers and even scheduled a trial session with one of them. Let’s see how it goes!

In general, I guess there’s just a lot of things going on right now.
I am working on a new study schedule that fits my current situation and as usual I’ll keep you all updated!

Now I’m going to go outside in my sunny garden and do some work, while listening to my newly found podcast! Enjoy your Monday guys!

Posted in Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

My first TOPIK experience

Last Saturday I finally took TOPIK 1 (whoa, it already feels like it was ages ago!) and surprisingly enough, my sister and I actually found our way to the Korean Cultural Center without any trouble!
When we got there we waited outside for a while, not really sure whether to enter the building or not since we were there pretty early, but soon other Korean lovers joined us and we all got invited inside by one of the employees. After waiting for a while in the waiting area, we all had to get our registration slips and then we got to go to the room where we had to take the actual test.

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My first impression was that it seemed just like a normal written exam just like back home in Denmark! I walked in to the dark room and had to find my seat. All desks had names and registration numbers, so you had to find the one with your name. Not too long after finding my desk, the supervisors joined us and started to collect our phones while explaining the structure and rules of the exam. As I mentioned in my last post, I actually had an anxiety attack right before I found my desk, but at this point I was starting calm down and this actually ended up being my favorite part of the exam. Why? Because the instructions were mainly in Korean. Only a few things got translated to English and somehow I just found it so incredibly satisfying to actually use my knowledge and be able to understand what was going on! Honestly, that’s probably the reason why my anxiety started to fade away. At that point I had already considered quitting and just leaving the room before the test started, but I knew that I would regret it SO badly! Passing level 2 in April 2016, has been my goal and a big part of my motivation in 10 whole months! Not only would I be incredibly disappointed in myself, but I would also leave the Korean Cultural Center with a really bad memory filled with anxiety and I might never be able to get over that. So I decided that I would skip TOPIK 2 (which was just a bonus since I was already there) and stay for TOPIK 1 no matter what. And I did!

After waiting for a while, we got out TOPIK pens (I have read about many people keeping these pens as a souvenir, but I never understood why until I got mine. I had no idea that the pens where made specifically for the exam!) and soon after we got our papers too. Soon after, the exam finally started but sadly it didn’t last for long. We started with 듣기 but our audio player kept stopping in the middle of the tracks. I felt really sorry towards some of the other test takers. Some of them where really nervous and had been sitting with their books, cramming, until the very last moment, and these unexpected technical issues obviously made them more nervous! After a few tries we were told to jump straight into 읽기 while they tried to find another cd player. This is my second favorite moment of the exam! You see, there was no clock in the room so I had no idea whether I was behind on time or not, which was quite stressful. Also, I haven’t taken a TOPIK mock test since September, and I had completely forgotten how much time we had and how many questions there was. I literally had no idea what I was doing so I just tried to focus on the current question in front of me. At some point one of the supervisors pokes me on the shoulder and asks “You ARE aware that you need to fill out the answers on that separate paper, right?”… Oh boy! My face must have been priceless! I DID know that had to do that because they said so in the beginning and I DID understand it. However, I have never used that separate answer sheet at home and after my anxiety issues I had just put all of my focus into the test and had almost forgotten that I was NOT home in my own living room and I was NOT just taking a mock test! Having no idea how much time I had to fix it, I semi panicked and tried to fill it out as fast as possible, which obviously caused me to accidently mark a few answers wrongly. At the exam you are not allowed to use your own pen or correction tape, so I had to raise my hand and wait patiently for the supervisor to bring me the tape. I got it corrected and finished the last few questions and then while I was thinking about what a silly mistake that was, one of the supervisors declared that we now only had 10 minutes left! Turns out I had more than enough time! This brings me to my point: This is my second favorite moment! As mentioned above, I haven’t taken the test since September and back then I just barely passed it + I had to skim through the last 3 questions in order to answer them in time. This time I was able to read some of the questions several times, I could fill out the answers twice on different papers, erase a few answers and then correct them, and still be able to finish with 10+ minutes to spare. If that’s not progress, then I don’t know what is!

After the 10 minutes had past, they gave us two extra minutes to finish up, since we had to start the 읽기 so sudden. We then picked up where we left with 듣기 but the new player also seemed to be against us! Once again I felt really sorry towards the other test takers, and the supervisors too! They were definitely worried about what to do if it didn’t start working properly soon! It the end one of the supervisors just had to stand by the player and be ready to restart it if it stopped, and that worked out perfectly.
In the end we finished without too many problems and I left the room smiling and feeling really good about myself! Like most of the other test takers, I brought my pen back home with me. It now has a special place on my desk (aka my favorite study place) and it will stay there to remind me of my first TOPIK experience, and motivate me to study for the next!

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I have already thought about my next TOPIK goal, but I have decided to just study without a goal, until May 26th, where the results from the 46th TOPIK will be published. I can’t wait to see my result and I can’t wait to learn more Korean and see more progress. Things have been a bit hectic since I got back from London, but it should be back to normal now. Hopefully that means that I can spend my long weekend with my first post-TOPIK study session!

Have a great day guys!

Posted in books, Kpop, Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

My London Trip

Now that I’m back from London, I believe it’s time for me to share the highlights of my trip! We (my sister and I) left for London on Thursday and it was the first time flying for both of us. The trip was chaotic from the very beginning as one of the trains I had to take, got cancelled last minute. Luckily there was another train leaving shortly after that I could take and in the end I made it to the airport in time. After getting on the plane, things got really chaotic! It turns out that I get airsick (I haven’t had trouble with any types of motion sickness in almost 10 years, so none of us had seen it coming) and vomiting is actually one of my biggest fears. I’m not sure why but I have always felt this way and I would do pretty much anything to avoid vomiting. In the end I made it through both of my flights without vomiting but the trip and the fear alone was enough to trigger my anxiety attacks. I have only suffered from anxiety a few times before so this was yet another surprise to me. I ended up having 4 attacks on the trip which was super exhausting and I ended up only taking TOPIK 1 as a result.
Even though my trip had quite a few bad surprises, I actually had a really good time and I would gladly do it over again! I had so much fun with my sister and I got to practice a lot of Korean!

On Friday we took the long trip out to New Malden. New Malden has a big Korean community and the streets are filled with Korean restaurants, convenience stores, Korean hair dressers, bigger Korean markets etc. My sister and I went there to shop and eat dinner but in the end we got there pretty early and decided to go shopping and then eat lunch instead. It felt so strange and exciting for me to walk along the streets and be able to listen to small pieces of Korean conversations while reading Korean signs and looking at Korean products everywhere! It is probably the closest I’ll get to Korea, until next year! I ended up buying a ton of snacks, some beauty products, a kpop cd, and a ton of other things. We then chose a random restaurant where we sat down to enjoy a big meal and plan the next day’s activities. We ended up in a restaurant called 징기스칸 and we had a great time there! The restaurant had a great 분위기 and the food was delicious. We were the only non-Koreans there but we could easily chat with the staff and they even cheered on my sister when she was struggling with her chopsticks! It was really just a great experience and I would definitely go there again if I could!

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CREDITS TO ORIGINAL OWNER http://shinhan.eduhouse.net/community/community_tongsin_view.asp?curr_menu=community&curr_loca=community_tongsin_view&search_field=&search_word=&VLI_page=1&report_article_code=39286&list_type=&view_type=&user_seq=645396&rnum=84&sel_nation=2&sel_course=

On Saturday we headed towards London Centrum and I took TOPIK 1. It was a great experience despite of my anxiety, but I will have a separate post on my TOPIK experience soon, so I won’t really talk about it now. After getting lost a few times in the giant crowd of people, we finally found our way to Foyles. My sister and I both love books and I actually just wanted buy a new crime novel to read later, but we obviously had to stop by the language area – How could we not? Much to my surprise, they actually had quite a few books in Korean (mostly famous books translated to Korean) and there was no way I could leave without bringing one of them home with me! I read a few lines on the back of each book and ended up with two finalists. I couldn’t choose so I closed my eyes and let my sister switch them around a few times. I ended up choosing the one in her right hand but because my sister is simply that awesome, she actually bought the other one for me! 고마워 언니~

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We spent some more time in that area but decided that we actually had liked New Malden more, and therefore we went back to our little Korean playground. We finished up our shopping and then ate dinner at a restaurant called 소라. This place was even better than 징기스칸 and we really enjoyed the food and small talk! I wished I had a better camera at that point as my phone camera truly sucks, but nevertheless, we had the times of our lives! Sister time and Korean food – does it get much better?

My trip back home where a lot easier to handle. I got some motion sickness tablets so I only had to worry about the anxiety itself and I’m usually pretty good at dealing with it when it happens.

I have definitely learned a lot about myself on this trip, and now I know what to expect and how to handle it, when we go to Korea next year! Despite a few uncomfortable moments I would do it all over again, anytime!

Here’s some of the random things I brought back home with me!

 

Posted in Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

Slowly getting there

There’s now 10 days left till I fly to London, and 12 days for TOPIK. While I am still super nervous, I can actually feel my nervousness fade more away for each day that passes, and my excitement is slowly taking over its place. It’s an amazing feeling! I have gathered all the most important things like my passport, money, TOPIK documents, flight documents, hotel reservation documents, books for my sister etc. in my handbag, since I won’t be needing them until I leave anyway. As I was packing these items yesterday I realized that I actually feel pretty ready. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m still convinced that I won’t get more than 2급, but again that was my goal to begin with. While I would love to get 3급, I honestly don’t feel upset by the thought of failing it anymore. As you guys probably know very well by now, I love trying to figure out where my sudden mind changes come from, and this is what I came up with. On Thursday I took another 토픽 2 읽기 연습 시험, and on Friday I looked at my result. I beat my previous best score with 8 points (4 answers), and I felt really happy. On Saturday I continued with the 듣기 part of the test, and I didn’t get any unusual result. 16 points higher than my worst result, but 6 points lower than my best. However, I felt like my understanding had gotten a lot better. I still didn’t understand it well enough to answer the questions properly, but I felt that I somewhat understood the basics of what was going on, which is a first for me. There’s usually 6-8 assignments where I have no idea what is going on, and just have to guess without putting any thought into it. This made me feel so much happier than the points probably would have, because it kept me from stressing out and thinking my usual ’omg I have no idea what’s going on, what does this even mean, I’m going to fail this so hard’ thoughts, and that meant that the time passed by a lot faster, and I was able to enjoy the challenge. It was a truly enjoyable experience.

So, was it the points that made me feel ready? My new and improved understanding of the 듣기 part? No, not at all. My original plan was to keep up with the practice tests, right until the actual exam, but I changed my mind when I was printing out the test from this weekend. I don’t want to ware myself out and more importantly, I don’t want to start getting bored with TOPIK tests. If that happens, then where does that leave me in 12 days? There’s just no way that it would benefit me. Of course I will still be studying until then – I mean come on, it is me after all! But no more TOPIK focused studying. No more 쓰기 practice, no more speed reading practice and no more practice tests. I’m going to study in whatever way I feel like. I’m going to continue reading 버드나무에 부는 바람 and I just started on the 1st look magazine that I bought last month, and I’ll go back to enjoying my grammar books as well.
After making that decision I felt very pleased with myself. I have worked hard until now, and I have improved a lot from my first TOPIK 2 test in January and until now. Now, I have put away all my worries and I’m going to let my excitement take over any nervousness that might be left it me.

In 10 days I’ll see my sister for the first time in 5 months and we’re going to have 3 awesome days in London together. We’re going to go shopping and she’ll eat Korean food for the first time! If only I could make these 10 days go by a little faster!

Posted in books, Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

Bad timing

This year, my spring break took a frustrating turn which caused me to change my plans as well as go into a semi hiatus on the blog. Basically, I knew that the first few days would be busy but after that I didn’t have any other plans than focusing on my TOPIK preparations. However, I started to suffer from intense toothache and half of my face started to swell up, making me look like something straight out of a horror movie. Sigh.. The pain meant that I couldn’t focus on anything whatsoever and the swelling was to bad that I couldn’t eat or talk. Ugh just thinking about it makes me depressed!
Anyway, the pain is more or less under control now and the swelling has gone down a bit too, though I still look slightly scary, haha! On Friday I was finally able to focus enough  to study again and I felt really happy to be back on my usual schedule. Saturday was another busy day with family so I weren’t able to study for long.
Actually, I don’t think I have ever studied this little in a week before.

Anyhow, I was able to get a little work done! I finished 작은 아씨들 and I’m now reading 버드나무에 부는 바람. I’m 18 pages in and even though nothing has really happened yet, I enjoy it so far. I have also started the Korean Grammar In Use Advanced book, but I’m mainly focusing on getting more comfortable with the content of the intermediate book as I still don’t feel like I can comfortably use the many grammar points. I haven’t really been working on my 쓰기 since I need to focus completely to write something even slightly descent, but I have been working with my 읽기 book. It’s for TOPIK 1, so it’s not really that challenging and it have been a great way to do something Korean/TOPIK related without actually having to focus. I also had my weekly italki session (random fact: When half of your face is more or less paralyzed, it’s apparently a lot easier to speak Korean than it is to speak Danish) so I guess I haven’t wasted my vacation completely. I’ll be hitting the books this evening and I have the entire day tomorrow too, so hopefully I will get some studying done.

I’ll be starting another grammar book tonight, but I’ll be talking more about that in my next post. Also I’m working on a review that I have been wanting to do for a very long time, so hopefully I’ll be able to finish that soon too.

There’s 20 days left for TOPIK – I’ll try to get as much as possible out of the remaining time!

Posted in books, Personal, Selfstudy, TOPIK, Uncategorized

It’s Official

Ok guys! You all know about my TOPIK plans and guess what? It’s finally official! 아싸!
However, it most certainly wasn’t easy, haha! I had a lot of problems when signing up for the exams, and I have been patiently waiting for 2 weeks, to get a reply from the Korean Embassy. Phew! It’s been super nerve wracking!
Anyway, basically what happened was that I got the dates mixed up and therefore I was suddenly left with only 4 days to fill out all the papers and send them of to London. If you send a high priority letter to London, it still takes 3 days to get there, which means that if the letter had the slightest delay on its way, then I would pretty much be doomed. As you can imagine I was suddenly in a hurry!
Sadly, after this stressful discovery it all just started to go wrong. First of I had a ton of problems when trying to download the application form and once I finally got all that technical stuff figured out, I had no idea how to actually fill out the form. At that time I was already freaking out, and I was starting to think that I would never make it in time. When you download the application form, you also get a guide on how to fill it out, but the things is that the guide is in Korean and when I started translating it, I still didn’t understand what to do with some of the fields. In the end I got help from my awesome italki teacher (HI RACHEL!) and was able to fill out most of the form. I wrote an email to the embassy in London with my remaining questions and luckily they were able to answer my mail on the same day.

Just as everything was back on track, I suddenly couldn’t transfer the exam fee. It turns out that I was missing some of the needed information about the bank I was transferring to, and it was too late to contact the Embassy again. Sigh. Luckily my google skills were able to save me this time, haha!
In the end I was able to fill out the form and send it off to London, but as I mentioned above, I still had to wait and see if I made it in time. I have been checking my email and mailbox several times a day, and yesterday my conformation finally came!

Ah.. I would never have imagined that it would cause me this much stress, but now that things are finally set in stone, I definitely feel that it was worth it! I had many sleepless nights (starts singing 잠은 안오고 배는 고프고) but I have no regrets!
I now have everything prepared. TOPIK, new passport, flight tickets, a booked guestroom, money, days of from my internship and so on. It’s all ready!
LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN! – No seriously, I added a countdown Widget to the blog.

Now I just need to focus on studying which will be easy with all my new books and magazines! More on those later!