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 Kpop, Selfstudy, Uncategorized

Studying with songs

So as most of you lovely people are aware of, I have been a kpop fan for about 4,5 years now. Just like with many other Korean learners out there, Kpop was one of the very first reasons to why I ever even considered learning Korean, and even though my reasons have changed a ton, I still enjoy studying with songs.
Lately I see more and more people seeking advice on how to study with songs and I personally feel that it is a very useful way of studying – especially if you are running a bit low on motivation or in my case, energy. Using songs makes it a lot more fun and also a lot easier to remember. Just think about all those learning programs for young children! It really does work.
Anyway, I have been using songs to study for quite a while now, and I have found it very helpful when it comes to expanding my vocabulary and even more useful for improving my pronunciation and talking speed. A while ago I thought of a way to use songs to improve my reading speed as well, so after testing it out for a while, I believe it’s time to share it with you guys. As I go through my study methods, I’ll be using a song that I haven’t studied with yet. This way I’ll get to study a bit too!

No matter what part of my Korean skills I wish to improve, I ALWAYS start out by translating the song. This is where you really have the chance to improve your vocabulary. Translating it yourself will make it a lot easier for you to remember because you have to read every word (usually we glance over a text a lot faster and we pay less attention, if it’s in a language we are comfortable with) and spelling the unknown words over and over again to look them up, will help you recognize and remember them faster (not to mention it helps you spelling skills).
I recommend choosing a song that you have listened to at least a few times as it will make everything a lot smoother when you at least know the melody a little bit, and that way you usually know if it’s a song that you like or not, and obviously it’ll be more fun if you actually like the song that you’re going to study with.

In my case I chose 칸버스 by 포미닛 (like that would surprise anyone). I have listened to this song many times but never actually listened to the words and sentences. When looking up new words I split them into two groups:
1. = Words I don’t know.
2. = Words that I know for sure that I have heard or looked up before, but just can’t remember.
Here’s my work with the lyrics. The words in green are the words that I have come across before.

새하얗다 – Pure white
엎질러지다 – To be spilled
위태롭다 – Risky/dangerous
완벽하다 – Perfect
배경 – Background
밤새 – All night long/ overnight
색칠 – Paint
해나가다 – Rub on/along
둘만의 – One-on-one/between you and I
채우다 – Fill/satisfy
오직 – Only/solely
정밀 – Accurate/precise
묘사하다 – Portrayal
작품 – Peice/work
물감 – Paints
검정 – Black
망설이다 – Hesitate
명화 – Famous work (film, painting)
펼치다 – Unfold/open
화가 – Painter
붙잡다 – Grab hold of
비다 – Empty
물들다 – To get dyed
거칠다 – Rough
덧칠 – Paint over
닿다 – Touch
영감  – Inspiration
대충 – Approximately
명작 – Masterpiece
흔적 – Evidence/marks/trace
넘치다 – Overflow
아낌없이 – Generously/freely
감다 – Reel in
조화 – Balance/harmony

Now, as for vocabulary there’s a ton of methods you can use for improving and remembering the new words, and we all have different preferences. I like to switch it up very often so that I don’t get bored. You can create flashcards or write down sample sentences. Lately I have been trying something new and very entertaining, but I’ll keep it secret for now as I’m working on another post for that one!

As for pronunciation and talking speed, here’s what I do: I sing. Yes that’s pretty much it! Now let me just make it very clear that I couldn’t sing to save my life, however I do find it super entertaining and very helpful. When listening to music you’ll be listening to the same words in different contexts and the words are often pronounced differently as they get adjusted to the melody of the song. Pronouncing them in different ways makes it easier for you to recognize the word in new contexts as well.
When I use this method there’s a lot of memorization going on as it’ll be a lot easier to sing the full song when you have memorized the lyrics. Memorization has both good and bad points, but if your goal is to improve your speaking speed then it won’t really matter. Learning the lyrics and trying to keep up with the song is very similar to shadowing, however singing the same song over and over again is a lot more entertaining than to say the same sentence over and over. Also, when you have practiced singing the song and you can finally keep up with the artist and maybe even have memorized the lyrics, you just feel more satisfied. At least that’s how I feel!

Now the new part that I have been trying out is similar to the previous part, except I avoid memorizing. After translating the song I immediately start singing along. Since I haven’t memorized anything I have to rely completely on reading the lyrics as I sing the song. If your Korean reading skills are slow as mine, then you’ll get lost quite a few times since it’s almost impossible to read as fast as the song goes (especially if you have a tendency to pick songs with rap parts in them, like me! sigh..) but it’s still fun which makes it a lot easier to continue even though you fail at it a few times. This is also why I recommend translating the lyrics as well as choosing a song that you’ve heard before as it gives you an idea about when the song is fast or slow, and you can recognize the words you read a lot faster, when you have already spelled them before. Of course you can make it more challenging by not translating the lyrics first but I find that this is the perfect balance for me – Plus you’ll be missing out on some great vocabulary.  I personally feel that this method is super helpful and I’m surprised by how fast I can improve my reading speed (even though I still have such a long way to go!).

Lastly I want to add that when you practice the same song over and over again, you will at some point naturally memorize it and it might give you a false feeling of improvement, which can be incredible disappointing in the long run. To avoid this I recommend that you try singing it once in a while without looking at the lyrics. If you are able to sing most of it, then it’s time to move on to another song.

I hope you guys find this post somewhat useful! If you are curious about the song that I’m currently working with, then here’s the full lyrics as well as the actual song.
Have fun!

 

새하얀 Carpet
엎질러진 Wine
하늘도 빨간 Sunset eh
조금 위태롭게
완벽한 배경 우리의

비밀스런 우리 드라마 밤새
서로를 색칠 해나가
둘만의 Canvas 가득 채워 나가
숨마저 색을 담아

너와 나 오직 우리 둘만의
미술시간 서로를 정밀 묘사해
이 작품에 물감이 왜 더 필요해
검정배경 빼곤 오직
우리 둘만 색 있네

더는 망설이지마 더욱 날 느껴봐
이 완벽한 명화 Feel 가득한 이 밤

Canvas 가득 우릴 펼쳐봐
Hey 거기 화가 어서 와서 붙잡아

빈 종이 위에 우리 둘이
서로에게 또 물들어가 Yeah
함께 그려가는 이 시간

이 밤이 가기 전에 너의
꿈 어서 나를 데려가
뭐든지 그려봐
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas

Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas
Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas

그래 그렇게 널 볼 수 있게
거칠어진 그 숨을 더 느낄 수 있게

그리다 만 나쁜 드라마 마저
서로를 덧칠 해나가
오늘의 Canvas 가득 채워 나가
마지막 색을 담아

손 닿는 곳 어디든 영감을 꽃피워
여기저기 대충 명작의 흔적 넘쳐
아무도 몰라 지난 밤 우리의 View
아낌없는 Idea 밤새 서로의 Muse

새롭게 날 느껴봐 두 눈을 감아봐
이 완벽한 조화 또 날아봐 Tonight

Canvas 가득 우릴 펼쳐봐
Hey 거기 화가 어서 와서 붙잡아

빈 종이 위에 우리 둘이
서로에게 또 물들어가 Yeah
함께 그려가는 이 시간

이 밤이 가기 전에 너의
꿈 어서 나를 데려가
뭐든지 그려봐
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas

Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas
Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의

둘만의 리듬 안에
둘만의 리듬 안에
둘만의 리듬 안에
여기 우리 둘만의 쉿
Canvas

Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas
Canvas
여기 우리 둘만의 Canvas

Posted in Kpop, Personal, Uncategorized

How it all started ft. 4MINUTE

A few lovely people have requested that I share the story of how I started my Korean journey, and since I believe that now is the perfect time to do so (spoiler: Because Psy is back!), then that’s exactly what I’ll do! However, I feel like I should warn you. This post is going to be one of the longer ones and it wont have any relevant information, so if you don’t really care about my story, then feel free to skip this post. I’ll have a review up in a few days! Also, this post will probably contain a few fangirling moments.

So you all know Psy, right? Yeah, I suppose that’s a silly question!
Anyway, since I’m not sure where to start, then I’ll start from the beginning.
In 2012, while Gangnam Style was everywhere, I was going through the hardest time in my life. I’m not going to go in to details as this is a personal matter. I got very sick due to immense stress as well as a depression. However, when Gangnam Style was at it’s peak, I weren’t yet aware of the reasons to my sickness (I actually started laughing when the doctor told me what was going on – I mean, I was SO sick and at times I was sure that I was deadly ill. How could that possibly be caused by something so simple as stress?) but I was trying to cope as well as I could, and even though I saw the words ‘GANGNAM STYLE’ everywhere, I had no idea what it was.
In October, I went to Berlin with my fellow students, and despite the fact that I absolutely despised most of my roommates, I had a great time. There was a bar at our hotel and all of my fellow students were drunk (random fact: I have only tasted two sips of alcohol in my life) and they were all begging the staff to play Gangnam Style (FUN FACT!: All of my classmates thought that Gangnam Style was Danish.. Yep.. Because Korean and Danish sounds so similar, right?…) and in the end they succeeded.
Now. Can you all imagine my confused expression when Gangnam Style started playing, and all of my drunk classmates started dancing? I’m sure you can!

A few days later I returned to Denmark and I had to spend the first day on my own, so since my curiousness had been awakened in Berlin, I searched for Gangnam Style as the first thing in the morning and something cheesy happened. Oh god I really hate to say this, but this is how it is. While watching the music video, I saw 현아 and immediately I thought that there was something special about her. It wasn’t her beauty or sexiness – which is what people usually mention about her – but more her confidence, that caught my attention. She basically had that one thing that I truly wished for. So, why is so cheesy? If you have seen the video, then you’ll know that she only appears for a short cameo, and I truly do not know how I could feel such a strong confident vibe, in such a short amount of time. I feel like I’m talking about love at first sight or something! Nevertheless, that’s how I felt. I quickly forgot about her when the video ended and I moved on to an interview with Psy whom I had no idea who was, but in the end I felt like watching it again so I decided to do so.
This is actually where it all really started. You all know those thumbnails on YouTube videos right? I saw a picture of 현아 as well as the title ‘Gangnam Style’, and I just assumed that it was the same video as I watched before, but instead it was the version with Psy and  현아 singing together. That’s when I realized that she was a famous person, and then that’s when I tried searching for her name and was overwhelmed with videos! If you try searching yourself, you’ll see what I mean.

I watched a few music videos and felt fascinated, but believe it or not, this isn’t where I fell in love.
You know how you can get completely lost on YouTube if you keep clicking on the suggested videos on the right, and in the end you find yourself watching something completely unplanned and you’re not really sure how you even ended up watching it? Yep, that’s exactly what happened. I ended up watching ‘4Minute funny moments’ videos. (To those who doesn’t already know, 현아 is a part of the 5 member girl group ‘4Minute’, a part of the sub unit duo ‘Troublemaker’ as well as a solo artist.)
Thanks to the fan subbed videos, I fell in love with the personality of these goofy girls, and I was immediately fascinated by the culture differences and the language (and let’s not forget about all these cheesy effects in the variety shows!) and after spending the entire day as a cave woman with her laptop (Yes, cave women totally have laptops), I went to bed feeling completely relaxed, for the first time in a very long time. It didn’t take me long to realize that the reason these videos helped me this much, was simply because the lives I could see in them, where so different from the one that I lived. Watching these videos made me forget about my own life for a few hours and I felt like I had more energy to handle everything after watching them. Again, I’m sorry for all this cheesy talk!

The day after, I had to attend yet another doctors appointment (this is the day my doctor told me about my stress and depression), and I was so terrified. As I mentioned earlier, I thought I was deadly ill. Before leaving I thought that if I downloaded some of the 4Minute songs and listened to them on the bus, then I could hold on to my little fantasy world (at this point, Korea wasn’t a real country. It really seemed like my own little fantasy land, which only existed in my own head – Silly, but true. ) a little longer.

Basically that’s how it all started. I used it as my therapy and after a month or so, I realized that I would always be humming different Korean songs, and I constantly felt like watching more videos even though I was starting to feel a lot better. After another month I realized that I hadn’t listened to an English  song since that first day (except for when other people played one) and it just sort of continued like that. Kpop led me to dramas, which is where I really started noticing the cultural differences (AND THE FOOD! MY GOD, LET’S NOT FORGET THE FOOD!) and then that became another interest of mine. From day one I loved the language, but I had never imagined that I would be able to self study it! ㅎㅎ 신기하네요!

I guess the rest is pretty self-explanatory. It wasn’t love at first sight. It was a complete coincidence that I found the right group at the right time.  4Minute is still my favorite group today, and they are the only group who can make me feel like a true fangirl.
Also I never imagined that this would happen back then. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened.

To finish this post of, I feel like I should share some 4Minute with you guys. If you made it this far, then thank you!

Oh, and also! Don’t underestimate stress or depressions. Take care of yourself before anyone else. ^^