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;
- 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.
- 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!
While my biggest strength has always been listening, I discovered quite early in my Korean journey that I seem rely a lot on my other senses too. It didn’t really bother me until I started preparing for TOPIK 1. When doing the listening part I would suddenly feel all panicky because I couldn’t follow along as well as I usually could when watching dramas or anything else really.
Obviously it bothered my quite a lot and I immediately started to practice blind listening. It was incredible frustrating for such a long time, but never the less I started to improve. I would find small audio clips or news videos and then put all my focus into understanding the short clips while closing my eyes. In the beginning it didn’t work at all since my general Korean knowledge was quite lacking, but after some time I was able to at least catch most of the words even though I didn’t know their meaning. When I was doing other things or just felt to tired to fully focus on listening, then I would find longer clips and let them run as a background sound, hoping that it would still help my listening skills as well as my intonation. I feel that it did indeed work and this is basically how I met one of my best friends:
I found a few different ones while using my practically non-existing-google-skills. It worked out fine but after a while I discovered a site that seemed to have all the podcasts that I was listening to and a ton more. I have now been using this site for a little over 10 months (Find it here) and I find it incredibly helpful for my listening skills. There’s so many podcasts to choose from so there should be something interesting for everyone. Go check out the recent uploads, the most popular uploads or search for a topic that you like. Want news? Language learning podcasts? Radio-style podcasts? It’s all there.
Another reason to why I love this site is that they have an app that just makes everything incredible convenient. You can easily listen from your phone when you’re on the go and even if you don’t create an account, it’ll still remember your history and last played podcast. I listen to a lot of long podcasts which means that I often need to stop in the middle of an episode and I just LOVE the fact that it remembers how far I got and just starts me back up exactly where I left it.
I’m currently listening to a podcast called 소라소리 which is a series of free audio books. Each book usually has 1-4 episodes and each episode is around 1-1.5 hours long (Though they just started a new one which is 12 episodes long!) and you can even download them if you know you wont have internet access later. You can also skip back and forward with 10, 15, 20, or 30 seconds in one go, so you can easily listen to certain parts over and over again til you get it right, or you can easily go back if something interrupts you and causes you to loose focus.
In my case I just really enjoy audio books so I searched around and found 소라소리, but I got even more hooked when I discovered that Book 2 and 3 are both stories by Roald Dahl! If you have read about my London adventures then you might remember that I bought a book full of stories by him, and luckily both of the audio books are in my paperback as well! Double bonus! I just started book number 3, and I think I’ll just let it keep playing in order until I have listened to all of the current books. I definitely feel like this one is one of the more difficult podcasts as you only have one reader playing different roles and during certain dialogues the speaking gets really fast, but I still find it so helpful, challenging and kinda therapeutic too.
Wow this became a lot longer than expected. Anyway I just wanted to share my best friend and absolute favorite way for listening practice. There’s so much gold here! I hope this will be just as helpful to some of you guys, as it has been and still is for me!
Today is in many ways a very special day to me. There’s a few sad reasons, a few neutral reasons and some really good reasons as well. Isn’t it fascinating that one can experience so many emotions at the same time? While the sad reasons are.. well. sad. I feel like the positive reasons manages to over-shine the sadness of today. As for the neutral reasons, I had a bunch of new experiences that made my day feel special, but they didn’t really add any good or bad vibes to my day.
However, this evening I had an amazing experience which made me go straight to the blog, even though I really should be getting ready for bed (Working weekend – again).
You see, today was the start of something new (cues High School Musical) and very nerve wrecking to me! Today I had my first Italki session with my new teacher/language partner. Whenever I speak in Korean I feel way more nervous than I should and this causes me to constantly switch back to English, and to be completely honest I feel like I never really put in my full effort when it comes to sticking to Korean. As a result it makes me feel really nervous when talking to new people – especially native speakers. I believe this is actually quite common, but nevertheless it means that it takes me a long time to feel comfortable enough to speak freely – with or without mistakes – and that just makes me even more nervous. I don’t like to waste time and I hate feeling like I’m not doing my best.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I entered this 30 minute session while thinking of it as starting fresh on a blank page, and with the intention of doing my very best and make sure that at least 70% of what I said would be in Korean.
Much to my surprise my nervousness disappeared almost immediately and I was able to follow along just fine (though honestly, understanding usually isn’t an issue. Saying something myself on the other hand… Yikes) and somehow we ended our 30 minute session without using any English at all. How on earth did that happen? I’m really not sure. I was definitely more determined than I have been in a very long time, and she made me feel comfortable almost immediately. When I got stuck I just took a deep breath and that was usually enough for me to regain control over my Korean, and when I felt completely lost I simply rephrased my thoughts so that I could either say it completely or at least say something similar enough for her to understand me easily and then learn the correct way from her. Even when I couldn’t remember the meaning of a certain word, she explained the meaning of it in Korean instead of giving me the translation.
She was super patient and I didn’t feel like those deep breathes of mine, were awkward at all. She has a lot of the same good traits as my previous teacher, so maybe that’s why I felt so comfortable? Or maybe she’s just one of those people who have a calming effect on people? I honestly don’t know.
Generally I have always preferred casual conversation about whatever we feel like, but she seems a lot more structured than me. I new this from the messages we exchanged before making the session, and she likes to have a specific topic prepared beforehand so that we both can prepare diligently. While this is not usually what I prefer, I actually think this will be very good for me (which is exactly why I choose her – It was supposed to be a new beginning after all) and I suddenly feel amazingly motivated and proud of myself. I did something that I had no idea I could, and I can’t wait to improve even more!
I just requested 5 new 1 hour sessions, and hopefully she accepts them so we can make me speak even more.
Now, I really need to go to bed – BUT! Tomorrow I will be home earlier than normal and there’s no doubt that I’ll be using my hours wisely! MUST STUDY!
Planning, Studying, Dreaming – That’s exactly what I’m up to today!
Last Friday I received a few amazing presents on my email, from (one of) my language partner and good friend. He had sent me 3 different guide books full of gems and the best of it all is that it is all in Korean! To begin with I was just exited because I really love guide books – and blogs, articles, videos etc – as they allow me to plan things for my own trip to Korea and I can also use them to dream myself closer to my travel dates! But then as I was printing them out and skimming some of the pages and looking at the pictures, it really hit me that these books are pure goldmines! First of all, there’s so many new words that I can learn and use for my own trip, especially if I want to visit those specific places or if I want to take a guided trip while I’m there! No matter what, we can always use more vocabulary – right? Secondly, I quickly noticed that many of these books are filled with history and culture and if you are like me who has a general interest in Korea and not just in the language, then that is indeed an amazing thing! Study your target language and learn about your interests at the same time – If that isn’t a perfect combination then I don’t know what is!
In my case, my friend bought me a book for 부산, 경주 and 제주. I’m not planning on visiting these places on our trip but my sister and I are determined to visit them some day so I’m really excited to learn more about these places!
These books have facts, pictures, addresses, recommended places, recommended food, recommended accommodation, maps and guides on how to get to the different places. I really can’t explain how excited these books make me. These are from 투어팁스 and can be bought for practically no money, several places online. I personally love to buy ebooks through Ridibooks.com and if you want to check them out then you can find them right HERE – They also a travel books for other places than Korea so I you are interested in other countries and still want to practice your Korean, then here’s your chance! Personally I’ll be buying the one about 서울 as soon as I have finished this post! UPDATE: Not all guidebooks are compatible with pc and mac, so remember to check that out if you don’t have other reading devices!
If you don’t want to spend money then you can also just try to search for ‘(place)가이드북’ and you should be able to find some for free here and there. I know that VISITSEOUL.NET have a bunch of guides with different purposes, and they seem quite interesting too! You can find them HERE
Now I’ll be returning to my books! Have a great Sunday everybody!
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!
I think most of you guys know about shadowing, but for those who might not know, I’ll start of this post with a super short introduction ^^
Shadowing is a learning technique that can help you speak more fluently. It can help your intonation, pronunciation and your talking speed, which is all a very big part of sounding fluent.
What you do is, you listen to a native speaker talking, and you repeat what they are saying while trying to make it sound as similar as possible. Shadowing is a really great language learning tool and it’s something that everyone can do.
Also I would recommend that you do this while you’re alone or with someone who understands what you’re doing, because other people will look at you like you’re a nutcase. Just a heads up! 😉
So now that we’re all on the same page here, let me tell you about my struggles.. sigh..
I haven’t been shadowing as much as I would have liked, and lately I have been getting more and more frustrated with my awkward pauses and slow speaking, whenever I speak Korean. It made me decide to focus more on shadowing and speaking in general, but that’s where my struggles really begin. Whenever I decide to shadow something, I just keep getting more and more frustrated if I can’t make it sound very similar. The more I listen to myself ‘not getting it right’, the more frustrated I become and the worse my intonation becomes. It’s a never ending circle and it’s not doing me any good. Normally I don’t mind getting things wrong as I believe that we learn from everything, and usually getting something wrong or not doing something very well, just motivates me to try even harder and keep practicing. However for some reason, I just don’t feel that way with shadowing.
I guess language learning can’t be done without bumps in the road, and luckily, I have a really great language partner and friend (ㅋㅋ 안녕 오빠!) who have helped me feel more positive, when I fail at my usual positive attitude. Since his wise words of encouragements has helped my so many times, I figured it could be helpful for other language learners too.
Whenever I feel hopeless he reminds me that I am not a native speaker and the fact that I am even able to try doing something, is an achievement that shouldn’t be forgotten.
I am NOT a native speaker. I am NOT supposed to do these things perfectly. In fact I am NOT supposed to know the language at all. However despite not being supposed to do these things, I’m still trying. Learning a language is an achievement in itself. Being able to try and fail is an achievement in itself. Doing something that isn’t very well done, is still something that you have done. Let’s all try to remember this when we get frustrated on our language journey. 🙂
Before returning to my shadowing, I though I would share one of my favorite, less known YouTube channels, 한국언니. She makes super short but helpful videos with different themes. It’s great especially for beginners and for leaning phrases for specific situations, but my favorite things about these videos are that they are short and thereby easy to get through on stressful days or when you feel like you might loose your focus fast + the sentences are said several times with different natural intonations -> perfect for shadowing.
For all you T-ara fans, this sentence (Jeon Won Diary) will probably be quite familiar!
Enjoy your language journey people!