My interest in Japanese has continued to wax and wane for about, oh, seven years now?  But I never seriously tried learning it until I took two semesters of introductory Japanese in college last year.  I didn’t hate it, but considering I was at the peak of my Korean studies and in the throes of graduate school applications, I just could not immerse myself in Japanese as easily as I could Korean.

But, at very very long last, I think I may have found the right stimulus.

credit:  rkgsflumpool

Flumpool.  Flumpool.  Flumpool.

Where have you been all my life?!

I feel silly because I’d known of Flumpool for ages but never bothered to listen to them because I used to kind of have this mental block against Japanese music (not sure why; it’s a beautiful language but maybe I’ve just been listening to the wrong things till now).  It’s very rare for me to stumble upon a band I like so much that I can pretty much enjoy every single one of their songs – and Flumpool is one such find.  I will unabashedly admit that I have been looping the song above for the past three days.

I’m excited because this is the first time I’ve been really excited about something in Japanese entertainment and, initially at least, I’ve found that a good dose of fangirling can be quite conducive to language learning.

And good music makes me happy wheeeeeee!

But I won’t jump the gun and say I’ll start studying Japanese wholeheartedly again.  I need to re-accustom myself to the language by ear first and I have no idea how long that will take.  I don’t even know if this will be enough to get me to started in the first place, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.

In any case, until then, MOAR FLUMPOOL~

Tips on reading in a foreign language

So this post is a sort of addendum to the post I made a while back about my experiences reading 해를 품은 달.  Unfortunately, for the time being, my Korean “studying” has dwindled down to reading a page or two every night out of the couple Korean books I own.  I haven’t touched a grammar book in six months or so (this I do not advise) and, yet, I still feel myself improving.  Slowly, yes, but there’s improvement nonetheless and that’s much better than stagnation.

I think once in a while, it’s probably a good idea to take a break from grammar books and their “artificial” passages/dialogues and switch to primary reading material.  News articles, short stories, novels, nonfiction books, magazine articles etc. can really broaden your knowledge in general, not to mention your knowledge of the language you are learning. There are a couple things worth keeping in mind if you want to maximize your learning through reading primary material (novels, in particular) without getting bogged down and discouraged.

  1. Choose something above your reading level.  I know it’s tempting to go for the easy stuff.  I’m guilty of that.  But you won’t be doing yourself any favors if you choose to read something you can fully understand!  I like reading manhwa just for fun but I barely learn anything except for a few words here and there.  해품달, on the other hand, is clearly above my reading level but I understand enough to keep me motivated to continue reading; and at the same time, I’m learning a lot!  I would not, however, suggest reading Charles Dickens or something equally “heavy” in Korean because it could get really discouraging.  There’s a lot of trial and error involved in choosing the right book.
  2. Choose something that you are familiar with.  For example, a book that you’ve read in English that has been translated into your language of study.  I, personally, prefer to read material that was originally written in Korean as opposed to translated into Korean, so I tend to go for novels that have been made into dramas (e.g. Coffee Prince).  I find that having at least a vague idea of the plot prevents me from feeling completely lost in the middle of the book.
  3. Don’t wait until you’re “ready.”  By this, I mean don’t put off trying to read primary material until you feel like you’ve reached a certain degree of fluency in your language of study.  In Korean, I would say maybe six months to a year’s worth of study gives you sufficient familiarity with the language to allow you to start venturing into the world of manhwa and short articles.  Of course this depends on the foreign language, but I think you need to be comfortable with at least basic grammar before jumping into reading books and such.
  4. Read and re-read.  You’ll probably misunderstand a lot of things in your first round of reading.  Take notes and look them over.  Then put them away and come back after two weeks, re-read the same passage/article, and see if you have processed the new vocabulary and grammar.  I often find that what I read the first time around is not exactly what I read the second time around.  I usually have a better grasp of the content after re-reading.
  5. Take copious notes.  Just in case this was not obvious, it is important that you do not read passively.  Since I usually don’t read my grammar book when I’m reading novels and vice versa, I have to make up for that lack of “instruction” on my own by looking up words and grammar points online.  I usually only read a page or two out of 해품달 everyday but that amounts to about 40-60 minutes of study.  My reading “cycle” usually goes something like this:

(a)  Read the passage.  First, I simply read straight through and try to grasp as much as I can without looking up anything.

(b)  Re-read and look up all unfamiliar words and grammar.  I jot down every single one of these in my notebook and look them up online.  Blue ink for new words, red ink for new grammar.  I separate my notes by paragraph and add the page number of the original source next to it too.

(c)  Re-read again.  This time, I read for overall comprehension.

(d)  Repeat.  And finally, I move onto the next couple pages.

It may seem like brute force but it definitely works for me and it’s a welcome change from those grammar books.  (Though I really should get back to my Integrated Koreanit’s been far too long.)

Happy 1st Birthday

…to my blog!

I started blogging about my Korean studies on February 20, 2011.  I’m not sure what’s more surprising – the fact that Korean is now, in all veracity, an irrevocably integral part of my daily life and existence (dramatic, but true) or the fact that I’ve somehow managed to harp on about how much I love it for an entire year.  Heh.

More than anything, I’ve come to realize how much I treasure being able to share my thoughts, discoveries, worries, and musings about language learning to a wonderful community of fellow language learners.  Whether you are a silent reader or a fellow blogger (or both), I’m glad you guys are here with me!  *Group hug*

V + 자꾸나

Hwon and Woon are lost in the forest.  Night is upon them and a misty rain begins to fall.

제운은 아랑곳없이 눈을 감은 채 고개를 숙이고 주위의 움직임을 읽었다.  먼 곳을 보던 훤이 산자락에 있는 희미한 불빛을 발견하고 반갑게 말했다.

“아!  잠시 저기서 비를 피하자꾸나.”

-정을궐, 해를 품은 달

First off, here’s a structure most of you are probably very familiar with:  V + 자” – the casual way to propose something you want to do with someone else.

예) 먹자! = Let’s eat!

예) 가자! = Let’s go!

-자꾸나 is equivalent to -자.  It can mean “Let’s…” or “How about… [we do something]?” but it tends to sound more intimate and is often used by an older person when addressing a younger person.  (In this case, Woon is older but Hwon is the king.)

예) 한잔 하자(꾸나) = Let’s have a drink.

예)  잠시 저기서 비를 피하자(꾸나). = Let us seek shelter from the rain for a moment over there.

V + 아/어/여 다오

Since I really love sageuks and “old” Korean, I think it would be fun to occasionally post some grammar points and vocabulary from the dramas and novels I’m currently reading.  I’m not sure how accurate some of these posts might be, so feel free to correct me if I get something wrong!  Most of this is just a summary of stuff I’ve read while browsing Korean language forums and such.

I think I’ll just post a few of my favorite passages from 해를 품은 달 and 성균관 유생들의 나날 as examples of the grammar/vocabulary that I want to write about (nothing spoilery, I promise!)  Without further ado:

“왕인 이 몸에 주술을 걸었다면 넌 능지처참*을 당할 것이다.  말해보아라. 주술을 건 것이냐?”

월이 놀란 눈으로 다시 훤을 돌아보았다.  그의 눈빛이 따뜻하게 웃고 있었다.

“아니면 내 마음이 왜 이런 것이냐?  설명해 다오.  목소리를….., 들려 다오.” 

*능지처참:  death by dismemberment 

– from 해를 품은 달

I cheated a little bit in that 다오 is an example of 하오체 which isn’t exclusively heard in sageuks (it can be heard in contemporary Korean and I’ve read it here and there on the internet but I’m not sure how common it is overall).  It is quite commonly heard in sageuks and gives the dialogue a more “old-fashioned” feel.

It’s pretty easy to tell from context how 다오 is used.  Basically, it’s a semi-informal way of requesting someone to do something.  Examples:

예) 돈 좀 빌려 다오. = Lend me some money.
예) 창문을 조금만 열어 다오. = Open the window a bit.

Two updates in a day?  My oh my.  I hope this means I’ll get back into the habit of blogging regularly.

해를 품은 달 and reading in Korean

Jung Eun-gwol, the author of 해를 품은 달 and 성균관 유생들의 나날, sure knows how to craft a story that pierces one’s heart.  I don’t think I ever fully recovered from Sungkyunkwan Scandal, which is why I think I was so fervently anticipating The Moon That Embraces the Sun ages before they even started casting.  I was dying to get my hands on the book, too, which Jeannie so kindly sent for me from Korea!

The drama deviates quite a bit from the novel, but both of them have their own charm so I will forgive this otherwise heinous crime this one time.  Heh.  The drama also had an incredible cast of child actors for the first six episodes; and currently, Kim Soohyun is stealing the screen, blazing as the young, bitter king whose heart longs for the girl he loved as a boy.

The drama is garnering shockingly high ratings week after week; whether that’s to be attributed to the pure genius that was Tree With Deep Roots or the Joseon crack that was The Princess’s Man or perhaps the popularity of the novel itself, it’s hard to tell.  For me, however, the magic is more in the novel than the drama.

The novel takes place during the Joseon dynasty, so there is quite a bit of figurative language and historical words that I’m not familiar with (and also a lot of words that I just don’t know in general; unsurprising, considering the fact that I’m attempting to read a historical novel barely two years into learning the language).  The incredible thing is I can understand most of the plot despite my extremely limited vocabulary and, while I’m at it, I’m gaining such an appreciation for the beauty of “old” Korean.

Personally, I find contemporary Korean more poetic than English and speech during the Joseon era, especially royal speech, even more so.  Unsurprisingly, this novel is filled with absolutely gorgeous language.  Metaphors and motifs galore and, my personal favorite, parallel structure, which is just as pleasing to read in Korean as English.  I plowed my way through book 1 and I’m halfway through book 2, but at this point, I’m reading more for the language than the plot.  In terms of the plot itself, well, I will suppress my inner literature bitch.  It’s little more than Joseon flavored cotton candy fluff but it’s addicting and definitely worth reading for the language.

Mom and I were talking a few days ago about reading in different languages.  My mom’s trilingual in English, Marathi, and Tamil.  She grew up reading novels with ease in both  English and Tamil.  I asked her if she ever had a weird out-of-body feeling when she was reading in either language because I experienced that several times while reading 해를 품은 달.  I’d be sucked into the story for several minutes and then I’d stop and marvel at the fact that this story is written entirely in a language that was unknown to me for 20+ years.  And I was understanding it.  Not only was I understanding it, I was having a visceral reaction to it.  For the first time since I started learning Korean, I was doing more than just comprehending.  I cried during the sad scenes, blushed during the romantic scenes, bit my nails when things were getting intense.  I always thought that no matter how long I study Korean, I would never be able to shake off that element of “foreignness.”  But the fact that I’m getting to the point where I can react to a story written in Korean the same as I do when it’s in English is yet another indication that I can be comfortable enough in a “foreign” language to the extent that it doesn’t feel “foreign” any more.  Amazing!

Mom said she never felt like that when she switched between reading in different languages, probably because she grew up learning all three at the same time.  Sometimes  I wish I had grown up knowing multiple languages just as well as I know English, but then I guess I would miss out on experiencing a transition like this!