Latest Posts

Drama: Biscuit Teacher & Star Candy

I like watching two dramas at the same time – a new one that’s currently airing and an old one to watch while I’m waiting for episodes/subs.  In the middle of Dream High, I started watching 건빵선생과 별사탕 (SBS 2005), which is literally translated as Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy but is often also known as Hello My Teacher.  Oh my gosh.  I love this drama so much.  I can’t even articulate how much I love it, especially the adorable, happily-ever-after ending.  It’s easily one of the best dramas I’ve ever seen!

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Kotoba!

Learning Japanese?  Have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad?  Then you have to check out this app!  Kotoba! is one of the best electronic dictionaries I’ve ever come across – scratch that, it’s possibly the best overall app that I’ve ever come across.  I use it almost every single day and it’s helped me tremendously with my Japanese.

Features:

  • Look up words in either Japanese or English
  • Look up a word using Kanji (make sure to install the Traditional Chinese keyboard on your device), kana, or Romaji (yes, even Romaji!)
  • In each entry, you get the reading, the part of speech, the major conjugations (if it’s a verb), the type of adjective (い- or な-), example sentences, and Kanji decomposition.
  • If it’s a verb you can view the following conjugations:  present/future tense, past tense, continuative/て-form, presumptive, past presumptive, provisional, conditional, and alternative forms.
  • If it’s a compound word, you can click on the individual Kanji and get 音読み (onyomi) and 訓読み (kunyomi) readings IN ADDITION to pinyin and Korean readings!
  • MY FAVORITE FEATURE:  Animations of Kanji stroke order!  I love using this to learn how to write new Kanji!
  • Search for Kanji based on reading, Korean, pinyin, meaning, or Chinese radical
  • View Kanji compounds, stroke count, JLPT level
  • Browse JLPT Kanji
  • Browse Japanese “school grade” Kanji (that is, the Kanji that Japanese students learn at each grade level)
  • Does not require internet

And the best thing about this app is that it is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY FREE. Yes, you read that right.  It’s unbelievable.  I’ve seen super-expensive apps and electronic dictionaries that can’t do half of the things this app does.

For more information and screenshots, check out the official website.

Like what you see?  Download from iTunes.

Seriously people, this app is a dream come true.

HanBooks

I am currently SUPER EXCITED because the Korean novels that I bought online last week just arrived in the mail a few days ago!  On Shanna’s recommendation, I bought Big Bang’s biography 세상에 너를 소리쳐! I’ve already paged through a bit of it and I’m surprised how much I can understand.  It’s awesome getting to know more about my favorite K-pop boys AND learn some new Korean words while I’m at it.  Obviously reading prose like this is more complicated than reading 만화 so it’s sometimes a challenge getting through long, dependent-clause heavy sentences.  But for a beginner, this can be great reading practice.  I also bought 성균관 유생들의 나날 volume 1 – the novel that inspired one of my most favorite dramas ever Sungkyunkwan Scandal (KBS 2010). I’ve read a couple pages of this novel and I already know it’s WAY beyond my reading level.  I’m usually okay with the dialogue bits but in the prose, I have to literally look up every other word.  But it’s okay.  I’m sure it’ll get better as my Korean improves.

I bought both of these books from HanBooks, a division of AladinUS which is the largest online Korean bookstore in the U.S., catering to Korean Americans who want to purchase products in their native language.  The only issue with AladinUS is that the entire website is in Korean which may be difficult for some people to navigate.  The HanBooks site, on the other hand, is entirely in English.  You can find a variety of products – everything from popular Korean novels (written in Korean of course), 만화책, dramas, music, electronic dictionaries (like the iRiver Dicple), and even Korean language learning material.  This site is a dream come true for people like me who aren’t willing to drive two hours to get to their nearest Koreatown bookstore.  And although the pricing is in USD, it is possible for them to ship outside of the U.S. as well.  More info:

Pros:

  • You can purchase pretty much any book, CD, DVD, etc. sold in Korea.
  • If they don’t have it, you can get them to import it for you.
  • Great customer service!
  • FAST (if you live in the U.S.).  Although it states on the website that your order ships between 5-10 days, my order was shipped in 3 days and I received it 2 days later.
  • I was really excited about this:  You can buy individual books from a book set.  For example, 성균관 유생들의 나날 was actually packaged as a 2 volume set.  I only wanted one volume so I just stated that in the “comments” section of the order form and the cost and S&H were adjusted accordingly.
  • Products arrived in great condition.  They were even bubble-wrapped even though they were just books.

Cons:

  • Pricey.  The products are a bit more expensive than what they would originally cost in Korea and the shipping and handling cost is a bit high too.
  • The website is outdated.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell if certain products are in stock or not.

Overall, I give this store 4.9/5 stars!!  It’s really great.  I was so impressed with the speed of their delivery and the quality of the products.  I’m looking forward to buying more from them in the future.

만화!

I think 만화 (Korean comics) is a great way to practice reading and build vocabulary at the same time.  The grammar doesn’t get too complicated because 만화 writing is mostly conversational so it’s easy to focus on the adjectives, nouns, and verbs that you don’t know.  Plus, if things do get confusing, you can fill in the gaps by just looking at the drawings.  Granted, you should have a grasp of rudimentary grammar before giving it a try – maybe 6 months to a year of consistent study.  If you’re at that level, I would recommend first starting with a 만화 that’s been made into a drama you’ve seen before (there are a surprisingly large number of them) so at least you’ll have a basic idea of the plot.  Funnily enough, I didn’t do it this way.  I started reading 매리는 외박중 (Mary Stayed Out All Night) back in September 2010 BEFORE the drama started airing and I’m a good way through it – far enough to know that the 만화 is nothing like the drama (which was a complete train wreck, but I won’t get into that).

 

Obviously it takes more effort to read something in a foreign language and learn from it.  I read through a single chapter about three times.  The first time I read just to see what I can pick up – which is surprisingly a good deal!  (Sometimes if I can understand enough to be able to fill in the rest with context clues and pictures, I’ll just continue reading the next chapter but this is a bad way to study).  The next read-through, I’ll have my dictionary with me and I look up every word I don’t know and write it down in my vocabulary notebook.  I’ll also occasionally look up some grammar points if I’m not sure of them.  The third time, I mentally “fill-in” the words I looked up in the dictionary in their appropriate places and read for overall comprehension.  It’s a very long and tedious process and, no, it’s not worth trying to memorize every word you looked up in the dictionary.  But the great thing is that certain characters will have a distinct way of speaking and you start to pick up the words and expressions they use a lot.  You’ll start retaining more and more new words and your vocabulary will grow.

One of the best things about 만화 is that a lot of them were originally webcomics, which means you can read them online for free!  Check out these two that were also made into popular dramas:

Big Bang – 4th Mini Album

This post isn’t directly related to Korean learning but since other seasoned language learners have said that fangirling plays an important (and necessary) part of foreign language study, I have no qualms about dedicating this entire post to my biggest K-pop bias – Big Bang.  Specifically, Big Bang’s 4th EP, which released a few days ago.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited for ANY album release – Korean or otherwise – and let me tell you, the EP is WELL worth all the excitement.

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How I learned 한글

Rote memorization would probably be the simplest way of learning a new alphabet. Take some flashcards, write the character on the front, sound on the back, and then drill yourself until it’s branded into your memory. I tried this with the Japanese syllabaries and it worked. I tried it with Hangeul and failed miserably. No matter how many times I went through it, I would get ㅏ and ㅓmixed up, ㅗ and ㅜ mixed up and, sometimes, if the cards flipped directions as I shuffled them, I would get all four mixed up with each other. With Hiragana/Katakana I could make a sort of visual-auditory connection because the letters looked so different but Korean was too difficult. So, I ended up learning Hangeul in a weird, roundabout, organic kind of way without really TRYING to learn it through rote memorization.

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Why Korean?

That’s a question I get a lot these days, especially at graduate school interviews.  Why Korean?  I have no family ties to Korea, I don’t live in a place populated by a lot of Koreans (and those who are Korean prefer to communicate in English), and I don’t plan on visiting or living in Korea any time soon.  Sure, there are K-dramas and K-pop which I love and obsess over 26 hours a day but that’s not the reason I started learning Korean.  So what was it exactly?  I’m not even sure I know myself.

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