All posts tagged: foreign language

First ever Korean class

So after many months of not really studying Korean (despite what it looks like on my blog, I rarely pick up a textbook and study. Almost everything I write about comes from random one-off things I read in Korean.) I decided what I really needed was external motivation to take my skill to the next level. SO! I signed up for Advanced Korean classes at San Jose Language Center. I really feel like I struck gold here because it’s incredibly close to where I live and it’s a language school designed for adults – which means all classes are after working hours. There are only two other students in the class and they’re both of Korean heritage. At first, the instructor said she was worried when she saw me (clearly not of Korean heritage) on her roster but we conversed for a bit, and then afterward, she said I might actually be too advanced for the class. Welp? Either way, I was really nervous about taking an actual class for Korean that’s also completely taught in Korean. In my 7-ish years of …

명심 해야 할 속담

So I have a job and, aside from that, I have a million other hobbies. Korean and Japanese are my more serious hobbies (I’ll be taking TOPIK for the first time this year!)  I’m pretty bad at sitting down and studying everyday but my everyday life is inundated with those languages.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. But then there are my other hobbies – knitting, origami, blogging, writing fiction, reading, teaching myself how to code, designing websites – and when I get those rare pockets of time I have outside of the job, I’m literally scurrying from one hobby to another.  And, now that I’ve decided to take the 40th TOPIK exam, I feel guilty when I’m not spending my free time studying. On the one hand, having a goal to work towards is great, especially since I’m this busy.  On the other hand, the more I throw myself into studying Korean, the less time I have to develop my other hobbies.  Maybe it’s the new year, but I just got back into writing fiction, reading again, and practicing Japanese conversation …

Cécile Corbel & songs in foreign languages

Good music makes me so, so happy. I’ve been listening to a lot of “experimental” electronic, indie rock, and singer/songwriter type music these days.  When I listen to music in a language I can understand (English, Korean, and some Japanese), lyrics are often the most noticeable element of song for me and vocals tend to stand out against the backdrop of instrumentals.  But in other languages, vocals become mere morphemes without meaning, indistinguishable from the other layers of sound in a song.  A friend and I were discussing how sometimes we prefer to listen to songs in languages we don’t understand – for me, at least, it’s because it lets me interpret and feel the song in my own way without being hindered by semantics. Recently, this friend introduced me to a singer who, as she described it, has “the voice of a siren.” Cécile Corbel is a Breton singer and harpist who, in addition to having the most enchanting voice I’ve ever heard, also composed the score for the Studio Ghibli film 借りぐらしのアリエッティ (The Borrower Arrietty).  That’s …

5 Tips on taking on another foreign language

As I forge onward in my Japanese studies and toy with the idea of dabbling in Italian again (I studied Italian for a couple months long before getting into Korean), unsurprisingly, I find myself faced with road blocks.  It’s not an easy task self-studying one language and it seems counterproductive to study seven or eight at the same time, but I’m sure I’m not the only language learner out there to indulge in the occasional new-language sabbatical.  I don’t know about you, but I really miss that “Everything is New and Shiny and Exciting!!!” phase of language learning. That being said, these are a couple of things I’m trying to keep in mind as I start to study Japanese in earnest. 1)  Kill two birds with one stone.  If you’re comfortable enough in the first foreign language (FL1) you started out with, try to incorporate it into the new one you’ve decided to tackle.  Again, be logical with this, because it’s probably not a great idea to learn Japanese through Spanish, if Spanish is your FL1.  It might make more …

Learning versus memorizing

When I first started out learning Korean,  I learned most of my grammar and vocabulary by translating Korean songs.  These days, I pick up new words by reading books, 만화, articles, and watching interviews and reality shows.  But the critical question is, of course, how does one retain this seemingly endless onslaught of unfamiliar words?  With regards to that, I’ve seen that there are usually two factions of language-learners:  those who swear by flashcards and those who condemn them.  I fall under the latter category. Honestly, I like to think I have a fairly good memory (you can’t really be a scientist without one heh) but I just cannot memorize decks and decks of flashcards and store them in my long-term memory.  And this problem isn’t just limited to Korean.  I made about 200 flashcards in order to study vocabulary for the GRE but the only words I could remember consistently were the ones I had encountered while reading something.  Why was this the case?  I strongly believe it was because I was incapable of just memorizing definitions; …