Out and about in Kyoto #1

Can’t believe I’m still blogging about the Japan trip ><

Took the Hankyu line from Osaka to Kyoto (Karawamachi Station) and our hostel (Khaosan Kyoto) was just a 3 min walk away from the station. Mad convenience!

To be honest, it was kinda sad when we first saw our room because it was much smaller and darker than our hotel in Osaka and the toilets were shared. However, I grew to really love the place and have absolutely no problems with shared toilets. But it’s kinda funny at first to have a guy brushing teeth next to you lolol. Very clean, neat and convenient place. Highly recommended! ^^

I loved the area and there was this EXCELLENT yakiniku (bbq) place along the street where the hostel is located (towards the main area). It’s called 蔵 (google image 焼肉 蔵 京都 for the picture) and the plus one and I always walk past it at night and drooled over the scent of meat lolol. More on that next time!

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I love the architecture there :D So many quaint shops and buildings.

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The lipton tea house that I blogged about, within 5 mins walk.

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I love eating 定食 in Japan :D It’s like kinda set meal and I love to see various dishes on a tray! We simply went into a random small place and it was kinda memorable because of the bff and I died laughing when we looked at our food portions. Cos It seemed like I have a huge appetite (which I kinda do).

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bff’s order

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mine hahahahhaa

See the difference?

And look at that huge pile of rice. I didn’t know that the set comes with medium size rice (750 yen) but if you downsize it to small size, it would be 690 yen. (look at menu picture above!)

So hilarious. I still managed to finish almost everything I think!

I think I only have memories of eating in Kyoto. Eat and eat non stop..

[Korean Textbook Review] Real TOPIK 리얼 토픽 1

I mean… is there fake TOPIK?

Okay, I don’t mean to sound so sarcastic, but the title kinda asked for it.

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So.. this is one of those ‘TOPIK guide’ books which essentially consist of practice questions. I usually shy away from such books, since I can easily download past year papers via the TOPIK website. They now have up to 36th TOPIK (35th and 36th are based on the new test format).

For JLPT, past year questions are not available online. Hence I’ll gladly pay for a book with just practice questions and an answer booklet. But for TOPIK, I would only pay for such books IF and only if they offer me something more.

A book needs to have a purpose. A good book always have a clear one, showing that the author put in thought into the structure of the content, target audience etc. Which is why I always read the preface, especially in a non-fiction book.

As I flip through the pages, a nagging question arose. What is the purpose of this book?

The more I looked at the book, the stronger the question. Have to come to the conclusion that there isn’t much purpose. Can’t blame me for misinterpreting, the book didn’t even come with a preface. -.-

Review under cut. Only Book 1 is reviewed here.

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내 가슴을 뛰게 하는 것 ♥

I’m fully aware that I sound super.. nerdish but I still want to say it.

I am totally in love with learning about the history of Joseon. ♥

It’s no secret that I admire King Sejong (is it rude to say I’m a fangirl???) and one of my favourite spots in Korea is 광화문 because his statue (and museum) is there. I have a starbucks tumblr featuring 훈민정음 and my (not-so) secret ambition is to read 훈민정음 (click here to view) and also the whole of 조선왕조실록 (click here to view) aka annals of Joseon Dynasty.

AND I NEED TO VISIT THE NEWLY-OPENED NATIONAL HANGEUL MUSEUM.

It’s all talk and no action, but I think I’m finally getting into the action after buying an awesome book in the recent Korea trip >>> 조선 임금 잔혹사.

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This book is SO AWESOME. I’m always like  ♥. ♥ when I read it. hahahaha. /super high

I’m finally making sense of the order of the kings in the dynasty, their characteristics etc. But it’s still all a mess in my head and I decided to learn everything proper. So, I started looking around for resources. For a period of time I was rather reliant on wiki and long long articles, but I decided against going that route since… who learns via wiki? If I read everything and remember it all, I’ll be a genius lol.

Hence, I was way beyond excited when I found a youtube series of history lectures aimed at Korean middle school students :D :D :D There are quite a number of such lectures around but most of the tutors are boring. Except for 빡공시대 TV. I love love love the 쌤!! :D

She’s really a very clear example of what it means to be a good teacher. She has the energy level, the flair, the ability to make difficult concepts simple and easy to understand. Somehow you just understand and absorb what she says. Way more effective than any books.

youtube channel: 빡공시대 TV (lol 빡세게 공부하다)

naver cafe: cafe.naver.com/dongnote

Being the avid note-taker that I am (lol), I now have a new notebook decided to Korean history! My notes are from various sources ^^

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taking down notes while I watch the lecture!

 

Love love love her teaching style <3

So this is what I’ve been doing in my free time.

If you are interested in Korean history, I highly recommend the channel! She speaks really fast but I love it.

On a side note, it feels like my Korean level has progressed from 초딩 to 중딩 level lol. Hopefully I’ll be able to reach 대학 level soon eh.

(I think I sound very high in this post…)

My pace not yours – 나름대로

More than one year ago, I wrote about how I really like the phrase 나름대로. If you don’t remember, it actually means “in one’s own way”. It is still now my favourite phrase and it’s also one that I like to ponder and think about.

I used to be a rather competitive person and I hate losing. 남들 하는 만큼 나도 하겠다. That’s what I used to feel anyway. But I think I’ve mellowed out and I’m just this super chill person who doesn’t really care about anything anymore. I have minimal career aspirations (just earn enough to eat and live), and I like to spend time with people I like and doing things I love. Of course, people and things change – there is no guarantee that I’ll feel this way this time next year. In fact, I’ll probably feel differently again.

But as of now, I love the whole 나름대로 pace and to do things I like without caring whether am I being too “backwards” compared to others or not. That’s not to say I’m totally stagnant. I am working hard in my own way and I’m content with what I’m doing now. Even if I’m not working as hard as I should/could, I can live with it as it is my choice.

But sometimes I also wonder if 나름대로 is really an excuse that we build to shield the fact that we are really not working hard enough towards our aspirations. I once read in a book that this guy used to have a lot of aspirations as a kid. But as he grew older, he decided to follow the “safe and usual” route and chose to be a normal salaryman and later on, as he grew to have a wife and family, he decided to forget about his dreams and work hard to be able to support his family. I’m totally not a wordsmith, so I might have butchered the story (lol), but the idea is that his ‘dreams’ and ‘aspirations’ got smaller and smaller as time goes by and he simply managed to be content by comforting himself that his choices were correct and it’s all part of the process of growing old and becoming a responsible member of the society.

Perhaps that’s what I’m doing now too. Just creating excuses for myself and feeling contented and having smaller aspirations and dreams.

Sometimes I also wonder if people who have been following my blog have ever felt disappointed in me. Instead of pursuing my ‘dreams of living and working in Korea’, I’ve somewhat become jaded (?) and am totally a normal salaried employee and no longer wish to pursue what I used to want so badly.

Matter of perspective, really.

Anyway, just posting this to show that I’m still alive lol. I have a few book reviews I’ve yet to write (><).

Hey, I’m working hard in my own way :P

How to practice listening in a foreign language?

A valid but hard to answer question. Isn’t the answer simply to keep on listening?

I remembered vaguely that I blogged about it. Did a quick search and >> Frustration of listening in a foreign language 

(I always feel like I’m gaining new insight from my past self -.-)

Someone once ask me how do I know if my understanding of what I listened was “correct”. That really stumped me and made me realise that the answer to the topic may not be so simple.

I don’t have a magic formula, but here are some tips and pitfalls to avoid.

Over-reliance on subs or transcripts

I know how scary it is to listen to something but be unable to check if you are “right” or not. It’s like removing your safety net and you start to be hyper-vigilant, wanting to catch every single syllabus/word and second-guessing yourself. Or be too afraid to try such materials.

That is not the way to go. You should assume that what you are listening and understanding is “right” if it kinda all make sense. If there are certain words you didn’t manage to catch, just move on. Don’t be overly reliant on textbook dialogues.

Even if you are using subbed materials, please listen to the stuff raw (not looking at transcript) for the first time.

Listen more, listen widely

Everyone speaks in a different way. Just like how you are unlikely to find people talking like a BBC anchor, you aren’t going to find a lot of people who speak like the person who recorded your textbook mp3 files. It’s easy to have a “favourite voice” and be reliant on it. (mine was Maybee unni from KBS radio) But NO. Listen to both genders, people of all ages, backgrounds etc.

A lot of people have problems listening to older people / non-Seoulites speak in Korean but I loveee those accents heh. A good way to practice would be to watch documentaries or those 시사 프로 like 그것이 알고 싶다. I love 극한직업 (link to youtube channel) and I watched one ep of 항아리 makers and totally gained a lot of respect for them and their craft.

Understand that listening goes hand in hand with your proficiency

Just like how you can’t expect your proficiency to grow overnight, the same goes for listening. Your listening skills is linked to your overall proficiency. It’s harder to listen to “a string of words” compared to words you already know. Don’t blame yourself for not “catching the sounds” even though you have the whole of Hangeul pronunciation / syllabus remembered. Listening is not about “sounds” but “words”. If you don’t know the grammar point / vocabulary, it is unlikely that you would catch it, especially as a beginner.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself!

Listen everyday

I can’t emphasise this more. Do both active and passive listening. Active meaning you concentrate like mad to decipher the meaning lol. Passive being to simply let it play in the background. The former is good practice and the latter helps you familiarise yourself with the intonation etc. I listen to Korean for at least an hour or two each day nowadays. Back at my peak (lol), I used to listen to it every moment when I’m awake and at home, which means around 9 hours at least.

Do take note and not turn on the volume too loud ;;

Any other tips to share? 

My thoughts on language exchange

Honestly, not my cup of tea. I have both good and bad things to say about the subject, but the conclusion is that it’s not for me.

A social activity

My anti-social self has turned language learning (a social activity no matter how you look at it) into a loner activity. I prefer to learn without instruction, swoon over the romance in dramas and simply read. And read. I aim to be fluent in all aspects, but to be very honest, I learn languages not to communicate with people but to be exposed to a wider range of entertainment, literature and culture.

Which makes language exchange terrible for me.  In many many ways.

Online or offline

Personally, I prefer online partners. Why? For the simple reason that it’s easier to cut off contact if I find said partner unsuitable or annoying or weird. Commitment is never my type so I would rather keep things simple. Most LE partners start off as strangers. It’s pretty rare to already know a friend and ended up being LE partners.

You can skype, text, write emails etc so medium is not a problem. You get to avoid all the weird awkward silences and save on the time and money on weekly meetups.

Commitment

Like I mentioned, I have severe commitment issues. None of my numerous language exchange partners last. I won’t say it’s entirely my fault, but it’s always partially my fault.

Finding the perfect LE partner is tough. Most of the time, it feels like Im deliberately finding a topic to chat and that topic wont. even. last. Sigh. Weather, culture differences, reasons for studying the language, fav dramas or stars, education or work profile. Bam, that’s it.

Eg. A (female) had a lot in common with me. We were furiously texting each other and gushing over Kang Dong Won (lol) and other dramas we both love. Omg i finally found the perfect partner. BAM. We stopped texting each other within the week. No reason why. It felt like we had a great conversation and then ran out of steam.

Im not good with small talk, so…

LE is not language tuition

I hate it when people ask me to teach them a language. Helllo. Either sign up for classes or self study. Or engage me as a PAID tutor. A lot of LE partners like to tell me “hey, teach me English and I’ll teach you Korean” haha. No to the former and no need for the latter.

Goal setting

Now this is iffy. Is it better to simple converse about everything and any topic in a free and easy style? Or is it more useful to designate a topic everytime and only talk about that? What about sending each other essays to correct every week?

I tried all and the only one that seem to paritally work for me is free conversation. I know Im terrible but I always subscribe to the idea that if you are the initator or the one asking for a favor, then you should take more initiative. I met a few who wanted to do the “correct each other’s essay” type of LE but they arent even taking the initiative to email me or to actively make it work. :/

Sometimes it’s just annoying when you have different goals.

You type in one language, I answer in the other

Erm no. I had a lot of LEs where the person would want to speak English to me and I can answer in Korean. Which I find illogical, weird and ineffective.

I usually prefer to talk in one language in one session and then switch to the other language in the next.

Hey, what’s your ideal type?

Not you. A lot of people seem to treat LE as a way of meeting the opposite gender. Please dont be so obvious about it. :/ I had a lot of guys ask me stupid qns like my love life and relationship status and ideal types in the FIRST CONVO. And asked if we could meet up or skype. I find that downright creeeeeepy.

Which explains why I no longer use language exchange sites. :|

To be honest, I only like LE as a way to practice daily conversation, whether via txt or skype or face to face. Other than that, it doesnt work for me.

I have nothing much to say to people in general, so unless the other person has a lot of common interests with me, it wouldnt last past a week.

any thoughts? Share your experiences!!

[Review] Japanese Grammar Dictionary (Korean Version)

A grammar dictionary is a must-have book on your bookshelf if you are studying a foreign language. The best time to purchase one is in the low-intermediate stage where you already have a sense of how the language works and are likely to be learning loads of new grammar points as you work through a textbook. This is what I call the grammar spurt stage and it’s also my favourite stage in language learning.

Personally, I think the intermediate stage is the time where you are just learning LOADS of grammar points. I remember learning 5-6 new structures in one day. The advanced stage is more of a vocabulary spurt.

I bought my Korean grammar dictionary too late, so I wasn’t able to utilise it to the fullest – more of a review tool rather than a learning one. Bought the Japanese one once I was sure that I serious about pursuing it — grammar dictionaries aren’t the cheapest books.

There are a number of awesome Japanese dictionaries around. どんな時どう使う 日本語表現文型辞典 is a very good one (explanations in English, Chinese, Korean) but it was simply tooo expensive in Singapore and I ended up not buying it in Japan because I wanted to travel light lol. I used it before and I really liked it – highly recommended.

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Today’s review will be on 日本語文型辞典 (Korean version) – 일본어문형사전 한국어판, a cheaper and just as awesome alternative. :D

Review under the cut (today’s lead-in was kinda long, sorry!)

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Some things never change.

Hello all, it’s been a (rather) long while!

Been feeling rather tired and having insomnia for the past week due to work, life, annoying people, annoying things etc. You know, the usual combination. I didn’t feel like communicating with anyone or anything unless I have to, so even blogging had to take a backseat.

Helped out as a minion in my very close friend’s pre-wedding photo-shoot and it was the first time in a longgg while that the few of us gathered together for something more than a quick lunch or dinner. A lot of reminiscing of university days and I could never emphasise enough on how grateful and lucky I am to meet them. <3

Also the first time in a longg while that we took loads of photos together.

Won’t show you guys.

But here’s a glimpse of the plus one! First appearance on the blog. :D

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HEH.

Marriage. I love to joke (?) that I wanna get married asap, but in truth, I don’t think I’m very suited for marriage. I’m terrible at all kinds of relationships and I simply don’t understand the idea of relationship or family – whether nuclear or extended or what not. I guess that has to do with the fact that I come from a rather dysfunctional (?) family and I don’t have much good examples to see and learn around me. haha. I do believe in circumstances and experiences shaping your worldview.. so yeah. Relationships (at least the marriage kind) is really about more than two individuals. It’s two families coming together and I think the idea scares me. haha. I don’t want my family to be involved and I don’t know how to be involved in another family (oh well at least this is how I feel at this point in time).

I think that is one of the main reasons why I’m soooo attracted to the show Marriage not dating. Please go watch it. It’s SO GOOD. Ultimately, it is a drama so I can’t say that it has a very realistic bent, but it is very refreshing that the focus is on working hard to heal each other’s families and through that, make the relationship work. And how it normalise the fact that most families don’t really fit into the mould that we usually associate with families.

I digressed. :P

Spending time with the girls made me realise how much I miss their company. I have very very good memories of uni days because of them. Very happy to be witnessing a small part of my friend’s journey to the next chapter in her life. <3 Although I’m physically rather tired, it has been an awesome break from the normal life routine.

I feel much more energised ^^

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Revisiting the basics with my…

My mum has started learning Korean.

..

.

Okay, not really. But she seems quite determined to at least learn how to read the Hangeul. As for understanding …. haha.

Throughout the 6 years of seeing me learn Korean, she has never really shown an interest in it. She does pick up random weird phrases from dramas etc, but she has NEVER tried to learn Hangeul. The closest she did was to listen to some random mp3 recordings from a book I used to have, which teaches vocabulary such as 배추, 양파 etc lol. But she didn’t want to learn Hangeul.

BUT. When I received Billy Go’s Korean Made Simple to review, she showed an exceptional amount of interest in the book. o.O I have had so many books but she never bothered to look at them. After I’m done with my review, she proceeded to claim the book as her own -.- and I think I remember tweeting some time back about how she said that she will study and be better than me in Korean HAHA.

NOW SHE HAS STARTED (okay la I don’t feel threatened at all lolol)

These days, when I get back home from work, she will bombard me with questions on pronunciation hahahaha.

It’s really interesting to see her (struggle to) learn Hangeul and it reminded me of how foreign and (at times) difficult I found the pronunciation to be. Everything seems like a DUH given to me now, but now that I look at her progress, I remembered how I had some difficulty with the ㅈ sound and differentiating between ㅗ and ㅓ. And wondering if I should pronounce ㄱ as k or g, ㄷ as t or d etc.

My mum is worse though hahahaha. I nearly puke blood trying to get her to see ㅗ as OH and not OR. But I did ban the usage of romanisation HAHAHA.

Come to think of it, Hangeul is not as easy as people believe it to be. xD My mum was kinda quite happy with her progress and said that she will catch up with me soon at this rate(?) until she flipped to the chapters ahead and tried to pronounce 갑니다 as kap-ni-da. I was like gleefully telling her (super 幸災樂禍)that there are sound changes and proceeded to tell her it should be pronounced as a sound and she was like … . . . HAHA

Okay, I’m just very amused.

Brings back SOOO much memories of my own learning journey.

I can’t wait to see her struggle with the reinforced and aspirated consonants hahahahahahha.

(provided she doesn’t give up already)

(I’m terrible, ain’t I?)

p.s. She has found her bias in Kpop. hahahaha. I’m guessing that’s a motivation for learning the language? lol

[Review] 等一個人咖啡 / Cafe.Waiting.Love

MIND.BLOWN.

I love Korean movies and I’ve seen many great ones. But it has been really long since I last saw a movie that really touched me and is yet poignant and funny at the same time. I think the closest has to be 2010’s Hello Ghost.

九把刀 never fails to disappoint. Have blogged about my love for him (and his books) but this is actually the first movie of his that I’ve seen.

I went out feeling tired and came home feeling warm and fuzzy and motivated at the same time. This is the power of his storytelling skills.

To be honest, I was all ready to just NOT watch the movie. Reason being I LOVE THE NOVEL TO BITS and was really afraid it’s gonna be the typical novel-to-movie disaster. It’s sooo common to compare the novel and movie adaptation and end up being so disappointed in either the scriptwriting, the directing, the cast or be really confused when the movie tries too hard to squeeze in 100000 plotlines into 2 hours.

BUT.

Cafe.Waiting.Love subverts the viewers’ expectations and delivered something that is tied closely to the core of the novel and yet can be seen as a refreshing new story on its own.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

(2nd warning)

To be honest, I was kinda thrown off by the opening scene and was totally confused. I love the unintended (?) humour – 挫塞 lol. As a longtime reader who has read the original novel at least 6 times, I was all ready to scrutinise if the movie can bring out some of the best scenes in the movie. However, the totally fresh take and liberal storytelling (connecting characters which were unconnected, bringing in brand new plot lines) made me sooo excited to see what’s new that the whole comparison-thingy was forgotten.

I think that’s brilliant.

Instead of simply letting a reader see the same story in live action, 九把刀 has given the reader lots of surprise and keeps them on edge trying to figure out what the next scene would be.

It’s a risky move. Under less adept writers/directors, it may turn out to be hot mess which does not stay true to the original material and even worse, is a confusing patchwork of scenes. But I can assure that it’s as good as, or even better than the original novel (in a different sense).

There were two major twists in the storyline and I find the final one brilliant and touching. I’m sure all the viewers had shed a tear or two. Or more.

It’s really hard to be poignant and funny at the same time. Especially when 九把刀’s sense of humour can range from outrageously funny to slightly horny to extremely lame jokes. It’s hard to do the comedy part, but to seamlessly weave the comedy into a poignant story is even more difficult. Oh, he even turned the funny (ie. the cabbage / sausage / beancurd) into something meaningful and of significance. and turned it back into funny (for the cabbage).

Both sides of the movie came out strong and in the end, Cafe.Waiting.Love turns out to be like a well-brewed coffee to be savoured slowly, time and again.

Definitely in my re-watch list.

PLEASE WATCH.