Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

0 In Japan/ Japanese learning journey (:

What I Watch on Youtube Every New Year

I know this is a bit late (omg we are approaching the end of Jan!!), but wanted to share about my favourite types of Youtube videos that get uploaded every January.



I lovee fukuburo unboxing videos, they are such a mood. Fukuburos are lucky bags and every new year (1 Jan), a lot of Japanese brands release these lucky bags (usually in limited numbers) where the value of the contents exceed (sometimes by like 5x) the amount you pay for them. Lucky bags used to be more fun, where brands will put in items from their regular collections, but these days, a lot of lucky bags contain “exclusive lucky-bag items” which basically means that every lucky bag is the same (meh! where’s the fun). I tend not to like such lucky bags, especially for fashion brands, because where’s the fun if everyone gets the same clothes!

I love visiting Japan over the new year, just because: FUKUBUKUROS and post New Year sale. I don’t know why, but I just love the mood in Japan during new year. I feel very invigorated somehow and I love the festive mood. 🙂

One of my favourite things to do during new year is to watch Youtubers unboxing lucky bags and it’s probably the only time of the year that I watch so many youtube videos (in Japanese). It’s also a good way of learning related vocabulary hahaha.

I’m a little bit late this year, but this also means that I can binge watch everything at one go hehehe. It’s become a new year tradition for me. 🙂

Here’s one I watched this year!

Tip: Search 福袋開封(Year) for the videos! Happy planning for next year’s shopping. I mean. Happy learning Japanese.

12 In Japanese learning journey (:

Double-reading Method for language learning

Finished reading a Japanese novel and did my double reading method for the whole book!! This is such a huge personal milestone because it’s been a long time (years!) since I last finished reading a Japanese novel from cover to cover. Thanks very much to Demon Slayer, which rekindled my love for Japanese-language content and the language 🙂

Very motivated to read in Japanese and yay finally finished the first volume of the novelisation of the Demon Slayer manga! I was initially very confused at the various novels available, so I went to google the order of the Demon Slayer novels (鬼滅の刃 小説 読む順番). Putting it down here, in case anyone is interested.

First, there’s a difference between novelisation of the manga and novels that are complementary to the manga series.

Demon Slayer Novelisation books (in order)

  • 鬼滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 第一弾:炭治郎と禰豆子、運命のはじまり編 : covers manga volumes 1-4 and covers the story from Tanjiro piggy-backing Nezuko to the trio making their way to the spider mountain
  • 鬼滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 第二弾:きょうだいの絆と鬼殺隊編: covers manga volumes 4-7, and ends at the same part as the anime (i.e. getting the mission to go on the Mugen train)
  • 滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 無限列車編: covers the content in the movie of the same title

There are 23 volumes in the manga and the novelisation only covers until Vol. 7 for now. Noooooo. I cannot believe I need to wait so long to find out what happens next! ): I’m guessing that they are going to release more novelisation when the second season of the anime comes out. WHENNN.

Demon Slayer Novels

I believe that the following books cover side-stories that are meant to be complementary to the manga and apparently it’s only in novel form (and not manga). According to a Japanese site, it’s recommended to be read in the following order:

  • 鬼滅の刃 しあわせの花: After manga volume 8
  • 鬼滅の刃 片羽の蝶: After manga volume 17
  • 鬼滅の刃 風の道しるべ: After manga volume 21

NOOOOOO. I bought しあわせの花 for now. But what. I hope I can enjoy the stories without reading the manga ): Now I cannot decide if I should get the other two books first. Maybe let me finish the novelisations first before I decide. The thing about all these Japanese anime-related books is that they go out of print sometimes. (sigh I am missing a few Psycho Pass novels!!)

For those who are keen, the Demon Slayer novelisations are pegged at upper elementary – middle school level (yes, they actually indicate at the back of the books). These books are more of YA fiction and hence get more furigana for the kanji 🙂 A good resource for those who are trying Japanese novels for the first time!

Double Reading Method

Oops, got carried away talking about Demon Slayer. I’ve been using my double reading method for foreign language books for years and it works very well for me. I’ve probably mentioned it throughout the years, calling it different names (like intensive reading), but these days I just refer to it as my “double reading method”. I don’t know if there’s a proper term (?) for it coined by some expert already and I’m sure out there, there are people doing something similar and calling it by another name.

How does it work?

Basically, I do two readings of the text. The first reading is meant to absorb as much as I could without looking up any of the words, relying on context instead to figure out what’s going on. At this point, I highlight unfamiliar words. The second reading is meant to get a deeper understanding of the passage, where I will search up the unfamiliar words on the dictionary and writing them in my notebook (word + meaning + example sentence).

For beginner readers

For those that are new to reading (in a foreign language), it’s likely that there are many unfamiliar words. So I would suggest to do the first reading for a paragraph, and then go back to do the second reading before proceeding on. This means that the first reading is about a para ahead of the second reading.

For intermediate readers

As you get better at reading, it’s likely that you would want to (and be able) to read further ahead and yet somewhat understand the story. At this stage, I would do the first reading for 1-2pages, then go back to do the second reading.

For advanced readers

When you are at the stage where you can enjoy long texts (novels) comfortably and perhaps only have 3-5 unfamiliar words per page, I would do 3-5 pages for the first reading and then move on.

What is the rationale?

Right from the beginning, I think it’s important that we learn (to try) to parse long sentences without relying on the dictionary. It helps to train our reading skills and to learn to figure out the meaning from contextual cues. Reading at least a para will also give you a sense of where the story/article is going, instead of stopping at every individual word when you have not even reached the end of the sentence. The second reading is meant to get a fuller understanding of the text and to learn new words along the way.

Personally I prefer to keep the first reading only a couple of pages ahead of the second reading for a couple of reasons. First, if I keep on reading too far ahead, I’ll never catch up with the second reading and it somehow feels more exhausting to do it. Second, it’s good to do the second reading when the para is still fresh in my mind.

I tweak this method as I progress in my reading skills. At first, the second reading would be the time when I read more carefully and thoroughly. But these days, as I’m pretty proficient in reading in Korean / Japanese, the first reading is now the time where I read more carefully and I only pick out certain parts to re-read in the second reading. Most of the time, I just search up words in the second reading because I still remember what the sentence/para is about.

For Korean, my first and second readings are about 4 pages apart these days, and for the Demon Slayer, it’s two pages apart. I find that this works well for me because for Japanese, there’s a tendency to keep on reading as I can guess the meaning of the kanji (cos I speak Chinese too), so it takes discipline to stop and look up the reading / exact meaning of the kanji.

Do you always do the double reading method?

Nope. I did it more often when I was in the intermediate stage. Technically, I can read both Korean and Japanese novels now without searching up too much words. So there are times that I just do one reading and only search up words in cases where not knowing the word would impede my understanding of the passage / novel.

For Korean non-fiction texts (like news articles), I usually don’t even do notetaking these days. I just read them and I would look up difficult words using the built-in dictionary in the Apple OS and just move on.

“It sounds tiring”

Over the years, I have received some comments that my double reading method sounds too intensive/tiring and not enjoyable at all. To that, my response is that everyone is different and I don’t think that in language learning (or anything else), there is a one-size-fits-all method. Despite how sometimes I sound overly opinionated about language learning methods, I am just sharing my two cents and what worked for me, instead of trying to promote “THE method to do it”. If there’s something else you are doing and works for you, it’s great. If not, then perhaps you can try other methods and see if they work better.

(and yes, I find a lot of joy in doing my double reading method hahaha)

Thank you, if you have reached this point of the blog post. 🙂 Curious about your reading methods, do share them with me!

Till the next post.

2 In Japanese learning journey (:

A Good Reading Day

Five days into 2021 and I’m in such a big Japanese-learning mood. It’s been a long time since I had the energy/time/motivation to sit down for hours at one go to do some reading. While it’s not about the number of hours, but I was very happy to be able to concentrate and really immerse myself in the story.

I have to thank Demon Slayer for igniting that Japanese-learning passion again 🙂 I have been so out of touch with anime released in the past couple of years, but I’m so glad I gave Demon Slayer a chance and wow I’m addicted. If there’s any anime recommendation (released over the past 4-5 years), please let me know!!

Sat down and read about 80-odd pages of the first instalment of Demon Slayer’s light novel and now I’m at page 99. I’m not sure about you, but usually I find it super hard to continue reading when I set a goal for myself (i.e. to reach page 99). I always want to stop a few pages short of the goal hahaha. So I try not to think so much about the “goal” and just continue reading until I’m tired.

I love how the light novel follows the anime very closely and I can imagine certain scenes in my head as I read the story. ♡ I usually start reading without any background music but when I start to feel a little restless and tired, I will play music in the background. I grew up listening to Rediffusion 丽的呼声 when I was a kid. It’s a Singapore commercial radio programme where back in the days, you needed to subscribe and get a radio set to tune in. I always remember the black bulky radio set in my living room and I studied while they air programmes telling wuxia stories (with self-made sound effects lolol) and ghost stories. So I think this is why I have a high tolerance of sounds while studying. I can tune out most things. The funny thing is that I cannot study with those relaxing cafe background music, but I can blast kpop dance tracks and concentrate well 🙂

My current playlist is old Taiwan drama OSTs. Think 王子變青蛙,惡作劇之吻,命中注定我愛你。I always think that that was the golden era of Taiwanese dramas. Guess it’s a sign of turning old – always thinking that my generation’s stuff were the best. (My mum says the same of hers!)

Listening to this now. Omg the feels!

I am doing my “double-reading” method for this book and I’m learning so much from it! (sidetrack: I will write about the method another day again) I can see myself highlighting less and less with each passing chapter and this makes me very happy.

I bought four Demon Slayer light novels (鬼滅の刃 ノベライズ) so far and nooooo please don’t tell me if I have bought the full set (suspect not). Don’t let me know. hahaha let me finish what I have first. Although I cannot finish collecting the Psycho Pass novels cos a couple are no longer in print…. ok no no.

I’ve finished watching the anime, so I’m now watching 文豪ストレイドッグス on Netflix. And yes I’M ADDICTED. Actually Bungo Stray Dogs is closer to the “type” of anime I like, so I’m actually surprised I love Demon Slayer. I love Bungo Stray Dogs too and I will want to get the novels next time. The number of unread Japanese novels at home is making me feel like a hoarder haha. The only small comfort is that I bought a lot of them in Bookoff, so they weren’t that expensive. But still.

I can’t wait to finish the first Demon Slayer book! I need to get back into Japanese reading mode (and speed).

Till next post!

0 In Korean learning journey (:

How to learn vocabulary to pass a language proficiency exam urgently

If there are time constraints and the urgent need to pass a language proficiency exam, would it be better to just do rote memorisation in order to achieve a high score in a short time, or would my previous method on reading a lot and by themes (see: how to revise vocabulary for foreign languages) still work?

I received this question (my paraphrasing) yesterday, after my previous post on my vocabulary-learning method.

While I have yet to be in such a situation, I can imagine the pressure in order to pass a language exam as soon as possible in order to secure a school admission / job / scholarship etc. It can be tough to enjoy learning at a leisure pace when you know you cannot afford to fail it. There are two choices: (1) find a shortcut; and/or (b) go all out and raise the intensity to prepare for the exam.

Firstly, there’s no shortcut to language learning. Any form of shortcuts are likely to be pitfalls in disguise. It may serve you well in the very near term, but often does nothing to help build your proficiency in the longer run. (hence it ends up to be time-wasting too). So don’t fall for that.

So yes, go for the option of increased revision intensity.

Alright, there’s so much to say about this topic. Let me jump straight into a couple of points.

Rote Memorisation: Stay away from it

There’s really no point. Sure, it could possibly help you remember a lot of words in a short time frame (provided that you are good at rote memorisation! I’m not), but how much can you remember after the tests? Not much surely, and it’s more than likely that you will be so exhausted from the process that you will want to take a break from any kind of studying for a while. That’s counter-productive

In the best scenario, yes, you may pass the test. But if you can’t remember anything you’ve memorised after the exam, it’s all time wasted. Surely, the end goal cannot be to pass the exam only. Once you live in that country / start to use the language for work or education, it will become an even more stressful process to increase your proficiency (possibly in another short timeframe). Unless you love rote memorisation, it will be hard to keep this up for long.

So… I just read.. a lot?

Yes. Read intensively and read a lot of everything and anything you can get your hands on. There’s a upcoming test and time is limited. As much as I hate to take a practical approach to things (hah), well, there’s no choice. So, I would suggest coming up with a schedule (omg I hate this haha) where you dedicate a couple of hours to reading and learning vocabulary. It’s important to read widely, so choose perhaps 2-3 themes a day and search up online (news) articles / magazines / blogs relating to the topic. So you’ve got yourself covered for non-fiction. Then, spend time reading fiction too. Find short stories online, or in reading textbooks.

Try to read a wide variety of text types: expository, argumentative, information guides, academic articles, news etc.

Looking for good reading textbooks?

  • Yonsei reading 읽기 series (review of Book 6 here)
  • Yonsei academic reading series (review here)
  • SNU reading series (review coming soon)
  • [Intermediate] TTMIK News in Korean (review here)

Anything else to do?

Do a lot of practice questions! Since the short term goal is to prepare for a test, part of it is also exam techniques (gosh I am not really into this line of thought). As a sidetrack, language learning should never be just about passing the test! (but ok, practically the issue at hand is to pass the test.. ok ok I get it) So yes, to do well in an exam, there is a need to be familiar with the question types. So yes, do a lot of practice papers 🙂 You can also learn vocabulary through that. It’s still learning from context, so all good!

But how do I ensure that I learn all the necessary vocabulary in that level if I don’t use vocabulary lists?

For a lot of language exams, vocabulary are categorised into different levels. When I study Japanese, and the dictionary entry at says it’s “N1 level”, do I skip it just because it’s too high a level? No. Is it a bad thing that I’m at N2 and I still don’t know N4/N3 words? No.

Doesn’t it matter? No.

Do I care? No.

Even for the purpose of language exams, I would suggest not being too bothered about learning all the “necessary” vocabulary. As long as you are reading a lot and knowing more and more words everyday, you will end up covering most of the necessary vocabulary. 🙂

What do you think of “vocabulary books”?

Ahem. Let’s see how best I can phrase that diplomatically.

I personally do not like books that are just about listing words, even if they are organised by themes. Even if they come with meanings and example sentences.

Note-taking is your role. You are supposed to make the notes, not have the notes written for you. 🙂

Also, if you are learning vocabulary in context (i.e. read), you are improving your reading comprehension, reading speed, reinforcing your knowledge of grammar points, and learning new knowledge!

It’s never about improving one skill at a time. You just improve in general 🙂

Enjoy the process

Easier said than done given the exam stress, but please try. Beyond the exam, there’s soooo much to enjoy and love about languages. Even if you are “forced” to learn one by circumstances, try to see it as an enjoyable thing to do.

It’s not difficult to fall in love with languages. After all, they are so fun 🙂

For those who have taken language exams for a specific purpose, let me know your thoughts on the topic!

6 In Korean learning journey (:

How to Revise Vocabulary for Foreign Languages

Mathematically speaking, if you aim to be at the same level of proficiency (vocabulary bank) in a foreign language as your native tongue, you will need to know the equivalent of every word you know in your native tongue. That sounds like a massive task.

Google tells me that the vocabulary size of an adult is about 20,000 – 35,000. That sounds like a lot of words to remember. How many vocabulary flashcards / word lists will that be?

My answer? Zero.

When it comes to language learning, I like to throw all these mathematical calculations and reasonings out of the window. Why? Our brain is better than we give it credit for, and learning a language does not require rote memorisation. This is something that I’ve been saying for the past 10 years, and I still stand by it.

This brings us back to the question of the day.

How to revise / review vocabulary?

Don’t. 🙂

That is an honest answer and it’s what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. I believe in note-taking in languages and for vocabulary, my notes are simple: (1) word; (2) meaning; and (3) example sentence.

Dictionaries I use:

Okay, so what’s next?


The process of note-taking is where the learning takes place.

So what should I do with the notes? you asked.


I don’t re-read my vocabulary notes. After I’m done writing, I don’t need them anymore. This is why I threw away 8(?) notebooks worth of Korean notes a couple of years ago. I still remembered I received a lot of horrified comments on why I would “throw my hard work away” or that I can pass them to someone who would find them useful.

First, vocabulary notes are only useful to the person making them (during the process of doing so). To others, it’s like a random vocabulary list. It’s like tearing pages off a dictionary and giving it to somebody. Unless you enjoy reading the dictionary, it’s not going to be useful to you.

Yes, it’s a pity to throw away memories. But that’s that. I’m not throwing important notes away. Because I’ve already gained what I need to during the writing process.

So what is it about the writing process that’s so important?

Writing helps us process what we are reading. It acts as a reinforcement, because you read the word + meaning + sample sentence on the website, and you likely refer to them several times as you copy them down slowly. You spend more time looking at the word when you write it down. You process the information in a more thorough way.

How do I remember the words?

Okay, I can still see the skeptical look you are giving me 🙂 I have yet to answer the question on how to remember the words. I don’t have a photographic memory, I cannot remember everything that I’ve seen once.

There’s where reading a lot (and by themes) help.

You may not remember a word if you see it once, but if you come across it in several articles, I’m sure you will remember it by the 3rd time you write it down.

By reading a lot, you get to practice reading while learning (and revising) new vocabulary. It’s good to read by themes at the start, so that you see the same set of vocabulary over and over again.

Happy learning!

4 In Japanese learning journey (:

Hello 2021

Happy 2021! Year after year, many of us are happy to leave behind the previous year. With the pandemic, it feels like this sentiment is even stronger. So many “good riddance to 2020” memes around.

While there’s really no difference between crossing over to a new year and crossing over to any new day throughout the year, I do like that a new year gives us the motivation to start afresh. After all, things are only meaningful if we believe in it, and I believe in starting the new year on a good note.

For many years, I made it a point to blog on the first day of the year, and share a couple of resolutions for the year (which I may or may not achieve).

This year, I spent the New Year mostly offline, doing the things I love.
This year, I decide not to have any resolutions.

I was never a goal-setting type of person. In fact, I run away from goals. It doesn’t motivate me. In fact, I will dread the thing even more. That may sound hypocritical – given that I’ve set resolutions such as “Get TOPIK level 6 by end 2012” (yes I went to dig up my previous posts). But honestly, I see it as something I would wanna do but I don’t focus on it as a goal that I need to achieve, by hook or by crook. This is why I will never be able to perform in jobs that have quantitative performance indicators, cos I will probably end up underperforming compared to a similar job without the goals. During my school days, I have never set myself goals by grades, and am glad that my parents never though to do that. I perform the best when left alone.

My resolutions in recent years have been worded more loosely (vaguely). This year, I decide to do away with them. Especially when it comes to language learning. All along, language learning is something that I do because I like it, not because I want to achieve any particular goal. So instead of setting resolutions such as achieving N1 by 2021 (LOL), I am just going to enjoy the language and take the exam when I feel like doing it.

Back to the new year. I spent the day doing all things Japanese. I finished watching Demon Slayer and spent a couple of hours reading a Demon Slayer light novel and started watching Bungo Stray Dogs. YAAAS. I am finally back in my anime (and Japanese) mood.

Those who know me would know that I had spent quite a long time away from the Japanese language and I struggled to get back to it again. I am very motivated by media and after Psycho Pass, I couldn’t find the next thing to anchor me back to the language. And I discovered Demon Slayer one night.

The next morning, I went to Kinokuniya in the morning (I reached before the opening hours so I queued to get in – dedication!) to get the light novels! This is how much I love Demon Slayer.

As much as I like reading manga, I find it too expensive to invest in the books so I tend to buy the novelisations of the manga/anime. Light novels are also easy to read and in the case of Demon Slayer, the books are supposedly at an upper-elementary – middle school level. They are shorter than full adult fiction and indeed easier to read.

Demon Slayer (and the books) deserve its separate post (and many posts), so I’m stopping here for now.

It’s been a long time since I sat down for a couple of hours to do my double-reading method. So yes, it’s a good start to the year.

May 2021 be filled with happiness, and loads of language learning 🙂

What do you think of new year resolutions?

4 In Others / General

You’ve been missed

Dear you who are reading this,

It’s been a long while since I last logged in. It has been an unprecedented year for you and me both. In fact, the first half the year felt like previous life to me. The year passed by in a blur, like a rollercoaster ride. I’ve been through the ups and downs, but it always felt like I didn’t quite have the time to process what had happened before I was being thrown into another sharp bend or dip. The churning feeling in the stomach was probably the only constant. I’ve switched to the past tense already, as though I couldn’t quite wish to leave this year behind. 🙂

For a good number of years, I sought solace in this space. Mostly alone, but whenever someone reached out to me, I was always thankful. Every interaction was a new connection formed, and some turned out to be the people that would have my back for the past 10 years, while others blossomed into online friendships that transcend borders and timezones. I value every new connection and bond.

This space has also reflected my growth over the years, whether in language learning or beyond. It is a record of my lingering regrets, of what-could-have-beens and of the decisions I took (or didn’t take) over the years. The silence over the past few years were also illuminating and it reminded me of what I had sacrificed and what I have gained.

Back to language learning. The past few years were not great – mainly because I was always so busy and perhaps without really realising it, I had lost the spark in me. While there were short bursts of motivation here and there, overall, I had been in a bottleneck. When words no longer flowed out as easily, I struggled to put together my thoughts to write in this space and that’s when I know. The blog had been my “best place” (a Shaman King reference) and yet I didn’t return to it. Somewhere deep inside, I was withering a little. I didn’t want to touch that wound, and I chose to ignore it most of the time and focused on doing what I needed to.

I chose to be elsewhere.

I ended up withdrawing further into my own world, and spending less time on social media and blogging. While I like talking about language learning and I have made it a hobby to do so, I always believe that the actual language learning comes first. I can’t talk about something that I don’t do. As I spent less time on learning languages, correspondingly, I spent less time talking about it.

In the past years, the online language community has really become a thing, with #langtwt, studygrams, language challenges and a lot of content being churned out. The cynic in me feels that sometimes, there is an increased focus in talking about language learning rather than doing it. I also didn’t quite identify with the overly polished aesthetics of most content/posts, the deliberate branding / curation of content, the overwhelming positivity (gosh I sound so jaded!) and the competitive undercurrents. Oh, and the occasional “drama” inevitable in any community. I find myself strangely resistant to it, and by association, I begin to feel even more detached from this space I used to call home.

But now, I think that’s a silly sentiment. I wasn’t being me. I do things my own way. So yes, now I’m going to continue doing things my own way and at my own pace. I am not sure if I will find that same spark that motivated me to write almost everyday (who was that!), but it’s okay. All I need to do is to be true to myself and embrace the ups and downs of life, which includes language learning.

Today is Christmas.

Merry Christmas to those who have spared some time reading my long and barely coherent thoughts. I spent the day alone, doing the things I love. I read a couple of chapters of a Korean novel, I cooked my meals, I re-watched a couple of episodes of What’s Up Secretary Kim (damn Park Min-young looked so great) and I had a great chat / language consultation session.

Rediscovered my love for k-drama My Girl’s OST. It was seriously the best.

Best purchase this year was a Takoyaki pan. Can’t believe it took me years to finally get down to buying one. Now, I can have takoyaki anytime.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

메리 크리스마스!


3 In Korean learning journey (:/ TOPIK

70th TOPIK Results

It has become a sort of tradition to write about my TOPIK taking experiences and the results each time round. It’s my 6th time taking the exam (to renew my certification every two years) but I’m always still as excited about sitting for the paper and checking my results.

The online system is not accessible via phones and also apple operating systems, which means that I have not experienced the excitement of checking my own results for the past few papers. hehe I’m lucky to have Jeannie to help me check!! hehehe she checked for me for the past paper in 2018 too hahaha.

Writing: 76
Listening: 98
Reading: 96

I’m pretty happy with my scores this time round! 🙂 I knew that it was impossible to get 100 marks for reading this time round as I was pretty sure I had gotten 2 questions wrong. And I’m glad it’s only those two questions 🙂 Pleased with my listening scores!

2018 results

While I love taking language proficiency tests and looking at numerical results to see if there’s any improvement, but I also know that at the end of the day, these are just … numbers. What’s more important is that I continue to work hard in the language and learn new things everyday. Getting the test results each time always make me feel motivated to work even harder.

Thanks everyone (for reading this)!

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] Korean for Beginners

I was listening to a Thai language podcast when my mum wondered aloud why she did not think of learning a new language when she was young. “Language learning books were scarce, and there wasn’t even Internet. Not like you now, still can listen to Thai radio on the internet,” she added.

This got me thinking. When I first started learning Korean back in 2008, it was so difficult to find textbooks / resources in Singapore. I can only imagine how it used to be like in the 60s/70s. Throughout the past 10 years, there were sooo many Korean language textbooks / guidebooks published. The Korean section in my local bookstore grew from a few measly standalone books to occupying 3 full shelves, with many series targeting learners from beginner to advanced. There’s so many choices, and now the issue is finding a suitable book.

For those who are looking for a beginner Korean textbook, there’s simply too many in the market to choose from. Tuttle’s Korean for Beginners is quite a good choice amongst them!

Lengthy Explanations in a Narrative Format

The first thing that struck me was that the explanations in book are written in a rather casual and conversational manner, as though there’s someone next to you guiding you along as you work through the chapters. It makes the book more approachable and less technical overall, and easier to read through.

That said, the lengthy paragraphs meant that it’s quite difficult to pick out key points of the lesson at one look, and you have to read through the paragraphs (like a novel) to understand what’s going on. Good for self-learners who appreciate the extra guidance, but not so much for those who prefer textbooks that are more cleanly structured.

Lighthearted Approach

Most language textbooks are on the “serious” end, so it’s refreshing to see a textbook that is able to explain concepts in a lighthearted and humorous way (and yet be effective).

Focus at the Sentence Level

Unlike most Korean textbooks, there isn’t any dialogues or passages in the book. In fact, the focus is at the phrase / sentence level. Normally I would think it’s a minus point, given that the inputs a learner get is limited. But I think this book does it well in that the accompanying audio CD (MP3 files are also downloadable on the site) also contain sound clips at the sentence level!

It’s sometimes frustrating to listen to a whole dialogue and repeat it n times just to hear a sentence in the middle. So it’s great that this book has an audio file for all their example sentences and you can repeat with ease! Great for those who need more help with Korean pronunciation and sounds.

Grammar Explanations Weaved in

It’s unclear from a quick glance what are the key grammar points being introduced in each chapter, given that they are kinda weaved into the narrative and all the lengthy paragraphs. haha. While there are sub-headings, the book tend to use its English equivalent (e.g. Should, should not) instead of the corresponding Korean grammar point (e.g. ~야 되다).

That said, the grammar points are well explained with ample example sentences, so I think it’s ok.

The book uses romanisation and while I normally hate that, it’s ok here because the Hangeul is written in a larger font. So I find myself being able to ignore the romanisation!

Appendix of Linguistic Terms

Aspiration, diphthong, homonym. These are terms that are hard to understand for those who are not familiar with the subject of linguistics. Thought it was a neat touch to have a glossary complete with examples to illustrate the meaning of the terms (and also include its Korean equivalent!). Most higher level Korean textbooks are in Korean, so it’s helpful to learn the Korean linguistics terms early!

Overall Thoughts

The pace of this book feels a bit slower than the Korean university textbook series, but I think that is to be expected, given that the explanations in this book are a lot more detailed and thorough. Would recommend this to a self-learner who enjoys the “narration-style” of explanations and those who like to have accompanying audio at the sentence level to help grasp the pronunciation. For those who prefer to be challenged with dialogues / passages of increasing length and difficulty with each passing chapter, this book will not be suitable.

There’s indeed sooo many good Korean textbooks out in the market, and hopefully my reviews will be helpful in your decision making. 🙂 If you have ever bought a textbook on my recommendation, do let me know in the comments! ^^ Would be very happy to hear from you.

What I like:

  • Audio clips at the sentence level, good listening practice!
  • Thorough explanations written in a light-hearted and humorous way
  • Easy to follow through, chapter by chapter

What can be improved:

  • No dialogues / reading passages
  • Book is structured in a way that makes it good for reading chapter by chapter, but it’s hard to find a specific grammar point. When introducing new grammar points, section headings are mostly in English (e.g. do/do not, should/should not) – would prefer that the Korean equivalent is also included in the section title for ease of reference

Buy it here.

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ TOPIK/ Vlogs

70th TOPIK II Experience and tips

It hits me once again that two years just passed like this. It doesn’t seem that long ago that i was typing out the 57th TOPIK II experience and tips post, nor did the 43rd TOPIK, 30th TOPIK and 26th TOPIK feels that far back.

It’s my 6th time taking the exam, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting (or easier). I get asked pretty often why I take the exam so often. Besides the practical reason of wanting to renew my certification (it is valid for 2 years), I see it as a way to do a “stocktake” of sorts of my progress and efforts in the past two years and more importantly, as a motivation to do better for the next two years. I love taking language exams (if not for the fact that they can be expensive). It also feels pretty cool to have a group of Korean learners gathered in one room – I wanna know everyone!! hahaha.

Ok, back to 70th TOPIK. Actually, my friends and I signed up for the 69th TOPIK that was supposed to happen in April, but due to postponements of the exam (COVID!), it ended up being the 70th TOPIK paper that we took!

Overall, I felt that the paper was tougher than the 57th TOPIK. I thought it was just me (and omg did my Korean standard drop?!!), but my friend also echoed the same thoughts. Usually I’m not the type that would like to go through the exam questions after it ends (haha so Hermione-ish), but I was sooo obsessed over a couple of questions which I had trouble with that after the exam, I still remembered the vocabulary that tripped me up. Went to search them up on Naver dic right after, and hence I know that I definitely got 2 questions wrong for the reading section.

NOOOOOOOOO. (says goodbye to any chance of getting 100 marks for the reading section again). Dang. Reading was supposed to be my strongest skill.

My key takeaways from the reading paper:

  • 일조권 (日照權) – the right to enjoy sunlight (in one’s home)
  • 고무적 (鼓舞的) – encouraging
  • 부실 (不實) – poor
  • 늦장 – dawdle / slow

Yup I will remember these 4 words forever!!! haha while the reading paper has always included passages from a wide variety of topics, I felt that the topics this time round was rather… technical and specialised. There’s a whole passage on 일조권 LOL. That’s oddly specialised. Now, it’s time to read more!!

Writing. Writing was … a disaster as usual. I think I lost my ability to plan for an essay within minutes in an exam setting. I spent half the time rolling my eyes over my weak points while writing them out. 自己鄙视自己。

Listening. Listening was not too bad, although I stopped understanding 100% of the passages towards the end. ;;;

Watch my YouTube video to hear more thoughts on the TOPIK exam, my experience and tips. (so lazy to type these days).

If you have taken the exam, please share your experience and thoughts too!!!