Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

4 In Japanese learning journey (:

A new Japanese novel for the new year

Despite having a number of half-read (or more like a few pages-read) Japanese novels lying around, I chose to start the new year with a new Japanese novel. There’s something intoxicating about a fresh start and it’s okay to indulge ourselves in small pleasures like this.

I’ve been trying to find motivation to read in Japanese again and I would very much love to go back to my peak Japanese reading period where I actually finish reading novels. I hope to increase my reading speed for Japanese, as well as for Korean.

Higashino Keigo remains to date one of my favourite Japanese authors, although I don’t read enough of his work. Decided to start on ナミヤ雑貨店の奇蹟, a 2012 novel. The English translation, The Miracles of the Namiya General Store, was released in July last year (still can’t get used to saying last year).

I’m just a few pages in but already intrigued by the premise of three delinquents holing up in an abandoned general store and getting a shock when an unaddressed letter drops through the mail slot. Opening the letter, they found an anonymous request for advice…

Doing my double-reading method because I want to learn new words, but I can kinda guess from the context and read the text without difficulty.

As you can possibly tell, I’m trying to keep up the productivity and motivation of the new year and hopefully it’ll last as long as … possible 🙂

The COVID situation has made me more of an introvert than I already am, not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. These days, I get exhausted too easily by being among humans, unless they are kindred spirits on the same wavelength.

If you are reading this, leave me a note 🙂

Till the next post.

5 In Others / General

Happy 2022

A new year, a new start. 2021 has been an interesting year, and there are many things and people that I’m thankful for 🙂 I tried to blog a little more frequently. While I’m nowhere near my heyday record of blogging almost everyday (how did I do that?!), it’s slightly better.

Blogging more also means that I’m studying more, which is a great thing.

At the end of the year, I found myself having a lot of motivation to study Thai. I have no idea why, sometimes life is just unexplainable 🙂 In any case, I’m glad to find that motivation and enthusiasm for language learning again 🙂

After many on and off attempts, I can finally type in Thai on the computer keyboard!! Or at least the more common half of the characters hahaha. It’s a huge milestone cos I’m adamant not to rely on keyboard stickers or an online image. I want to be able to type Thai no matter which computer I use. I’m still a little slow, but at least I’m comfortable enough to look up words on the dictionary without feeling like I’m taking eons.

I’m also learning more vocabulary, and there’s more that I can understand from Thai dramas! I look forward to the day in the future when I can watch Thai dramas unsubbed. 🙂

Spent the first day of the year studying, reading and cooking.

只闻花香 不谈悲喜 喝茶读书 不争朝夕。

This is how I’m going to live 2022!

2 In Others / General

I bought 6 black pens in different shades

One of the most intriguing things I bought the other day is a set of black pens.

Why do I need so many black pens, you ask. Because they are all in different shades of black.

Or rather, black with a hint of colors.

That still doesn’t explain why I need 6 black pens at one go, but it’s one of those things where you bought and asked yourself why you bought it but still you are happy that you bought it.

The pens look, feel and write gorgeous.

Posted it on Instagram the other day and got some DMs on wanting to see the colors, so here’s a video!

Love the sleek design and the smooth finish of the pens.

This is how it looks like in somewhat low lighting. The crimson black ink is the most differentiated one (in my opinion), but there’s still subtle differences. The differences are bigger in good lighting!

Happy with my purchase!

Now I need to decide how to incorporate them into my notes, because I usually have a fixed color scheme / coding.

In any case, time to study MOREEE.

To a great and productive 2022!!!

4 In Thai Learning Journey :)

The Year-End Motivation

I’m always extra motivated during the year end, maybe because it feels like I’ll be able to get a head-start on being productive in the new year LOL. There’s just something about wanting to gear up for the new year. Again, it’s all in the head, but as long as it gives me a bit of a push, I’m happy.

So here I am blogging again, after an almost 2-month hiatus.

I’m also suddenly very motivated to work harder for Thai. I haven’t been doing much language learning this year, as I’ve been spending a lot more time reading. Although I guess reading Korean novels is a form of studying 🙂

I have no idea why I’m suddenly all geared up to study Thai, since I haven’t been consuming any Thai media or entertainment. But now I hope to go back to watching Thai dramas. I stopped at episode 1 of the Thai remake of Tunnel. I enjoyed the Korean drama immensely, hopefully the Thai remake would be good.

And I think I’m *FINALLY* getting better at typing Thai on the computer. I’m still using this online keyboard as a reference, but I’m getting better at recognizing more keys (not the second keyboard toggled via caps). I’ve been forcing myself the whole morning to look up words on the computer instead of the phone, and I hope that with some consistent practice, I can finally type without relying on the online program (at least the first keyboard).

I’m also getting slightly better at recognizing and demarcating words within a Thai sentence (that has no spacing). Small wins!

Hopefully I can keep up this momentum until 2022!!

2 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[Review] Japanese Stories for Language Learners

I love bilingual readers and Tuttle Publishing has an excellent series for that. Besides the Japanese one, I have the Korean Stories for Language Learners (review in link) and I’m eyeing the Thai Stories that will be published next year. Hopefully by then, I can be more comfortable in reading Thai 🙂

The Japanese bilingual reader is an excellent choice as a first book for reading, given that there are furigana on top of the kanji. I like that they don’t try to put everything in hiragana/katagana, cos that’s just not how Japanese is written naturally. I would much rather see the kanji with furigana on top, for those who are still very new to kanji.

The book consists of 5 short stories and I love how they take care to choose stories of different genres. There’s folktales and also representative works by Japanese authors. I particularly like the story 雪女. I came across this in another novel I was reading and didn’t realize that it was a folktale until I saw it here.

Each chapter begins with the bilingual story, with the English on the left and Japanese on the right. I love how they include translator’s notes, given that language learners may expect the English / Japanese to be as close as possible. but that’s not really realistic given the differences between both languages, making it difficult for a close translation to sound smooth. So it’s great that they have notes where the translation would differ quite a bit from the Japanese (e.g. not possible to translate mimetic words).

This is followed by vocabulary and expressions, where it’s a glossary of words.

Japanese + English + romanization + meaning + example (sometimes)

I thought it was odd to have the romanization there, given that this book is supposedly for learners who can already read Japanese. But even if there is a need for romanization to make things complete, I didn’t like that it’s in bold. That is one of the things I feel very strongly about, given that bolding something would naturally bring attention to it. Learners should wean off romanization, instead of being encouraged (visually) to look at it.

I like the exercises, where it’s to select the most appropriate item in the parentheses. Good extra reading practice and the exercises are friendly for self-study use too. Answer key available at the back. This is followed by a couple of discussion questions (in English) that are more of like prompts to think more deeply about the story and also how the reader relate to it.

Overall, I think it’s a neat book, and it would have been perfect if not for the bolding of the romanization haha. Sorry, but I feel very strongly about that point.

I’m definitely looking forward to the Thai stories!!

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] Korean Grammar in Use Advanced

I can’t believe that it took me three years since my review of the Korean Grammar in Use: Beginner book to review the advanced book. I’m sure everyone has heard good things about this book, and likewise, I only have good things to say.

It’s not easy finding a good Korean advanced grammar resource (especially in English), and this is one of the books that I wished I had known about (or have) when I was at the stage of learning the advanced grammar points. Granted, if you are an advanced learner, there isn’t quite a need for English, but I love how in this book, the English explanations for the grammar (and the translation of the example sentences) are meant to complement the Korean, not take over it.

When I was preparing for TOPIK Advanced (or TOPIK II as it is known now), one of the difficulties was the advanced grammar and this would have been a very useful book.

I like how the grammar points are being grouped by their function, and it’s easy to refer to similar grammar points at one go.

Unlike grammar dictionaries which can get too boring, this book is very well paced and structured. The bonus is that the book comes with a CD (I think you can download the contents on their webpage), so there’s some listening practice too.

Structure

  • A dialogue (with mp3 file)
  • Explanation, with examples
  • Situations where you can use the grammar points
  • Fill in the blank exercises (with answer key)

It’s just so easy to work through the book. It’s very comprehensive and thorough, and it’s clear that the authors and team put in a lot of thought in designing the book and its contents.

Two thumbs up.

I would highly recommend getting this 🙂

4 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] 살아있는 한국어 한자성어

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Proverbs (속담) and Idioms (관용어) books in the series. I loved them both and the book on 4-character idioms (한자성어) doesn’t disappoint either.

Because of my background in Chinese, 한자성어 / 사자성어 are easy to pick up / guess but I can imagine them to be slightly tricky to those who are less familiar with hanja. While they are not exactly that common in daily conversations, but I love the wisdom encapsulated in four characters.

The book introduces 50 of the more commonly used ones. Each chapter is devoted to one 한자성어 and is structured as follows:

  • A cute illustration that helps you remember the idioms
  • A reading passage showing how the idioms are used
  • Practice (with answers)
  • Open-ended questions (more for classroom use, no answers)
  • Introducing hanja-related words used in the idiom

What I particularly love is that they include the last bit, where every chapter they would introduce some extra knowledge / words that use the hanja(s) in the idiom.

It’s a very intuitive book to use and because it’s well-structured, I don’t feel bored working through the chapters chronologically.

I think this book is most suited to intermediate learner and above, given that the passages are of decent length and complexity, and the book is entirely in Korean.

I would highly recommend getting the three books at one go 🙂 Definitely deserving of a space in your bookshelf.

Leave me a comment if you find my review useful and do share your views on this book too. 

Happy learning!

4 In Danish Learning Journey

I just bought 9hrs of Danish audio

Yes, I bought a Danish audiobook! This afternoon, I was just obsessed with the idea of getting a Danish book. I was searching up Eventyr og Historier by Hans Christian Andersen but decided to leave that for another day (year) because I couldn’t find something with an audiobook. But it’s definitely a book that I hope to read in Danish one day, if I continue to keep up with the journey 🙂

Danish pronunciation is tricky, so I wanted audio with transcript (i.e. audiobook), which I can follow and get used to the sounds. So… I ended up googling for Harry Potter in Danish hahaha.

I spent the afternoon obsessing over whether I should get the physical copy, and where I should get the audiobook. I found a great site that actually has short audio clips of the start to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in many languages. It’s so cool that I got distracted and started listening to different clips, including languages which I probably never heard spoken. It’s funny how I’ve never really thought of getting Harry Potter in Korean, Japanese or Thai.

In any case, after much deliberation, I decided to get the kindle version of Book 1: Harry Potter og De Vises Sten. There’s really no point in owning a physical book at this point, and it’s easier for me to have the ebook instead. I had to be careful to make sure that I’m getting the Danish edition because the Swedish and Norwegian titles look very similar.

I’m not a huge fan of audiobooks in my native tongues, because I much prefer to read and enjoy the story in my own voice (in my head) and speed. That might change in the future, but at this point, I barely listen to English/Mandarin audiobooks. Hence, I was rather surprised to find that a lot of audiobooks are subscription-based services, which I have not much use for. So I decided to get the audiobook from Google Play. It’s not cheap, but I would rather pay for it, rather than having to consistently pay a monthly fee for a service I don’t use.

For those who are keen on getting Harry Potter in the target language(s), Pottermore Publishing has a comprehensive list with purchase links.

Yay, so now I have 9hrs of audio on the go. The good thing about getting Harry Potter in Danish is that I’ve read the English source so many times that I can remember a lot of it, and it’s easy to figure out what’s what hahaha. Will take any excuse to read more Harry Potter (:

7 In Danish Learning Journey/ Others / General

How we experience a foreign language

One of the ways that make foreign language learning so different from acquiring your first language is that you are, most of the time, experiencing and see the foreign language from the lens of another language.

English textbooks teaching Korean tend to paint the language as difficult for English speakers, emphasizing the opposite word order, SVO (English) vs SOV (Korean). By using English resources, we are experiencing the language through an “English lens”, and most of the time, there appears to be more differences than similarities.

On the other hand, using a Japanese textbook would be a different experience. With the two languages sharing grammatical similarities, such as the differentiation of politeness levels, you get a different way of experiencing the language.

It makes me wonder if one of the reasons that makes getting a native-like grasp of a foreign language challenging lies in the fact that we are conditioned to experience the target language from the lens of our tongues, particularly at the beginner level. Will it somehow make it difficult for us to understand the target language in its entirety, given that we are perpetually trying to make it fit into something that we are familiar with?

This is most pronounced in the way sounds are introduced. Textbooks, in particular, try to explain it by making reference to the sounds of another language. “It is the o sound in “organ”, “a stronger ‘k’ sound”. Because it’s either that or use the IPA. I hate the approximation, and I am not proficient in the IPA (despite a degree in linguistics), so I tend to rely on my ears instead. The scariest books are those that try to use words (instead of syllables/sounds) as approximates, making 사랑해요 into the likes of 萨拉嘿呦。

I’m currently using Japanese exclusively to learn Danish and I find it incredibly interesting that as I learn the Danish expressions through the Japanese approximates, I’m not really questioning if they are truly good approximates and I’m taking whatever nuances of the expression into the Danish too. Yesterday, I came across the word altså, which the textbook translated as ええとねえ and I just wrote it down without thinking. It made me curious how a Korean, Chinese or English textbook would explain the word and if, it makes more sense, to use a culturally closer language (maybe English?) to learn a European language.

That is also the reason why I like using textbooks in multiple languages to learn the target language, as each present to me a slightly different lens of looking at the target language.

Of course, I am aware that the best way to get around this “lens” issue is to focus more on native materials, talking to native speakers and basically immerse myself in the language. As I move on to more advanced materials, the issue of the lens is less pronounced, but nevertheless, it does seem intuitive to make sense of new things by using things you already know.

In the case of language learning, is that a boon or a bane?

Some food for thought (:

0 In Danish Learning Journey

Starting a Danish Language Notebook

I cannot believe that I’m starting to learn a new language!! Although, at the this point, I really don’t know where it will bring me, or how far I will go. But it’s never ME to think too hard about such things, so I’m gonna go with the flow as usual.

I’m really a textbook person through and through. I’ve somewhat fallen into a comfortable basic routine for learning languages, which include using online (free) resources to explore a bit, before committing to a couple of textbooks. While I use other resources too, I like having a textbook to guide and provide some structure to the learning.

Currently restricting myself to two Danish textbooks only, because ahem, I bought too many for Russian and they are now sitting in a corner. Although I swear I will get back to the language again.

I went to the local bookstore the other day to look for Danish textbooks and in my mind, I kinda knew that I would not be able to find good AND inexpensive ones in English. True enough, the bookstore only stocks three Danish-related books and they are not what I’m looking for. I was hoping that the Japanese section would be better, but the language textbooks there are more focused on Asian languages. I was deliberating getting Korean or Japanese textbooks, and in the end, decided to go for Japanese textbooks. I have a couple of Thai textbooks in Japanese and I love them so much, willing to take the risk and see if I can find similarly good ones for Danish.

Went to Amazon Japan and ordered two books. It’s often a risk to buy textbooks online, as sometimes there isn’t a sample to look through, and the reviews can be so polarizing that I don’t know who to trust (trust myself). I just went with gut feeling and ordered two and I’m sooo glad I love them. More on that next time, because I realize that I don’t have photos of the textbooks LOL.

Started a Danish language notebook and I’m so happy!! Having a little space for language notes makes it feel like the language has a place in my life 🙂

How to Structure Language Notebooks

I don’t really have a structure, especially at the start. I will usually start off with the writing system, and perhaps simple words like numbers and greetings. When I start using textbooks, my style is to copy out the dialogues from the book. I believe that writing something out vs just reading it is different and writing helps me to practice spelling and it helps me remember the content better.

I use a single notebook for everything, including grammar / vocabulary / exercises etc. It’s easier that way, instead of having separate notebooks for different functions.

While I like to color-code, I try not to use too many colors because it’s a hassle switching pens every now and then.

When there are exercises from the textbook, I also like to do them in the notebook, before using a different color pen to mark out my mistakes. I don’t really refer back to my notes or to review them, so the process of taking down the notes is how I learn.

Pens / Highlighters I Love for Note-taking

  • Zebra Sarasa Clip 0.5 – the pinkish one I use as the main color (it’s slightly glittery and writes smoothly)
  • Pilot Juice Up 0.4 – the blue and purple pens, also glittery LOL
  • Mildliner Highlighters