0 In Others / General

[REVIEW] Korean Stories for Language Learners

I love bilingual readers and I wished more had existed when I started learning Korean back in 2008. Those were the days where resources were few, and it wasn’t quite the norm to think about making online purchases from foreign websites.

I was delighted when I received Tuttle’s Korean Stories for Language Learners, and yet I wished it was published back in 2008, instead of 2018. Containing approximately 42 traditional folktales in varying lengths, it is a great bilingual reader for beginners to mid-intermediate learners. Tuttle has up-ed their game, by providing an enclosed audio CD for all the Korean stories. Yay!

As usual, skip to the back if you don’t want to read my long comments 🙂

At first I was a little perplexed cos the track number wasn’t indicated in each other stories. (how would I know how to match?!) But I realised that they had done so in the inner cover of the book (when you first flip it open). So fret not 🙂

For those without a CD players, Tuttle also offers downloadable audio files from their website (link in the inner cover of the book too)

This is so important, because most laptops don’t come with the CD drive anymore. Always love the little touches like this – shows that the author / publishing house understands the readers’ needs.

The audio material is recorded by a native speaker, and there’s a deliberate attempt to read it in a clear and properly enunciated manner. It’s helpful to the language learner, but rather “textbook-y” in nature.

Structure

Passage

The book is relatively well structured, with each passage getting longer (the passages at the back are around 3 pages long). As with bilingual readers, the Korean passage is on the left, with the English on the right page.

Pre-reading Questions

After the passages, there’s three pre-reading questions in Korean, which could be used as a classroom activity. As a self-learner, I just skipped that.

Vocabulary

There’s a glossary list of the news in the passage. I usually would ignore this portion and do up my own notes. I wished they didn’t use romanisation though. )): This was a major minus for me. It’s not a complete beginner book, and even if it was, I can only (somewhat) accept romanisation in the first chapter. Personal gripe about romanisation is that it primes the learner to see the foreign language in the lens of the sounds of English, which shouldn’t be the case. Each language has its own intonation, set of sounds etc, and should be learnt as a new sound system instead. /rant over.

Culture Notes

I like this section, which gives additional insights to Korean folktales 🙂

Comprehension Questions and Writing Activity

Yeah, needless to say, I skipped this portion 😛

Additional Materials

I found it interesting (strange?) that the book chooses to include some basics about the Korean language (e.g. pronunciation of Korean sounds, how to create syllables and some basic activities) right at the back of the book. I would have thought that the book assumes that the reader/learner has some basics of the language. A complete beginner may not have found these additional materials (right at the back of the book) helpful too, given that the explanation is rather sparse. i.e. Going through these materials will not allow a complete beginner to jump straight into reading the first passage with ease. There’s still a gap.

Overall Comments

What I like:

  • Interesting content, passages get longer and more challenging towards the back
  • Audio recording provided

What can be improved:

  • No romanisation – ok this is a personal gripe

While I love folktales, I wish bilingual readers could also explore more genres of texts. Hopefully Tuttle can come up with more bilingual readers in time to come!

Find this book on Tuttle’s website (with links to purchasing sites).

10 In About Translation/ Korean learning journey (:

Korean Literature Books Haul

Once in a (long) while, really love a book haul to make myself happy! Although it comes with the usual post-haul guilt of having too many books unread, and the real dilemma of having even lesser bookshelf space compared to books.

I’ve been wanting to read more Korean literature for a while, and more importantly, I’m actually fascinated by literary translation. Which is why I’ve bought both the original Korean and English translated copies of the books. If I may be even more honest, I bought the books because of the translators. Anton Hur and Deborah Smith are my favourites so far, and I hope to get to read more works from excellent translators. I haven’t read much translated works to be able to form a reasonably well-informed opinion yet, but I feel like both their translated works read really smoothly.

The Court Dancer by Kung-sook Shin and translated by Anton Hur is now my most favourite translated work. Really. I love how Anton managed to transform and translate the long descriptive (and rather convoluted) sentences from Korean into poetic prose in English. It’s smooth and yet manages to contain the amount of detail in the original description. I find that very fascinating.

To me, translation is both a science and an art. It takes skill to be able to read in a foreign language, more so to capture that meaning and style in a different language. At this point, I’m stronger in terms of reading non-fiction and hence I still have a long way to go to improve reading literature.

To be honest, I’ve always harbour a secret desire to get into literary translation. Despite the fact that I’m way much stronger when reading non-fiction texts. hahaha well, one can always improve right? At this point in time, I’m not sure if I’m really suited for it. I think I might do better in terms of non-literary / non-fiction translation.

I’m reading 리진 ( the original version) now, and then trying my hand at translating parts of the prose. And found my version to be so woefully inadequate compared to Anton’s translations. But it’s a fun process. I hope to be able to become a stronger reader in time to come, and to challenge myself again.


At times I feel like I’ve taken the fun out of blogging for myself. I find myself wondering if it’s easier for the readers to access if I write on social media platforms, and what kind of content I should put up in various channels. Come to think about it, I should first and foremost, write for myself. To enjoy putting my thoughts in words, instead of creating content for the sake of doing so (or for the views).

Perhaps that was why I stopped blogging for quite some time. It had somewhat lost that personal touch for me and became one of the things I have to tick-off in that never-ending to-do list. I had enough to-do lists at work, and hence the idea of having even more to do after work was not appealing to me (and I had no time). 2019 should be the year where I leave more time for myself, and things that matter to me.

Of course, if you guys are still around, would always appreciate a comment. 🙂

1 In N2 Journey

Back to the N2 Journey

Uh. How is it that the last post was in January?! I know time has been passing by really quickly, but it hits me hard when I visit my blog and realise that I’ve been MIA for the past three months. It’s an ongoing struggle of trying to keep up with the necessities of adult life (e.g. job) and then trying to carve out a space for myself. I’ve been trying (not too hard), and yeah, failing.

Finally found enough discipline to sit down this morning to study Japanese. I’m going to re-take JLPT N2 again this coming July. Cos I’m not ready for N1 yet. hahaha. It also serves as a motivation for me to study and to do more. This morning, I (re)-learnt 4 grammar points. Realised that I had ticked them off my grammar dictionary, but I can’t recall what they meant. Sigh.

Sometimes I think I don’t really know how to study Japanese. Unlike Korean where there’s a series of textbooks from level 1-6 published by major universities, I haven’t come across something similar in Japanese. Does anyone has any recommendation for advanced Japanese textbooks? I’m mainly reading novels, and using JLPT preparatory grammar books to learn the grammar points. Which I don’t find it efficient.

Listening to my fav piano pieces performed by Yuja Wang. I don’t really see myself as a classical music lover, but somehow I’m drawn towards her performances. Really hope to see her perform in person, but it doesn’t look like she has any recitals etc in Asia in 2019/2020. ):

On a side note, I love quiet weekends.

Jumbled mess of thoughts. Losing the ability to blog and write in coherent paragraphs.

5 In Korean learning journey (:

I took 6 years to finish this book

Does anyone remember that I have a set of modern Korean history books? The ones I bought in *ahem* Nov 2012?

After 6 long years, I’ve managed to finished reading it!

Book 1 I mean. hahaha out of a set of 4.

Hey. I still think that is a real accomplishment. While I read it on and off, 6 years is still indeed a long time to take to finish a book. It’s funny though, because I am very very interested in the book and I didn’t leave it aside for years. In fact, I take it out every now and then to read a few pages. So it’s still baffles me how I can take 6 long years to read 309 pages, out of which I completed 60 odd pages in this month.

Reading a book for that long also meant that I could really see how much I’ve improved over the years. I remember having a lot of difficulty with it at the start. I was about a TOPIK level 5 back then. But I still remember how I would highlight many words in a page and struggled to read and re-read the sentences to make sure I understand what it meant. It was made more difficult because it was my first introduction to modern Korean history and I was not familiar with many of the events that had happened. I had to google/wikipedia the events and read up on them – sometimes I get so engrossed I would just keep on reading link after link (and forget about the book lol).

역사는 어제의 기록이 아니다. 바로 오늘이며, 내일을 향한 나침반이다. 우리가 한국의 현대사를 모른다는 것은 오늘의 한국사회를 모른다는 것이며, 그것은 곧 우리 자신을 모른다는 것이다….

홍세화

History is not a record of yesterday. It’s today, a compass for tomorrow. To not know the modern history of Korea is equivalent to not knowing about today’s (Korean) society and is tantamount to know knowing ourselves (Koreans).

This struck a chord in me. I have always thought about history as a record of the past and distant from my life in the present. When I was a student, I dreaded history classes cos it meant a lot of memorising and it didn’t seem very applicable. But as I grew older, I fully appreciate what the quote meant.

Just like how past experiences shape a person, history shapes the society.

Can’t wait to read and learn more.

I’ve been writing for a couple of days so I’m actually on page 40 of book 2 now. Hopefully this momentum can continue over 2019 :).

Till the next post!

0 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[REVIEW] Tuttle’s Intermediate Japanese

If you are looking for a low-intermediate Japanese textbook that uses English explanations, furigana and also dedicates a section to teaching Kanji, you have found the one.

Personally, I find that Japan-published Japanese textbooks tend to focus on a certain area (e.g. speaking / reading / writing / listening / grammar / vocabulary / kanji) and I haven’t quite found a book that does somewhat everything. I think this one quite hits that sweet spot of serving as an all-encompassing main textbook for low-intermediate Japanese learners.

Each chapter consists of the following section:

Dialogue

I found it interesting how the same dialogue is presented in both comic strip and the usual prose form. The comic strip form comes first and it does not include the furigana, which serves as a good exercise for the learner to try to figure out how to pronounce the kanji, and can check it against the prose form dialogue (with furigana).

New Words

Basic but useful glossary as it comes with kanji, the parts of speech (e.g. noun / verb), and the English explanation or equivalent. The book comes with the CD, and this section also comes with audio. Thumbs up. But I have no idea why the audio does not follow the order of the glossary!! Weird.

Kanji

This section is the reason why I would recommend this book to English speakers. I love how it teaches you the order of the strokes, the meaning and also trying to break up the word into parts and radicals and teaching you how to remember it.

Language Detection (Grammar)

The grammar section is not the most detailed, but does a decent job of introducing a few new grammar points per chapter. While this is touted as an intermediate book, I thought that it wasn’t that challenging or fast-paced. Perhaps a low-intermediate level?

Self Check | Practice Time

Designed for classroom activities, I don’t find this section particularly helpful for self-learners. I usually will skip such sections – pair practice etc.

Culture Chest

Good section to introduce some culture tidbits.

メール (Reading)

Extra reading in the form of emails from one character to another.

Overall thoughts

Quite a decent textbook, especially suitable for those who need more help with Kanji. The content is relatively interesting and the book is well-structured. Suitable for the self learners. Will recommend if you are looking for a main textbook for the low-intermediate. The only con? It’s a heavy book – don’t think you would want to bring it out to be read on the go.

What I like:

  • Well-structured
  • Good section on Kanji
  • Interesting content
  • Furigana – convenient, makes reading easier

What to be improved on

  • Grammar section, while adequate, is not very detailed
  • The textbook is quite heavy (weight-wise)? 😛

Get it on Tuttle.

2 In Singapore Korean Restaurants Review

[Review] Wonderful Bapsang, Suntec City

Good textbooks must share, good food also must share 🙂

It’s been a long while since I did a Singapore Korean restaurant review. Mostly because I’ve been visiting the same few places for my k-food cravings. Now I have to add another one to the list!

Located in Suntec City Tower 3, it’s not the most easy-to-find place. Not just because Suntec is huge on its own, but because the shopfront is actually a K-mart and the restaurant is inside (or behind?) the mart. I’ve actually walked past the mart several times and didn’t realise there was a restaurant o.O. Happy that I was intro-ed to this place by my friend and I’ve since brought another group of friends to eat there 😀

What’s special?

I love how the 반잔 (banchan – side dishes) are free-flow and self-service. There’s 6 in total, and it looks like you will get different types every day. The banchan are GOOD. Nothing very fancy, but it just reminds you of Korea 🙂

I loved the kimchi

Here’s the other banchan I tried on my second visit (there’s unpictured 김 and 김치). It didn’t look that amazing, but it actually was great! I loved the beans, and I think the plus one liked the anchovies one. The bean sprouts were flavourful, unlike the bland ones you get most of the time in not-so-great places. But what was interesting was the 물김치 (I think so? ) with cabbage and cauliflower!!! CAULIFLOWER. I thought it was really weird, but once I took a bite, I was won over. Crunchy, refreshing and the slight sour taste of it is really 开胃 (appetising).

Sorry I don’t know why I’m using 3 languages in a blog post -.-.

Sorry the photo’s not great, but the food was. The plus one was using a spoon for that anchovies banchan!

I would be happy just eating the banchan with a bowl of rice. But obviously the restaurant owners won’t like it 😛

So here’s some of the main dishes I tried!

Kimbab / Ddeokbokki

돼지고기 김밥, 떡볶이

THE KIMBAB. Was good. yeah. There were a few choices and I had pork. The next visit I had ham. Both were good. yeah. I’m not a fan of 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki – rice cakes), so the dish didn’t wow me, but it was still authentic and great. The rice cakes were the right kind of chewy, and there’s also fish cake 어묵 and cabbage in the sauce. I loved dipping the kimbab into the sauce though.

Seafood beancurd stew (순두부찌개) and steamed egg (계란찜)

Now. Don’t leave this place without ordering the 계란찜

Look at that steamed egg! This is steamed egg done right – looking like it’s overflowing 🙂 My friends and I were gushing over the steamed egg. Seriously. While there are an increasing number of k-restaurants in Singapore offering the dish, most of them did not hit the right spot. This did. There’s the slight “burnt” taste to it and you get to scrape off the slightly burnt bottom part. yums. This is how I like my Korean streamed egg.

The seafood beancurd stew was not that best I had, but it was good enough with ample ingredients inside.

Seafood Pancake (해물파전)


The way I like it too. Crispy, light batter, generous serving of seafood inside. The sauce is also exactly how I like it – with loads of chopped spring onions and roasted sesame seeds. I would eat this all by myself.

Fried Mandu

I would definitely order this again.

Sweet and Spicy Fried Chicken

Oh this was good. If you are into spicy stuff. Most 양념 chicken served here are more of the sweet sauce type, so this was surprisingly spicy. The deboned chicken was tender enough, and the skin was still crispy. There’s also some sweet potato and rice cakes (I think) in there. I had the sweet potato and it adds flavour to the dish.

Overall thoughts

I would add this place into my list of go-to k-restaurants in Singapore. Food is more or less reasonably priced. If you sit near the window, you have a great view too. Can’t wait to bring more friends to try!

Wonderful Bapsang 원더풀 밥상

Suntec City Tower 3 East Wing #02-609,610 Singapore, 038983
Tel: 6732 0974