Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

0 In Others / General

Morning reads and time with yourself

It’s easy to lose yourself in the midst of the daily grind and I admit that the negativity was seriously getting to me. It was always an exhausting race against time, although looking back things always seemed better. Hobbies, family, friends were sacrificed and I was permanently feeling exhausted and unhappy. While there were brief periods where I tried to pull myself up, I went back to the same cycle after a while.

We all know the need for work-life balance, but the exact formula is hard to work out. What exactly do I want to do in the “life” part? What is it that will provide me with the happiness and motivation I need. I know the answer lies with language learning, so I have been trying to conscientiously trying to carve out time to do so. I started Thai this year (unplanned!) and so far I have been loving the journey.

That said, sometimes I do feel that I’m adding to the unhappiness (lol) by not having time and energy for languages everyday. It’s like my happiness meter is being determined by whether I did any studying that day and it was sorta unhealthy.

After all these years, I’m still trying to find a formula that works for me. I’ve been working at home due to the COVID-19 situation and honestly I think it’s really a more suitable arrangement for me rather than commuting to and fro the office. hahaha such a homebody. It allows me to have a bit more time to work with to get the balance and I’m starting to incorporate morning reading time into the routine.

Not everyday, but a couple of days per week. To wake up earlier and have some quiet time with a good book.

Decided to pick up The Court Dancer again and despite being a re-read, I feel myself drawn to the narrative easily. I’m probably a better textbook reviewer, so forgive me if I can’t articulate my thoughts about fiction eloquently. What I loved about The Court Dancer is that it’s an amazing piece of translated work. Some translated works feels very stilted and that it’s a very obvious re-telling of the story in a different language. The Court Dancer is probably one of the most smooth and natural translated work I’ve read and honestly, beyond the story (which is already amazing), I’m very much drawn to the craft of translation.

I had borrowed the book from the local library but felt so compelled to own a copy that I went to buy one (hardcover books are so expensive omg!) and proceeded to buy the original work in Korean too. I don’t own many fiction books in English (oops!)

I’ve been meaning to pore over both versions and I think I would start doing that again. I had tried to do a one-page translation to compare it with Anton Hur (the translator)’s work and hahahaha needless to say mine was so woefully inadequate and clunky in comparison.

Hopefully I can keep this up.

Till next post.

2 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[Review] N2 文のルール(and comparison with Kanzen Master)

Besides the Kanzen Master Series, this set of JLPT prep books are my absolute favourite. They should be familiar names to those who have been learning the language for quite some time. Fondly recalled how I discovered the N3 Grammar book in my university library back in 2012 or so and diligently worked through it. #throwback to more studious days hahaha

Good books are hard to review at times. Cos I just wanna say.

Buy.

Basically I find it a very good grammar resource and I’ve used the N3 and N2 series and I bought the N1 too! Please trust my recommendation haha.

I think the bigger question is….

How does it compare with Kanzen Master Series?

职业病 (occupation hazard) has me compiling an TABLE OF COMPARISON. Tada. I have never ever done that in my 12 years of blogging. hahaha. congrats to me.

Kanzen Master文のルールComments
StructurePresents 4-6 similar grammar points together in a chapterEach grammar point is presented in isolation No clear winner.
Kanzen Master can sometimes feel more a chore to work through cos the content is quite dry and sometimes rather daunting (study fatigue) when faced with 5 very similar grammar points at one go. But can’t deny it’s helpful. 文 is easier to work through!
Explanations Japanese onlyJP, EN, CNNo clear winner.
Both have quite short explanations, but are quite clear.
Sample Sentences 2-3 sentencesDialogues文のルール.
I like how 文 use dialogues as example sentences. Somehow makes it easier to work through and remember how to use the grammar structure. Each grammar point is also introduced by a simple MCQ to test your knowledge and the answer is right on the next page. +1 for ease of use.
Exercises MCQ MCQNo clear winner.
Really is 各有千秋 (each has its strengths). Kanzen exercises are after each chapter and it really helps you learn how to use the similar grammar points introduced. Whereas for 文 the exercises are after each section (around 30 grammar points) and it can cover any of the grammar points introduced earlier. The plus point is that it has a couple question types.

Let me know what you think of the table format mmm.

In any case, the point is that both set of books are good and you should just get both la (Singlish is coming out).

4 In Others / General

How to take notes when learning languages

Notetaking is one of my favourite topics of language learning and I can go on and on about this (if anyone wants to hear). Thought to share my two cents on the topic today – I probably have written on this before, but my views may have changed with experience (I mean age).

Purpose of Notetaking

One very important question to ask yourself – why are you taking notes and how would you use them? To answer this question, you must understand your own learning style. Personally, language notetaking to me is a process and hence I feel that the learning comes from the act of processing and organising the information as I write the notes. Hence, I have almost never flipped through / reviewed my language notes after I’m done writing them. A lot of my language notes is actually writing down vocabulary and it’s meaning and sample sentence. I have no use for reviewing what would essentially be random vocabulary lists – the learning comes when I’m actually writing them down and internalising and remember the words in the process.

Hence, I have no qualms throwing away years of notes (which I did). I still recalled the outrage (?) and shock when I posted online that I was doing so haha, and received so many comments that it’s a waste to do that and people even asked me why I didn’t sell my notes. ;;; hahaha what would people want to do with a random vocabulary lists? Even for the part of my notes when I was writing down grammar points etc, I see them as only useful if you are the person writing them (and learning through the process). I see language notes as different from those organised notes I did on subjects like Chemistry / Economics back in school – those I admit would be useful to review and pass on to others (I kept them until now!).

Notetaking is a trial and error process

Not everyone will face this issue, but as someone who prefers structure and neatness, I admit that I struggled with language notetaking at first. I had (rather) frivolous concerns like – should I have separate notebooks for grammar / vocabulary? / how do I organise the information? etc. My piece of advice? – Don’t think, just start writing. Just like how you can never be fluent at day 1, there is no reason to expect yourself to be able to organise your notes properly at day 1. It’s through a trial and error process that you learn how best to organise the information for yourself.

I’ve developed a system which I am comfortable over the years and will use it when I learn new languages. I use one notebook at one time, and even though I may be learning from several books at one time, I will just continue writing in the same notebook without going to a new page. So a single page in my notebook can contain my notes from two different textbooks I’m using.

Never re-write notes

This brings me to this point. Neverrrrrrr re-write notes. Sorry this is such a waste of time and there’s minimal value in the process. You will be better off using this time to read a new chapter, or something.

Aesthetics – do just “enough”

Uh. So… I realised that “aesthetic notetaking” has become a thing on social media. On one hand, I’m very impressed at how pretty people can make their notes – the colours, the doodles, the perfect handwriting, the use of washi tapes and dunno what other things.. On the other hand… I DUN GEDDIT. I’m all for do-whatever-makes-you-happy but I do sometimes question if the time and effort that went into those notes is considered well-spent and effective for learning?

As someone who is aesthetically challenged, I honestly think that notetaking to that level is very time-consuming (correct me if there are people who can do their notes reasonably fast and maintain that level of aesthetics) and I won’t do it. And I don’t recommend it. Honestly (this might be an unpopular opinion), I feel like sometimes it’s veering into arts and craft rather than learning. hahaha sorry if I offend anyone. /looks around/ I just hope it doesn’t set some form of unrealistic expectations for learners/students to deliberately try to follow those notetaking style and feel that that is how good notetaking should be.

I recalled how back in school days, I have friends who will also take time to beautify their notes with like a whole pencil case of colour markers (hahaha) and write their notes in a certain font (dunno if anyone gets it? hahaha). But honestly, students these days have levelled up so much in the aesthetics department. I feel like I’m looking at art pieces 🙂

(yes I secretly have a lot to say on this topic)

I used to colour-code my notes (sticking to max about 5 colours) for ease of reference but I have settled into a comfortable routine of using mostly pencil for my Korean and Japanese notes (mostly vocab these days), but I do use a couple of colours for Thai/Russian, where I am just starting out and I find a couple of colours useful.

On aesthetics – I do admit that when I take photos for social media / this blog, I do (pretentiously) find some props and arrange my stationery neatly. (duh, I don’t actually study with random props like my camera lying flat next to my book, with dried flowers and dunno what other rubbish). I don’t think anyone will deliberately spend effort on their notes for the gram (and not just due to personal style), cos that’s really another level.


So if you are wondering why I haven’t exactly shared how I take notes, it’s because the gist of this post is find a method that you are comfortable with and fits your objectives. 🙂

hahahaha ok I will write a separate post on how I do language notetaking.

Till next time!

2 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[Review] Tuttle’s Basic Japanese

I… cannot decide how I feel about this book and this is quite a rare occurrence because usually I’m quite clear about how I feel about a textbook! Let’s get into the review proper.

This basic Japanese book appears to be more suitable for someone who has some basic knowledge of the Japanese writing system as it completely skips the usual hiragana / kanatana table. I’m quite used to most beginner textbook having at least one chapter dedicated to the Japanese writing system (or even just having the tables) so this is rather unusual. That said, Chapter 1 essentially introduces the Japanese pronunciation, rhythm, syllable, voicing, vowels, consonants etc which to me was rather strange cos… why have these basic information and yet not introduce the writing system?!

Chapter one also started out with some basic dialogue and basic vocabulary which is written in hiragana, katakana and kanji (without furigana). Ok, I can deal with that, it’s authentic and how Japanese should be written. But why kanji without furigana? …. and WHY ROMANISATION. The whole book uses romanisation which… personally I find an eyesore. I would way rather see furigana on the kanji! It also does not help by romanising Kanji – e.g. 息子 is just romanised as musuko. As a beginner how would I know if 息 is read as mu or musu?

Fine, as a learner, I can ignore the romanisation if I need to (and I still think you should). Although it’s terrible that the romanisation is in bold so naturally your eyeballs are drawn to it. Also, in the explanations, the book uses the romanisation ONLY. Which to me is a huge turn-off and a nono. Because in this case, I see it as an encouragement to rely on romanisation, and romanisation is no longer an “aid” to help you to read the actual Japanese characters.

And at this point, I don’t quite know how to review this book anymore.

Which is a real pity. Because I do think that this point offers quite good structured lessons and detailed explanations of the grammar points, with decent (doable) exercises for the self-learners.

Overall thoughts

What I like:

  • Use of hiragana, katagana and kanji right at the start
  • decently structured lessons and explanations of grammar points

What can be improved:

  • Reduce the reliance of romanisation – either leave it out after 2-3 chapters, or STOP bolding it
  • Stop using romanisation only in the explanations
0 In Apps for learning Japanese/ Apps for learning Korean/ Thai Learning Journey :)

[Review] Language learning app – Drops

You have just decided to start learning a language. The first few things you did are probably:

  • go to youtube and search “beginner (name of language) lessons” / “introduction to XX” / “XX alphabet”
  • google “XX lessons beginner free”
  • download language apps

There’s an increasing number of language apps around and one of my personal favourites is Drops.

A good language app doesn’t need to do everything, it just needs to focus on a couple of things, and do them well. Drops did that – and well.

According to its site, Drops is available in more than 35 languages. I scrolled through the list and found quite a few that I’m interested in (hello Arabic one day hahaha). Japanese and Korean are both available too!

The app is well organised, and each language offers lessons in different categories. Foundation – the alphabet and writing system. As well as several other categories of vocabulary. You can also choose between the beginner and the intermediate level.

The app is focused on helping learners build vocabulary but turning it into a fun activity. New words are introduced via “drops” (how cool) and subsequently reinforced through exercises where either you are supposed to match words to the graphics or choose whether a word and graphic pair is right or wrong. Simple. Engaging. Effective.

Visuals and audio are a huge part of the app. Instead of boring flashcards, it makes use of graphics / visuals to help you connect a word to an image. The whole app works like a game, and is limited to 5 mins exercises each time. I thought this was very smart, cos instead of feeling like it’s a chore to learn vocabulary, it’s fun and the 5-mins timeline makes it seems very short (and have you starting another session!).

The app also shows you a list of vocabulary you have learnt!

I personally find Drops a very engaging app for beginners to a language, and I personally have used it to learn the Russian alphabet (and some simple words) and am currently using it to reinforce my recognition ability of the Thai alphabet.

Once you are beyond the alphabet phase, there’s also an option to turn off romanisation (very much appreciated!) to learn the vocabulary. I love how they also include audio, so it’s quite easy to learn new words with audio and visual aids.

I would use this as a complementary resource to language learning. While I still don’t believe in learning new words via lists (without any context), I do see this as a neat app to learn new words on-the-go and to do some review.

I’m currently on the 7-day trial and am contemplating to sign up for a year’s membership.

Download Drops: Apple | Android

1 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Hello new language – Thai!

Sometimes, it’s just fate 🙂 I’m a believer of fate, of things falling in place when the right time comes. Same for my language learning journey. My brain tells me to aim to add a new language every 4 years or so, after reaching a reasonable proficiency in the previous one. Thai was somewhere in the list – the interest sparked after a short work trip to Bangkok in 2019 (I want to go back on my own!) and I always have a thing for languages with a non roman alphabet writing system.

But fate says otherwise.

It all started with the Thai Drama “Love Destiny“, which is airing on the TV. My mum was watching the Chinese dubbed version and she told me about it. I was like oh ok…. and to be honest I was like ?!! when I first watched a bit of the drama with her. I didn’t like it at first because I thought the plot was rather slow – hahahaha for those curious I was watching the scene of her possibly just transported back in time to olden days Thai and she was trying to tell the servants she needs the toilet (lol) and it was a looooong scene of her being led to the toilet outside and being served some leaves when she asked for toilet paper LOL.

I told my mum I am not going to watch the drama with her hahaha. But another day, I just happened to catch a full episode with her and ok I’m totally in. Like I TOTALLY LOVE THIS DRAMA kind of in. So that further sparked the interest in learning Thai but I didn’t plan to do so immediately.

(lol this is such a long-winded story)

But one day, my mum told me she bought two books for learning Thai a couple of weeks back hahahha. I still posted it on Insta and claimed that I wasn’t the one who is studying Thai. And one fine day, I picked it up just to browse through. And decided I should try learning the alphabet only for fun.

And so I’m in. 🙂 I doubt I will just stop at the alphabet, because now I’m in the phase of listening to Thai songs all day lolol. I love this burst of motivation.

This is the (long) backstory of how I started Thai.

0 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[Review] New Kanzen Master Japanese Grammar N1/N2

I can’t believe I haven’t written about these books when I had them for years! The new Kanzen Master (新完全マスター) series have been my go-to Japanese JLPT preparatory resources. I own the following three books – the N1 and N2 grammar books, as well as the N1 listening book.

Unfortunately the procrastinator in me had not touched the N1 listening book so today’s review will be focused on the two grammar books.

Continue Reading →
2 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Thai Drama Recommendation: Ugly Duckling Series – Don’t

New Category: Thai Learning Journey!

The first post is supposed to be how I started learning Thai (yes you read that right) but allow me to gush over my newfound love for Thai dramas! Was googling for Thai romance dramas to watch and I was pleasantly surprised with my find: Don’t season/arc of the Ugly Duckling Series.

The no-spoiler review: While it started off with rather cheesy characters and slightly over the top acting, the drama has got heart. And it got my heart. I’m a sucker for good high school romance and those growing-up stories so this hits all the right notes for me by the end of the 7 episodes. A short ride, but a good one. It also got me reaaaaaally into the Thai language and I can’t wait to learn more.

It’s been a long while since I gushed over a drama so much and it kinda reminds me of those days back in 2008-2011 where I fangirled over Korean dramas and got very motivated to study too hahaha. Random but I am somewhat reminded of how I gushed over 무정도시 (Heartless City) hahaha. That drama had my heart and soul though lol!

Media is really sooo important as a motivating factor to learn languages. At least for me. I’m so glad to have watched this and I really feel very motivated to study Thai! Hopefully one day, I may return to this drama and find myself understanding the original dialogues 🙂

I’ve also fallen in love with Thai songs!! They are sooo nice.

Please send recommendations my way!

Some (major) spoilers below:


Ahhh ZERO IS SO CUTE OMGGGG. I thought this was going to be a drama where I’ll suffer from the second-lead syndrome, but woahh that moment when you realises HE’S THE LEAD IN THIS. 🎉🎉I’ve rooted for him ever since he’s the one who forced her out of that box, but at first I was wondering whether it’s just me and my love for (on screen) bad boys in general lolol. I probably don’t react the same way in real life but I do admit I like my bad boys in fiction and drama LOL.

0 In Others / General

April 2020 Update of Languages

Here’s an update to remind myself what I’ve been up to for the different languages this month!

Korean

Did the least for Korean this month. Was starting on a new novel 82년생 김지영, which gained a lot of traction and popularity last year (?) for its feminist theme and its portrayal of ordinary Korean women. Heard quite a bit about this novel, so decided to get the original to read. Actually I was supposed to finish the novel 해리 instead of starting a new novel, but 해리 is quite heavy reading (in terms of the theme), so I wanted to keep it aside for next time.

Japanese

Consumed the most media in Japanese this month! hahaha I re-watched Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away!! Howl’s Moving Castle is one my all-time fav movie and I’ve a lot of fond memories of it 🙂 This is probably the 4th time or so I’m re-watching this and it’s still sooo good after more than 10 years. It also feels amazing that I’m mostly ok with the dialogue – who would know that one day I can understand Japanese 🙂 Spirited Away is another good re-watch. *shhh* But I used to hate the movie cos I was probably too young to appreciate the movie and its themes when I first watched it and I just thought the whole show was very very weird?! But ahh now I get why this is such a favourite.

Also started on Psycho Pass 3 (the animation). I think it’s reasonable to say that the Psycho Pass series probably played a rather significant role in my Japanese language learning journey. I loved the series so much I got most of the books and it never failed to make me more motivated in studying. Starting to read the Psycho Pass 3 novel too 😛

Russian

After not touching Russian for a couple of months, I was soooo afraid that I would forget everything. Luckily, my (very limited) Russian is still somewhat there, although I’m having trouble recalling the conjugations for adjectives and the plural form of nouns. Starting to get back into the (slow) pace 🙂 Am also starting to learn Russian cursive handwriting.

Thai

hahahaha this deserves a post on its own. I think it’s fate that I ended up starting on Thai! I do have interest in Thai and was thinking of making it the next language after Russian, perhaps in 2023. But guess what, I have started learning the Thai alphabet. More on that next time!

2 In Others / General

Hi April!

Perhaps I should just aim to blog once a month and name all my posts Hi (month)! And let me take a moment to express shock at how my previous post was in JANUARY.

It’s been a crazy 2020 ever since Feb and gosh I have not worked so hard in my life. 😅 COVID-19 has affected all of us in some ways or another. Work has been so busy I did not have any time or energy to spend time on things I like. It’s all about the things I must do, should do and have to do.

Taking a quiet moment before bedtime to sit on my beanbag in front of my bookshelf and really take some time to reflect. Writing helps me organise my thoughts and it’s been too long. My thoughts are jumbled up now.

Have been working from home for some time now and while I saved on commute time, the lines between work and personal time have been even more blurred. I feel like I’m working every single waking moment… I don’t even have commute time to just rest and space out. Maybe I should take the discipline to wake up earlier and carve out some me time.

Till the next post, it’s time for bed.