Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

6 In Others / General

Is it fall in love again?

Sorry, there is no (new) boyfriend, but there could be a new language in the horizon.

Well, not exactly new. My first love.

I cannot believe that after close to 13 years, my interest in Spanish is rekindling. Before Korean, my first language love was Spanish. In fact, I tried to learn it when I was about 17/18 (I think) but failed miserably. The reason was that, being the inexperienced language learner I was, I went to buy a paper dictionary, a “teach yourself Spanish” kinda book and a phrasebook. hahahaha setting up myself for failure. As expected, I couldn’t quite make head or tail of the phrasebook and the textbook was not great at explaining the basics to me. The concepts of gender in Spanish also confused the hell out of me and it felt very daunting to learn the gender of each noun. Language learning felt like a mammoth task and very soon, the books were tucked away somewhere.

Back in university, I took a basic module and I’m sorry to say that the university classes did nothing to motivate me and so after the module, it was back to the shelves again for Spanish. During my undergraduate years, I was also spending a lot of time on Korean (and later Japanese) that I didn’t have bandwidth for Spanish.

And so, Spanish remains on the to-learn list.

My love and interest for Spanish actually stemmed from a rather simple reason. 😛 I fell in love with Barcelona after seeing it featured on Meteor Garden 2 (the Taiwanese version) and I really wanted to visit. I also fell in love with Chayanne’s song Yo Te Amo, which is featured in the drama OST. It was the single most-repeated song in my playlist in my teenage years (back when iTunes was still tabulating no. of plays) and till today, I still listen to it on repeat regularly.

Yeah, that is the real story of how I fell in love with Spanish. Random, frivolous, but this is how love starts 🙂

So, back to the story of how my interest is rekindling. I happened to be re-watching something in Japanese and it was only available with Spanish subs. I love reading subs, so I found myself looking at the subs despite understanding the Japanese audio hahaha. And so, the love is rekindled. I also have an enabler, who pushed me into putting that flicker of interest into action.

I found myself starting a new notebook for Spanish.

I spent some time reading a Spanish short story. hahahah I cannot believe I just did that because this was not totally not planned. Three Little Pigs in Spanish 🙂

I realised that I love to read and one thing that excites me about language is not making new friends (sorry I’m antisocial) but rather reading more books.

Also dug out my Spanish textbook which I bought in my university years. Don’t ask me where are the first books I bought. hahaha.

I cannot believe that at one point in time, I could construct sentences in the language. Needless to say, I remember nothing now. Would I get back to the same level again?

Stay tuned. hahahha

I don’t know which direction the motivation for Spanish will go, but as usual, I’m just enjoying whatever time I get to spend with languages. My brain tells me I should just focus on Korean, Japanese and Thai. Let’s see what my heart will say. ♡

15 In Others / General

Happy 13th Blog Anniversary

13 years learning languages, 13 years writing about language learning. It’s been such a wonderful journey, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This space has seen me in my ups and downs, provided solace, motivation and encouragement to me in different stages of my life.

This blog started out as a persona space, and I had wanted to write about my love for Korean dramas – hence the blog name! Over the years, it has evolved to a space where I write about language learning and my journey with languages. I am thankful for each and everyone of you who has stumbled upon this space, and in particular, those who have stayed with me over the years. I actually do remember most (haha don’t dare to say all) of you, and even though we may have never met, I cherish the connections we form here 🙂

13 years. 說長不長,說短不短。It feels long, and yet, when we think of language learning as a lifelong commitment, it feels like I’m still very much a young learner. Language learning has brought me so much joy, and made me fall deeper in love with books and reading. In fact, increasing the number of languages I can read in has increased the number of books I own (and e-books!) and I find myself constantly in a state of having more books than I can read. It’s a happy problem (not so much for my wallet) and I’m always grateful for the ability to enjoy more books in the world.

As I’m typing this, I’m sitting cross-legged in front of my coffee table, and there are at least 10 books on the table, a couple more on the floor and several on the sofa behind me. In this moment, I feel very blessed and happy and I just want to note it down. 🙂

Sometimes, I feel like I need to read more and read faster to “clear” the stack of books. But then I remind myself that reading is meant to be an enjoyable activity, not to be rushed, not to be forced. And so, I shall take my time.

In this anniversary post, I think it’s befitting to talk a little about each of the languages that have brought me so much joy in the past 13 years.

Korean. It’s hard to be an “advanced” learner at times. At times, I feel like I was more motivated when I was an intermediate learner. As I’m very partial to textbooks (ahahha), it was very clear to me that I had so much to work on when there are more advanced textbooks out there. Does it make sense? I know that beyond textbooks, there are so many other books / materials out there and it’s also true that I don’t understand everything perfectly now. But when you reach a somewhat comfortable level of proficiency, I feel a lower drive / motivation. I read more Korean novels these days, but other than that, I’m not doing much to improve my Korean at this point. Time to think a little bit more about how to learn as an advanced learner 🙂

Japanese. My relationship with Japanese is quite interesting. I didn’t prioritise speaking / writing, given that I was more keen to be able to enjoy Japanese media content as a “goal”. I read a lot, I listened a lot. I write at times, but I don’t speak. hahaha. In the end, I have a very skewed Japanese proficiency where reading >> listening >>>> writing >>>>>>>>>> speaking. Not proud of it, so I always tell people, please just try to improve on all four areas and not think that “I only want to be able to read”. Sure, there’s always areas to focus on, but placing too much focus on only one/two areas may bring regrets later on. On the other hand, I’m sure that if I get to spend an extended period of time in a Japanese-speaking environment, I’ll improve quite fast. But unfortunately, doesn’t feel like that will happen anytime soon. And frankly speaking, it’s rather embarrassing (personally) to hold a N2 certification and not speak like one 😛 Recently, I’ve been reading more in Japanese and truly truly loving it. I had spent a couple of years neglecting Japanese (almost) entirely, so I am very glad that the language has not deserted me. Just the other day, I was re-watching something in Japanese and this time round, I had to watch with Spanish subs. It’s amazing that I can now understand everything with ease, and even have bandwidth to read the Spanish subs and try to learn some vocabulary here and there 🙂

Thai. I’m so glad that Thai came into my life last year, and I’m just taking it slow. I don’t know where this journey will bring me, but I am just happy to cruise along and enjoy the sights.

For those who are still reading this, please leave me a comment and say hi! I always lament that blog readers are somewhat a dying breed, and blog commenters even more so 🙂

0 In Korean Drama

My comfort k-drama: 별에서 온 그대

I love to rewatch dramas. Some of my friends cannot understand why I would spend hours of my time (ranging from 12 to 60 LOL) rewatching something that I’ve seen, not just once, but twice and more. There are some days where I just want comfort, predictability and routine. I don’t want to invest my time in new shows, where I don’t even know if I would enjoy it or give up after a couple of episodes. I just want to spend some times enjoying a show which I’m 100% sure I would like.

I have 1-2 dramas in each language which I dubbed my “comfort dramas”, and it provides solace and comfort just like how comfort food does. Not all good dramas can be comfort dramas. Some are just too painful to watch a second time, and some are just good once.

My go-to comfort k-drama is You who Came from the Stars (별에서 온 그대). There’s just so much to love about the show. It’s equal parts funny and poignant, and there’s no one character that feels out of place. Everyone has personality and feels so real. There’s no dragged-out conflicts and unnecessarily bitchy characters. I have probably watched it at least 5 times to date hahaha.

There’s just something comforting about knowing what’s coming up next (in general) and then rediscovering small details along the way. Sometimes I think this is borne out of my fatigue of the unpredictability of life, so I need some kind of predictability in my dramas. Not sure if I’m reading too much into it 🙂

In any case, I just finished re-watching it yet again and it’s still sooo much love after so many years. Definitely one of the classics (for me).

2 In Others / General

Drama-binge mode

The weather in Singapore has been really hot these days and I’m lethargic 90% of the time. I’m finding it pretty difficult to sit down in front of the desk to study or read, so most of the time, I’m lying on the couch and binge-watching dramas. In an attempt to be in an immersion mode, I’ve been watching Korean, Japanese and Thai stuff.

この音とまれ! / Kono Oto Tomare!

Finished both seasons 1 and 2 (26 episodes in total) in a couple of days and I love it! The underlying themes are familiar – a group of misfits coming together and finding passion in something, rise of the underdog, friendships and growth, family problems etc. I love this kind of slice-of-life/coming-of-age stories and I think that the story is executed well in this series. Not particularly exciting, but I love the warmth of the story and how the characters learn to be dependent on one another. Trust seems to be an often-explored theme in the story and the characters learn to rely on others instead of trying to keep it all in. Trust is still a very difficult issue for me and I wonder if that’s because I’m too twisted (lol) and don’t give others / myself a chance, or people are just still… not worthy of trust LOL.

In any case, this was an enjoyable watch and I would have gotten its light novels (but I think there’s only the original manga). So much for wanting to stop buying Japanese novels.

Would 9/10 recommend this.

คู่ไฟท์ไฝว้ผี / Let’s Fight Ghost

It’s a Thai remake of Korean drama 싸우자 귀신아 and both are available on Netflix Singapore. It started out SOOOO GOOD but unfortunately I got a little bored at the last arc. (Slight spoilers ahead). The villain arc was rather weak in my opinion and his backstory is not very fleshed out. I found him creepy at first but afterwards, I don’t know if we are meant to sympathise with him or hate him. Numwan’s a great character and I thought it was a pity that her story with Dr Jade had so much potential to be better. I thought she will go either the evil route or be the catalyst for Dr Jade’s redemption but sadly it just ended quite flat. I thought she would come back as a ghost! It’s also interesting how this story is about ghosts but none of the characters Dr Jade killed come back as ghosts.. I mean if that’s how it’s supposed to be, I’m fine with it, but there’s no explanation. The climax fell flat for me and I found myself fast-forwarding through the big fight and the final arc where Jeen had to go overseas to study (like seriously…). For a drama that I was rooting so hard for at the start, it was disappointing that I couldn’t sit through the last episode without the fast-forward button. But then again, it’s still worth a watch!

8.5 / 10 (simply cos the ending is … flat)

Vincenzo

Despite the hype, I have yet to feel invested in the show after 3 episodes. I’m contemplating to drop it, but the sheer curiosity of its popularity (recommended to me by both Korean and non-Korean friends) has kept me going.

I need more drama / anime recommendations! Send them my way please.

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] 살아있는 한국어: 관용어 Idioms

This is one of the books in the 살아있는 한국어 series which focuses on proverbs, idioms and four-character idioms. I’ve reviewed the Proverbs book and the idioms book is just as good.

The idioms book is structured in a slightly different way from the proverbs one. Each unit consists of:

  • idiom + a picture / comic illustration
  • dialogue illustrating the use of the idiom
  • example sentences
  • practice questions (fill in the blanks) (every 2 units)
  • further questions (activities-type of questions)

Although the practice questions (fill in the blanks) are found every two units, it’s great that they cover content from both units. I thought it’s better that way since it makes the questions more challenging, as it makes it harder to ‘guess’ the answer. The great thing is there’s also an answer key. So… double yay!

It’s suitable for intermediate learners and above. Even as an advanced learner, there are quite a number of idioms I didn’t know so I enjoyed reading through the book!

Please save a space for it on your bookshelf!

For those who may be interested why I’m reading a English article peppered with Korean words, it’s the Toucan extension! It’s a super cool tool for immersion language learning. Heard about it some time back but because they didn’t have it in the languages I learn, I shelved it at the back of my mind. Now they have Japanese and Korean in beta mode!! I’ll review it soon but if you are keen, check it out here! (I’m so excited to partner them)

What I like:

  • Well-structured
  • Useful dialogues
  • Fun and interesting illustrations
  • Useful exercises
  • Exercise key

To be improved:

  • nil
2 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Thai Study Update April 2021

It’s about a year since I first started learning Thai on my own in April 2020. It doesn’t feel like a year, because for the greater part of last year, I kinda left the language aside. I’m more actively studying Thai this year and so even after one year, I still feel like a complete beginner.

It’s a shame that I’m not recording down my Thai learning journey as much as I did for Korean, because I do enjoy reading my own blog at times. It gives me motivation to see how much I like the languages and it helps me get over slumps and bottlenecks. It’s also a precious memory.

It’s getting hard to balance all 3 foreign languages and my native tongues (English, Mandarin). I am reading books from all 5 languages (yes even Thai although I’m at the second para LOL), and I end up not completing any. I wonder how polyglots do that. For me, I work in phases and I like to concentrate on one language at a time. For the past week or so, it has been Thai.

One reason is that I’m watching the Thai drama Let’s Fight Ghost (คู่ไฟท์ไฝว้ผี), which is a remake of the Korean drama starring Ok Taec-yeon and Kim So-hyun. I remember enjoying the Korean drama but it feels like watching a brand new drama since I can’t quite remember details from the Korean one. This is the second Thai remake of Korean dramas (the first was Oh My Ghost) and I’m really loving it. While the plot for the two remakes I watched generally follows the Korean one, I feel that they are not complete scene-for-scene remakes and they feel very natural as a Thai drama too. Incidentally, they are both ghost-related and hence one of the first few words I learn are ผี and ตาย, which mean ghost and die. In language learning, you are really what you learn (for vocabulary) hahaha.

It feels great that Thai is no longer an incomprehensible language to me. I recognise words every now and then and even for words that I don’t know, I can catch the pronunciation. I realised that Thai is a really melodious and beautiful language and I feel so grateful that I am able to learn this beautiful language.

Thai is also the first language that I’m (so far) completely self-studying. I don’t know where that will take me, but I’m enjoying the journey. I always like to liken language learning to enjoying a river ride and I’m letting the flow guide me along. Not rushing, cos I’m enjoying the scenery on both sides. It’s okay to be still for a while and take a break too.

It’s also funny that I’m mainly using Japanese textbooks to learn Thai and I’ve discovered two that I really like. For me, a good textbook makes a lot of difference and it can really propel me to learn more.

I’m always on the lookout for more good Thai dramas and movies (except for horror). Even liking the language can’t make me enjoy horror shows…

p.s. Peppered the post with my Thai language notebook even though there’s no link LOL.

1 In Korean learning journey (:/ Korean Proverbs 속담/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] 살아있는 한국어 속담 Proverbs

While proverbs, idioms and four-character idioms are also introduced in general Korean textbooks, they are not used that often in real life and hence the exposure is generally lower. It’s great that there’s a series of textbooks focused on these, which are frankly speaking, my favourite bits of language learning.

As proverbs and idioms mainly hail from folktales, they are very much linked to the culture and it’s very interesting to see how some idioms are more universal (an almost direct translation available in other languages) while others are unique to the language (and culture). During my university days, I did a project comparing emotion metaphors in English and Korean and it was very interesting to look at the similarities and differences.

This proverb textbook is also one of the better ones I’ve seen. Instead of just introducing the proverb + meaning, the book is structured such that the content is more meaty, complete with dialogues and exercises.

Each unit (60 units) consists of:

  • proverb + a picture / comic illustration
  • dialogue illustrating the use of the proverb
  • example sentences
  • practice questions (fill in the blanks)
  • further questions (activities-type of questions)

There is also a consolidated exercise after every 20 units.

I love how there’s a full dialogue illustrating the use of the proverb. Some books tend to only put in two-liner dialogues but I feel that doing so may not give enough context on the appropriate use of the proverb. The practice questions do not come with answers (slightly disappointing), but I feel that they are straightforward enough so it’s still alright. The further questions section is more suitable for classroom activity and honestly as a self-learner, I won’t actually attempt them. The consolidated exercises are relatively short but comes with answers (yay).

A highlight of the book for me is the funny illustrations. I love the illustration for “가는 말이 고와야 오는 말이 곱다” (tr. what goes around, comes around) where a guy is standing at the top of the mountain shouting “바보야~~” (tr. you are a fool) and the echo comes back louder “바보야~~~” LOL. It makes it so much easier to remember the proverbs hahaha.

Proverbs are also full of age-old wisdom and I love learning them. Happy to see a dedicated textbook on it! All in all, highly recommended and it’s one of the books I wish came out earlier during my peak Korean-studying days. Sometimes I am pretty jealous of Korean learners these days because there are sooooo many resources. But then again, this means it’s also harder to choose good resources and… I’m here to help!

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

What I like:

  • Well-structured
  • Useful dialogues
  • Fun and interesting illustrations
  • Useful exercises

To be improved:

  • Lack of answer key for regular exercises
2 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] Sejong Korean Conversation 1 세종한국어 회화 1

With 4 books in the series, the Sejong Korean Conversation books are meant to be complementary books to the Sejong Korean series (1-8). According to the preface, Sejong Korean Conversation 1 is developed to be complementary to Sejong Korean 1-2 while book 2 of the conversation series follows Sejong Korean 3-4.

I haven’t seen the Sejong Korean series, so the review will be based on my perspective of a self-learner using this as a standalone book. As usual, scroll all the way down for a summary if you want to skip my lengthy thoughts!


Knowledge of Hangeul is a pre-requisite as there are no introduction chapters of Hangeul / Korean language and it jumps straight into using Hangeul (great!) for the lessons. In book 1, all instructions and explanations are in both English and Korean so that’s another plus point!

Full of listening practices

While it’s called a “conversation” book, I think it is a great book to practice listening for beginners. There’s a lot of audio clips throughout the chapter, and I love that they include a QR code, so no hassle of downloading files or trying to figure out what to do with a CD (when laptops no longer have a CD drive). The strange thing is that it’s a text QR code, so when I scanned if with my iPhone camera, it brings me to the google search result of the URL. I have to take the extra step of copy and pasting the URL into the URL bar to get to the mp3. Not sure if that’s the case for everyone!

Good mix of vocabulary and dialogues

I like that there’s a good mix of sections with dialogues and those focused on vocabulary. The book is extremely colourful and full of pictures, so it looks like it’s a joy to work through the book. I like how they read the vocabulary in both the male and female voices. It’s always good to have a mix and to get more auditory input.

Grammar explanations

Initially I was worried that the book might skip grammar explanations given that it’s supposed to be used as an additional resource to their textbook series, but I’m glad that there’s still grammar explanations at the back of the book, in both English and Korean. While beginners will probably not be able to understand the Korean explanations, I still appreciate its inclusion. I feel that it does subconsciously help to push the learner to try and read something that’s beyond their current level and while the learner may not understand much, they can still learn something or two from it.

Good range of exercises that self-learners can do

While some textbooks are designed for classroom use, I like it if most of the exercises are self-learners friendly too. I think this book does it very well, and the exercises (fill in the blanks, match the correct answer, word search etc) are great for self-learners too. Answers are also provided at the back (another plus!).

Overall thoughts

This book is best used as an additional resource to a main textbook, given the ample listening practice and relevant exercises to work through. I do like everything about it. Out of curiosity, I went to check the publishing year of the book. 2018. I would have loved to have access to this resource when I started learning Korean and hahaha this book came out 10 years too late! 😛

For those living in Singapore, this book is available in the public libraries 🙂

What I like:

  • Ample listening practice
  • Individual QR codes linking to MP3 files (GREAT)
  • Great visuals and well-structured
  • Some grammar explanations available
  • Answers provided
  • Relevant exercises for self-learners

What can be better:

  • nil
7 In Others / General

A New Book Stand

It sure took me long enough to finally get a book stand and wow I don’t know how I survived without one for so long!

For those who are still on the fence or thinking of whether to get one, do it!! It feels so liberating to free up my hands. I can put the book on the stand, and do my notes properly without using an elbow to keep the book open (and risk creasing it with the weight of my hand). If you know what I mean haha.

It also feels nice that I don’t have to look down and strain my back and neck while reading. Awesome.

When I’m not using it, it doubles up as a book display. LOL. Okie that’s obviously not the main purpose of the book stand, but I do like seeing books on display like this.

Till the next post 🙂

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.

It’s…

福袋開封動画

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.