Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

0 In Japanese learning journey (:

Am I still on the N1 journey?

The other day, I was asked if I am still planning to take JLPT N1 exam in the near future. My answer is yes, but I do not have a timeline for it, and neither am I actively preparing for it. A couple of years ago, I was more motivated to “chase progress”, in that I feel good (about myself) when I intensively learn and progress in the languages that I’m learning. That said, the goal is always to improve my proficiency, and not chasing after test scores. The TOPIK and JLPT scores themselves do not matter to me. When I first passed N2 back in 2016, I was keen on getting my N1 soonish (in a year or two), but life happens (haha 輕描淡寫的帶過)and I didn’t have time to prepare. It was also not fun to prepare for N1, as the grammar points were not as commonly used and the whole process felt too dry for me. I had the same issue with TOPIK advanced (before TOPIK II kicked in), and I found myself having a mental block of sorts when trying to retain the “advanced grammar”.

I took the JLPT N1 test in 2019 December (after passing N2 in July) and I failed. I wasn’t really disappointed, given that I did not prepare much and didn’t feel ready at all.

Then COVID happened, and I’m not sure if it’s a direct causal link or not, but JLPT test fees increased! The N1 test now costs $130 hahaha and I can no longer “take it for fun”. So yep, the motivation to take N1 exam in the foreseeable future has dropped again.

For now, I would focus on improving my Japanese skills, mainly by reading and listening more. hahaha I know I should speak and write more, but unfortunately I have minimal interest in going out of my way to look for language exchange or to make friends to practice languages. Small talk tire me out. I may be more keen to write more. I used to have a Japanese blog somewhere on the net, hahaha and I no longer remember my login details 😛 Perhaps I should write my Japanese diary here and display my abysmal writing skills that are not befitting of the N2 level. But I read and listen at N2!! hahaha.

I enjoy Japanese novels a lot and I’m going to focus on reading more and enjoy the process. Gonna share about a couple of books which I’m reading in another post.

Till the next post!

0 In Japanese learning journey (:

Orange: The anime, manga and novels

What are some of the things that you regret for life? If you have a chance to set things right again, to erase regrets, what would you do? Is it really so easy to take a different path, to make a different decision?

These are some of the questions that Orange tries to answer, and it does it with depth and sensitivity. Naho, a 16 year-old high school student, receives a letter one day from her 26 year-old self, asking for her help to erase her regrets in life and in the letter, the adult Naho spells out exactly some of the key incidents in the future and how she would like the younger Naho to do things differently.

While it may appear easy to follow a set of instructions to avoid regrets in life, we come to realise that a lot of times, it still takes huge courage to step out of our comfort zone and make a different decision, and personality cannot be changed so easily. It’s one thing to know “what to do”, and another to “actually do it”. It’s also a reflection of life. There are many moments in life where we know what is the better decision, but somehow we cannot stop ourselves from doing otherwise, whether it’s due to our own personality, lack of courage, or other reasons.

Friendship is a huge theme in Orange and I love that despite personality differences, the six of them make it a point (in their own way) to look out and care for one another. The show also made me realise that a lot of times, we just need that one person to gently guide us through a difficult time and having company and understanding is so important. Then again, not all “friends” are the same, and there are also times where friendship is nothing but people being brought together in the same space at the same time and being able to only share fun but not the tough.

There’s a lot of little moments in the story that speaks to me. When Kakeru told Naho to stop enduring and to speak out, I thought it was a poignant moment, and I loved it even more when Naho told Kakeru to do the same for himself. It’s often hard to do the right thing (despite knowing it deep down) and it just takes a friend to keep each other in check and to offer support and a reminder at the right moment.

我慢ばっかりしてたら、自分が損するよ。

It’s been a long time since I last watch an anime that made me feel so much. I had seen the Orange manga in the bookstore a couple of years back and told myself that I needed to watch the anime (something about the cover art just appealed to me), and I’m glad that I finally did it. I don’t buy manga normally (because expensive and too many volumes), but I caved in for Orange and bought the 6-volume set. It helps that it’s not a 20-volume set because I would have to think thrice about it hahaha. I also caved in and bought the 3-volume light novel set.

The last two times I was SO into an anime was 神様はじめました and NANA. I have part of the 神様 manga set (hahaha yup I never finished collecting) and for NANA, I don’t know if I want to get the DVD or a second-hand manga set one day. NANA is one of those stories that rocked me to the core, and I wonder if I have the courage to go through the same raw pain again. I watched it in my 20s, and perhaps it’s time to revisit the story in my 30s.

I’m about halfway through the first volume of the light novel and I’ll share more about it next time!

Till the next post.

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews/ Others / General

[Review] Korean Made Easy for Beginners

One thing about the Korean Made Easy series is that it’s very consistent in its cover design, featuring the author in the same pose and wearing similar clothes. So it’s very easy to recognise it among all plethora of Korean textbooks that you can find these days.

And you should. Find it. Buy it.

I own the starter, beginner and intermediate books in the series and I have already reviewed the other two. I’m a HUGE fan of this series, to the point that I wished so much that it had known about it when I first started learning Korean (this is published in 2006 and reached its 20th printing in 2019!), or that it’s easier to purchase from Korea back then. It would have been the textbook of my choice. It still is, and I’m glad that this book is now more accessible to Korean learners all around the world.

A lot of Korean textbooks are made for classroom use, so I love it that the Korean made Easy series manage to hit that sweet point of being suitable for both classroom and self-study use.

Substantial focus on Hangeul

The starter book is entirely focused on Hangeul and suitable for those who like to have a little more help and practice with the writing system. But I feel that that the beginner book is a sufficiently good book for the uninitiated, as there’s about 50 pages worth of introduction on Hangeul, and sufficient listening exercises too. I always think that a good (truly) beginner textbook shouldn’t skimp on the introduction of the writing system, cos it’s just gonna demotivate the learner if they can’t even figure out the alphabet properly.

Well thought-out structure with sufficient explanations

The book adopts the structure of introducing grammar points first, with sufficient explanations/example sentences, before moving to two sets of dialogues, additional sections on pronunciation/vocab/phrases, exercises and a cultural note.

I love a well thought-out structure and it’s very clear that the team working behind this is GREAT.

Certain highlights for me:

No romanisation after the introductory Hangeul chapter

For this, I’m going to give it 5 additional points. 🙂 I also love how, in dialogues, the English translation is presented on the side and in a much smaller font. This gives focus on the Hangeul and visually, this helps the learner focus on parsing the Korean instead of relying on the English translation. Glossary, while present on the page, does not feel intrusive too. I love this.

Gradual introduction of pronunciation rules

I’ve once seen a textbook where they introduced all/majority of pronunciation rules right in the Hangeul chapter and oh man, I was so intimidated by that. Some learners may not realise that there’s NO NEED, I repeat, ABSOLUTELY NO NEED to learn the pronunciation / sound change rules right at the start. In fact, I learnt most of them “naturally” through listening practice and even though I will read about them if I come across an explanation somewhere, I don’t bother trying to remember/memorising them. Till today, I will not be able to tell you exactly the rules.

Exercises that people do

One gripe I have about a lot of textbooks is that they tend to focus on classroom activities in the exercises section and honestly I find that rather disappointing. Not that they are not useful (for classroom use), but I thought that the sole focus on that would make it difficult for self-learners to use the book. And honestly, not all classroom exercises in textbooks are fun / actually used in the classroom too. So I’m SUPER glad that this series go for the multiple choices/fill in the blanks type of exercises, with answers too! yay!

Cultural Notes

I enjoyed each and every of the cultural notes behind each chapter. Language learning cannot be separated from culture and history, so I’m very happy that the book takes effort to include a substantial passage (in English) on it.

Additional touches

Corresponding listening tracks are marked out clearly in the book, and I love that they do break a chapter’s audio into different tracks because it’s tough when you get long tracks of say 15:00mins and you have to mark out on the book the corresponding start time of individual sub-sections.

I love the illustrations in the book too. Overall, the colours, the placements etc are very well done and it’s a very pleasant book to go through. Kudos to the team!

Overall thoughts

Definitely very very highly recommended! No matter whether you are looking to dabble, or to focus on the language, I feel that this book is suitable for all 🙂 It’s pitched at just the right level and pace.

Just buy!

What I like:

  • everything LOL

What I don’t like:

  • Nothing. Can they come up with an advanced book too?

Check it out on Darakwon’s website.

0 In Others / General

Too many loves, too little time

I honestly don’t know how people learn / dabble in multiple languages. I find it difficult to spread my (limited) time evenly across just a couple of languages. I think it has to do with my personality, as I much prefer to be engrossed in one thing at a single time.

Recently, I’ve been in a Japanese mood and I tend to spend majority of my free time on it. I’ve been reading more in Japanese, which is a great thing, because a large proportion of my unread books are (surprisingly) in Japanese. Most people would think that I read (or own more books) in Korean, which is my stronger language, but hahaha no. I love buying Japanese books omg. I think I have more than 30 unread ones, and this doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy more.

This year, I had wanted to focus on learning Thai but so far, I’m not doing it intensively. It’s a deviant from my previous language learning approach, which is to focus intensively on one language when I’m learning it. Perhaps it was easier to do so when I just had Korean, and then Japanese, but now… no. hahaha. Given that I’m also interested in casually studying Spanish, hahaha it’s really 时间不够用.

I’m also trying to be a better and more consistent reader, and having 4 languages to read in means that my attention is constantly being divided.

I wonder if I should come up with a “schedule” of sorts, but then again, I’m never one who likes segmenting things so cleanly.

One thing I need to do is to break the bad habit of reading a book halfway and then getting distracted by starting a new one. I’m okay to give up reading halfway for books I am not keen on, but most of the time, I actually love the books and stopping them halfway made it difficult to continue again because by then, I would have forgotten most of the story. I’ll then feel compelled to start reading all over. The cycle continues LOL

There’s a book that I almost finished reading and I told myself to slow down and leave the last bit to another day to savour. One month later, I still have not gone back to it. oops.

Till the next post!

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] Korean Proverbs Book 속담이 백 개라도 꿰어야 국어왕

I’m always excited about proverbs/idioms related books because I feel that they are such a good way to learn more about the language and the culture of its people. It’s interesting to compare proverbs/idioms among languages and look at the the similarities and differences – e.g. how proverbs with similar meanings may be presented differently in each language.

There are some proverbs books that are targeted at foreign learners, and those proverb more explanations / English translations / glossary etc. This book is targeted at Korean kids and hence it’s essentially a collection of stories on proverbs.

I would recommend this to intermediate learners and above who are looking for reading materials. It’s fun to read stories and learn about proverbs at the same time.

Honestly, when I was learning Korean, I read a lot more “adult” materials (e.g. news) compared to kids’ stories. In some ways, my vocabulary range for words appearing in kids stories may not be that great. I’m also horrible at onomatopoeia words and adverbs such as 살금살금 (walk stealthily).

Personally I do not think that kids stories are necessarily easier than so-called adult materials, when it comes to foreign language learners. This is because typically, we would start off learning the language using the “adult” materials and we are more attuned to the way of writing / vocabulary. In fact, kids stories can be rather difficult, especially fables / folktales.

E.g. 누구슈?

The meaning is 누구세요 (who are you), but if you see it for the first time, you might be stumped as most (if not all) Korean textbooks do not cover this. Honestly I also don’t know how I learn it, you will just naturally get it as you read more books 🙂 Actually I’m also not sure if it’s considered a dialect and/or used more commonly during the olden days etc. If someone can shed light on this, would definitely be helpful! I should go and google later on.

The book is completely in Korean and I love it 🙂 The stories are interesting and I would recommend Korean learners to consider this if you are also in love with learning about proverbs. ♡

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ korean textbook reviews

[Review] A Brief History of Korea

One thing I love about language learning is that it leads me to find out more about the world. It’s impossible to learn languages (as a communicative tool) on their own, and during the journey, we come to learn about a place’s culture, history, and its people. I was never quite a “history lover” in the past, and I avoided taking history when we were able to choose our subject combinations in school. But after I started learning languages, I become deeply interested in a place’s history and in the subject in general.

I’ve been reading up on bits and pieces of Korea’s history, but sometimes when the resources are detailed and focused on certain events/aspects, I found it hard to get an overview / introduction of Korean history. So I was very happy to read Michael J. Seth’s A Brief History of Korea. It’s a very smooth and interesting read, and I am able to read for chapters on end at one go.

While it’s not possible to be comprehensive when limited by the page numbers, I feel that this book offer quite a good overview of Korea’s history and I would recommend it as an introductory read.

I actually read this last year and shared it on Instagram, didn’t realise I have not blogged about it!

I want to re-read this again, but hahaha I have too many unread books. Happy problem 🙂

Check it out if you are looking for an introductory text about Korean history in English. Thanks Tuttle for the book!

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. ♡

14 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.