Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ TOPIK

81st TOPIK II 2022 Results

The last post I wrote was about taking the exam and now I’m writing about my results. This blog is collecting virtual dust ):

It’s interesting how the process of getting results has evolved over the years, and honestly I can’t tell if it’s for better or worse. I still recall those days where it was simply impossible to check results on a Mac device between the website insists on IE (lol) and you need to download (what’s that called again?) a script / program / certificate or sth for it to work. Well, in those days, smartphones was not really a thing yet. But it was very fast, and only on the rare occasion would the site be down, for a few minutes, at 3pm KST. But still it was like an immediate thing. AND they post the physical cert to you.

Somewhere down the road, the popularity of Hallyu and its ripple effects led to a surge of TOPIK takers which overwhelmed the poor system. At some point, there was a waiting-room system installed, similar to those where you camp for concert tix of the biggest stars. TOPIK is a megastar indeed, because in recent years, it’s impossible to check your results at 3pm KST. It’s not even an hour’s wait or something, it’s like HOURS AND HOURS.

I was quite entertained looking up the relevant social media hashtags and seeing people complain about how there are THIRTY THOUSAND people in the queue before them. Talk about megastars.

This time round, I thought I was already erring on the safe side when I checked it about 6 hours after the release time and yeah there were 1000 people in front and after waiting for the bar to inch forward, for a full hour, the site crashed again when it was finally my turn. lol.

So I ended up checking my results at 230am in the morning, about 12 hours after results release. Yeah and it was immediate. Okay, so all good. The good news is that somewhere sometime, they had upgraded their system so it’s possible to check on Safari on an iPhone. But I didn’t manage to download the TOPIK certificate on the phone, so boo. Oh in case you’re wondering, I was up at 230am not to check results.

So time for results!

hahahaha

This might been my worst score in a while. To think I felt rather confident for the writing heh.

But I always take TOPIK results with a pinch of salt, so I still don’t think I’ve in any way become worse in writing / listening / writing Korean. I’m terrible at speaking Korean these days too, that I would acknowledge.

Hope everyone got the results you’ve been aiming for!! xoxo

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ TOPIK

81st TOPIK II 2022 Experience and Tips

It’s the mandatory TOPIK experience post again! It’s a 3-hour exam but in reality, we have to spend about 4 hours at the exam venue and adding the commute time etc, it’s like my whole day is gone. I’m now typing this at about 930pm, 5.5 hours after the exam. In between, I spent about 3 hours on the sofa. I am this tired lol.

It’s my nth time taking TOPIK (lost count) and this is also my second TOPIK since COVID started. I last took it in Apr 2020. It feels weird that the pandemic is in its third year, and that we have to take the ART test, fill in a declaration form etc to take the exam.

I think there were lesser people taking TOPIK II this time round, compared to two years ago. No, it’s not that Korean is losing popularity in Singapore or whatsoever. My friend and I suspect that it’s because the test fees, which used to be SGD80 for the longest time, became SGD120. I don’t know if it’s a pandemic increase, or inflation or whatever, but omg I don’t know whether I want to spend SGD120 every two years taking a proficiency test that I personally don’t have much need for. My friend also conveniently reminded me that after a few more TOPIK exams and we’ll hit our forties. Maybe one day I’ll be taking TOPIK as a granny, and I think that’s pretty cool. My first TOPIK was in 2009 and I wonder when my last TOPIK will be . . . okay I digressed.

For those taking TOPIK II in Singapore, I recommend signing up for the exam early enough (they fill the big hall first and then the classrooms), and I prefer being in the hall cos it’s just airier and more space. It’s best to dress light (because outside damn hot please) and bring a jacket to the venue. I always bring a hoodie, which is great because the aircon was blowing directly at me (-.-) throughout the exam and I’m one of those people who hate that and I get a headache very easily. So the hoodie helped a lot!

We also have to surrender our electronic devices, so it’s best to follow the instructions and bring minimal electronic devices and leave the smartwatches at home for the day if possible.

Listening

We’re expected to be seated quite early (which I understand), but I got very restless and sleepy in the time that we had to sit there (without devices hahaha), so by the time listening started, my mind was pretty out of it. My concentration level is definitely not at its peak like 10 years ago lol.

Listening used to be a brain-cracking section as I had to concentrate a lot on the audio, as well as read through the options, but hahah this is my 14th year of learning Korean. What I do is that usually I read the options for the questions ahead. For the earlier questions where each audio is played once, I can possibly read about 4-5 questions ahead, but for those questions at the back where the audio is played twice, I could read about 7-8 questions ahead.

What I like to do is to underline the key parts in the options, so I know where to zoom in when the audio plays. I usually will only listen to the audio once, then when it plays for the second time, I’ll be reading the questions ahead! For those familiar with the exam format, you would know that for the later questions where an audio passage is linked to two questions, one is usually on “which statement is true / best described what the audio is about” and the other one about the attitude / feelings of one of the speakers. The first type of question is harder, so usually I’ll concentrate on the options / details for this question as the audio plays and I’ll answer this one first (even if it’s the second question). Then it’s easier to do the other question, which is more broad.

My problem these days with the listening section is that I have a very short attention span and there were really moments during the test where I literally just spaced out hahaha. Exams are a test of stamina, not just knowledge.

And I have no stamina.

Writing

Writing follows listening immediately and I was sooo glad when the listening was over. I shall not jinx it but dare I say that this was pretty manageable, a lot better than the two-years-ago paper? mmm can I just pretend that I miraculously got better at writing? hahaha. I guess we’re not supposed to share the question here, so I won’t (anyway I can’t remember exactly), but my problem was thinking about the points rather than expressing them in Korean oops. The essay question is usually about some social issue and it’s kinda like an expository essay.

I think I did fine for the the graph description writing. I think?

I finished the writing with about 15 mins to spare, and I managed to write neatly yay! A huge difference from my earlier TOPIK experiences, where writing killed me all.the.time. hahaha like I said, it’s been 14 years.

I don’t really have writing tips, just that the graph description write up can be very manageable when you read enough sample answers and also remember set phrases. So it’s possible to study for it. The essay is a better test of your core proficiency I think, and harder to “study”. I mean, you can technically study and memorize for anything, but I prefer to keep it organic (?) in some sense. Which means I am highly unlikely to study specifically for an exam. But that’s just me, and I also don’t face the pressure of needing to pass the language exams I take 🙂

Reading

Reading is always my favourite section in a language proficiency test and I always look forward to learning more from the passages and getting to know more interesting facts! It’s also the section where I *kinda* have expectations for myself and I hope to get a three-digit score HAHAHA. We’ll see. 🙂

Again, not many tips for reading, just that it’s important to read a lot during your free time and build the stamina of being able to read for 70 mins straight hahaha. I used to feel my brain energy fading away towards the end of the exam (where I can sound all the syllables and not understand a single thing) but that has gotten a lot better in the last few years!

So I had a lot of fun with this part hahaha.

Overall, it was great. Although sitting for 3 hours in an exam hall is not quite something that my poor bones can take. I have to rethink whether I want to take it every two years (it is valid for two years), and the cost really deters me.

If you have also taken the 81st TOPIK, please leave a comment and say hiiii.

I think the results will be out on May 19. So I’ll probably update on May 20 LOL. It’s impossible these days to check the results on the dot, cos the system keeps crashing and literally you have to camp to get into the system (like those concert tickets queue system) hahahaha. Sorry I’m too embarrassed to ask my friends to do that for me (Mac comps still have issues with accessing the system) and I’ll probably be too lazy to do it too, even if I could.

Till the next post! (sorry my blog reflects my mental state and these days I’m very much offline)

0 In Korean learning journey (:/ Others / General

The years in between

Tonight, I randomly came across a song which I used to love ten years ago and it spurred me to try to recall and find some of the gems of the yesteryear. It was honestly hard to remember many of them, the memories are too hazy. Sometimes, I remember the album cover, a particular scene in the MV, a line in the lyrics or a snippet of the melody. There’s a bit of lingering regret when I realize I might never be able to find them again. Some I managed to recall, which bring a sense of triumph and relief. And a couple more which I rediscovered by digging through the blog, which also bring back another wave of memories.

It’s interesting how songs that I used to listen on repeat daily simply fade out of my life one day without me realizing it. It’s like how people in our lives come and go. Of course, there are special songs that I’ve been listening to almost on a daily basis since I was 13, but the majority are like a phase, no matter how much I may love them at a certain point in time.

Rediscovering them years later again makes me reflect on the years in between. The years which feel like a passing blur. It’s a strange feeling, like you are in such a different position from your old self, and you marvel/lament the changes, although some things never change.

A lot of the Korean songs that I used to listen to are very strongly tied to memories of learning the language and the years of finding myself and growing. Thinking back, it has been an amazing journey instead, but not without its ups and downs. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I’m typing this, I’m listening to the songs again. They remind me a lot of how much I love Korean and I am thankful how this reminder comes to me at this point 🙂 Sometimes we do need reminders about 초심 / 初心 and I’m very glad for the reminder tonight.

I hope that reading this post might inspire you to also search for the songs that, for a period of time, meant a lot to you. Perhaps, it’s an opportunity to reflect, to recalibrate and hopefully to get some positive energy 🙂

Till the next post!

0 In Thai Learning Journey :)

It’s okay to have no time

Blogging on the go now and after a blissful couple of days of studying Thai, I’m back to having barely enough time. It was a much needed break to energise, to immerse and I came out of it somewhat more invigorated to get back to normal programming, albeit still not sleeping that well. But baby steps 🙂

I’m actually plagued by a bout of self-doubt these days, which I’m trying to work through. The past few days spent learning Thai was a much-welcomed respite from that abyss and now I feel more ready to face it head on again 🙂

It’s a little sad that I cannot continue the streak of studying, but it’s okay, I don’t need to berate myself. Instead, I’m going to try to watch a bit of The Gifted everyday. Hahaha. Nothing better than fangirling. It’s amazing that with every drama, I understand a little more:) I think that euphoria is what makes me come back for more (language learning)!

Anyway, that show’s amazing!! And there’s Nanon, whom I absolutely adore after Bad Buddy. I was thinking that the teacher in the show looks familiar, and he’s the actor playing Minton in Ugly Duckling: Don’t. OMG. Hahaha he’s become such a hottie. He’s such an enigma in the show, actually all the characters are. I have no idea where the show is going to bring us, but I’m just going to enjoy the ride!

I’m addicted to Bad Buddy’s OST. Ahhhh just friends 🙂 Nanon has such a great voice!

0 In Thai Learning Journey :)

It’s okay to do things at our own pace

I’m studying Thai now, but taking a moment out to blog because I was learning the word ตั้งแต่, which means “from” (time). So I made the sentence:

ฉันเริ่มเรียนภาษาไทยตั้งแต่เดือนเมษายนปี ๒๐๒๐

(I started learning Thai in April 2020)

And it got me thinking. It’s been almost two years since I started learning Thai. I’d be honest and say that part of me doesn’t like to say that I started almost two years ago, because there was a long period in between where I didn’t touch Thai at all, and honestly, it’s only at the start of the year (I think) that I started to be a lot more serious about it. *pauses*

Then I ask myself, why should I be so insistent on giving this whole spiel, and not being able to simply say I started learning “two years ago”? I think it’s because part of me thinks that I could have been faster if I had spent more time on it, and that it feels like I’m not making much progress despite it being two years. And I start to compare it against past me who did a lot more within two years for Korean and Japanese.

But nah. That’s just me being competitive with myself and for a moment, I forgot that I just want to enjoying studying the language and not quite care about how fast / slow I am. I should care more about how much I enjoy the process.

It’s human nature to be competitive, whether it’s with ourselves or with others. It’s great to hold ourselves to high standards and expectations, but it’s just really sad if we do that for everything in our lives. Discipline is great, but society has placed too much importance on it. We’re just too caught up in the idea that we need to be productive. For what? Sure, there will be areas where it’s great to be productive, but there must always be balance in life. And I hope that learning Thai is the activity where I can just relax and be myself.

So, from now on, I’ll just say that I started learning Thai in April 2020! 🙂

6 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Enthusiasm vs Stamina

These days, I’m very much reminded my past self 14 years ago, when I first started learning Korean. I’ve been pretty much obsessed with learning Thai and try to spend most of my free time on the language, to the extent that I’m procrastinating on other things that I *should* do. Or maybe even using Thai as a ‘legitimate’ excuse to do postpone the dread of facing other stuff. Haha it’s okay, overall it’s still a very healthy relationship with the language.

I haven’t felt this level of enthusiasm for languages for a long time, and I’m just thankful that Thai makes me feel this way. Sometimes I wonder if I can consider myself as a ‘language lover’ in the sense that I enjoy learning languages in general, or I’m a specific-language lover haha. It’s okay, we can do what we want.

I keep thinking back of 14 years ago where I was totally immersed in Korean. It helped to heal some of the hurt I was feeling back then, and anchored me to something. It’s also the calming anchor for me now, although I need to stop myself from literally wanting to ignore every non-necessary thing in my life now to focus on it lol. Balance, girl, balance. But I’m extreme like this and have always been so.

But the one huge thing that’s different? Stamina. Lol. Sorry, 14 years later, I feel it hard to sit in front of the desk for hours and I’m constantly feeling like I should retire to bed lol. I should do something about it, but alas, my enthusiasm has all gone into languages. See? I need balance. *sigh*

I’m watching two absolute Thai drama gems in a row and I’m just super scared that I can’t find the next drama to keep up that level of euphoria I’m feeling. I’m still not over Remember You and my favourite Tanwa—who’s very close to my ideal type, although I can’t quite tell if it’s my ideal fictional type or not. You know, the ultra smart, brooding, logical, aloof, onlynicetohislove type of guys. LOL. But yeah, his half-smiles, half-smirks are killing me. 😂

Then I moved to watching Bad Buddy, which has the best, most wholesome couple ever. I know how everyone is saying this drama tops the BL genre, but I think omg it tops the romance genre. Like woah. Pat and Pran are relationship goals. I love how there’s so much respect for each other and they try to work things out together. And omg the way they look at each other and all. My heart can’t take it. Yeah my fiction type is the cold aloof type, but PatPran is totally what a wholesome and warm relationship is about. Pat is my favourite. He loves wholeheartedly and isn’t afraid to show it, yet he’s so respectful when it comes to boundaries and he waits for Pran to be ready, nudging him gently at times, but never forcing himself on him. Where do we get a partner like him? 😭😭😭😭

I’m super jaded when it comes to people, but I’m so happy to see such an amazing couple, which is rare even in the fictional world. Pat and Pran will stay with me for a long while, and it’s definitely a drama I would love to rewatch, again and again. And can we talk about Korn being the cutest friend and how Ink and Pa needs their own series????

It’s going to be a show that I’m rewatching every year 🙂 Hopefully one day, I’ll understand a lot more without subs!

5 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Small milestones to celebrate

  1. I can type in Thai on the computer keyboard without reference yay (only the non-caps board lolol)
  2. I can read much better in Thai without romanisation
  3. I can recognize more words and am a lot faster in reading basic stuff
  4. I just started on my third Thai notebook!

I just started using this free online series of beginner Thai texts and I’m LOVING IT. There’s no romanisation, so it’s great practice and revision for me.

I did 3 at one go and now my brain and eyes are dying, so tired. There’s just something brain-intensive about language learning. I always feel like I can sleep very well after studying lol.

I’m also on my third Thai notebook and the paper is AMAZING. I’m terrible but I love good (expensive) paper. But it does make a difference and it makes me very happy. 🙂 Actually, I still have a couple of pages left for my previous notebook but I was in the middle of a chapter of another book there, so I thought I’ll just start on a new one for this new series of reading.

Sorry if I’m spamming too many photos of language notes, but it’s one of my small joys in life. It’s amazing to think that I’ve been posting language notebook pics for more than 10 years omg. Across a couple of languages.

It’s been a long time since I’m so motivated to study languages. So thankful to Thai lakorns.

I’m reminded of how I used to blog regularly years ago and basically just fangirl and write random things about language learning <3 Those were the days.

0 In Thai Learning Journey :)

Nothing like fangirl-ing to…

I haven’t been updating this space because in between life, commitments, language study and dramas, I barely had time. But I need to come here to talk about the drama I’ve just finished watching.

Remember You (คือเธอ)

It’s like SO GOOOD?!!

And it’s providing so much motivation for me to study Thai. I didn’t know it’s still possible that I fangirl so much, when I thought that I’ve mostly mellowed out with age lolol. Gone were the days (I thought) where I could have so much feels for a show and character.

But this is it. I’ve found my all-time favorite Thai drama now!! Something that I’ll want to rewatch again and again and again.

Remember You (2021) is actually a Thai remake of Korean drama Hello Monster (2015), but I love the Thai show soooo much that unfortunately I’m unwilling to watch the Korean source anytime soon. I’ll also like to see them as separate shows, so no comparisons please!

There are so many things absolutely adore about this show that I don’t even know where to begin. (You can begin watching the show on Netflix LOL). I’m not sure how to describe the show without spoiling it, but there are elements of procedural crime / mystery / a strong backstory / a very complex and interesting villain / compelling main and side characters.

I don’t think there’s anything I don’t love about the show.

But I’m very very very much drawn to Tanwa, our male lead. He’s absolutely my ideal type (on screen), both in terms of looks and character.

[Some spoilers (?) ahead – highlight to read]

The loveline in the story is not the focus but this makes it even more precious when we get a couple of sweet scenes. And I absolutely love how the girl is active in expressing her feelings and she takes actions hahaha.

And omg Tanwa and his half-smiles/half-smirks. My heart cannot.

I’m completely a fangirl.

[End of spoilers]

Fangirling aside, I truly loved the whole execution of the drama and every single scene was just so perfect and good. If you are looking for a Thai drama, I highly recommend this!!

And yes, I’ve been very much into the Thai language these days. But hahaha like what my friend astutely observed, I always focus on another language when I’m going to take a language test LOL.

TOPIK is in less than 2 months, so somehow my brain is steering me away from studying Korean lol.

I’m hoping to spend more time on Thai 🙂 Truly loving the language!

I’m slowly working my way through the Thai drama selection on Netflix.

Please send more recommendations!!

0 In Japanese learning journey (:/ Japanese Textbook Reviews

[Review] Japanese Made Easy

When I review textbooks for beginners, many times I think about how great it would be if I had access to these resources years ago. But it’s great that I get to share these books with people who are just starting their journey. These days, there are so many books, and the issue is finding the right book, rather than lamenting the lack of them.

Japanese Made Easy from Tuttle is a great beginner textbook, especially if you prefer your textbook to contain more English explanations and would like a book with both the romanization and Japanese.

In general, I find Tuttle books to be relatively well structured and I like how this book is focused on sentence patterns, which aims to get learners speaking right from the start. It’s very focused on application / usage, which is great.

Each chapter is made up of about 4 lessons, and right from the start, we are introduced to a list of sentence patterns covered, along with a dialogue and vocabulary notes. More vocabulary and grammar patterns are covered in subsequent chapters, along with culture notes.

I like that they presents conjugations very clearly in such tables and it just makes it so much easier.

There’s quite a bit of vocabulary introduced and I love it.

I’m not a fan of romanization and I have been vocal about it. But over the years, I am less ‘critical’ of Korean and Japanese textbooks who keep them throughout, and I acknowledge that no two learners are the same and for some, the romanization is indeed helpful in provide more guidance until they are ready to read the script. But I find it curious why Tuttle books choose to bold and prioritize the romanization, putting it before the script. I would have thought that romanization is a tool, and hence should go after/below the script. I mean, they are still side by side, but somehow, with the bolding of the romanization, you just tend to focus on it more. That’s probably one of the biggest gripes I have with their books.

I’m learning Thai right now and the script is hard, so I do appreciate having the romanisation at times. But it just distracts me when the romanization is put in bold and comes first, my eyes keep going to that instead of the Thai script )):

On a related note, I also don’t understand why the answer key (great on having one!) is entirely in romanization. I really… don’t understand.

Another thing is that the book doesn’t seem to come with MP3 files. Which is really strange for a beginner book. I had to flip through the books several times and even now, I am still doubting my conclusion that there appears to be no audio for the book. Which is such a pity.

It is a decent beginner textbook and I would have recommended it as a possible choice for the first Japanese textbook for self-study—if there is audio.

Buy it at Tuttle.

0 In Korean learning journey (:

The Hangeul Game I’ve Always Wanted

I love language games and Scrabble is one of my favorites, both as a child and now. I’ve always wanted something similar in Hangeul and I’m so stoked about Yangmalgame.

It’s actually just tiles of Korean consonants and vowels, and there are a couple of ways to play it, as explained on their site. You can also get creative and make up your own game, there’s so much flexibility.

It’s suitable for Korean learners at all levels. Even absolute beginners can use them to recognize Hangeul and as an interactive activity to make up words and learn pronunciation. Useful as a teaching tool too!

The tiles are lightweight and yet of quality, and I love how they come in a zipped pouch and it’s so easily to bring it around to play with friends.

Thanks to Austin and Yangmalgame for gifting me a set 🙂

Get yours here (양말장난)