Category Korean Textbook Reviews

Category Japanese Textbook Reviews

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)


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.



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.

12 In Japanese learning journey (:

Double-reading Method for language learning

Finished reading a Japanese novel and did my double reading method for the whole book!! This is such a huge personal milestone because it’s been a long time (years!) since I last finished reading a Japanese novel from cover to cover. Thanks very much to Demon Slayer, which rekindled my love for Japanese-language content and the language 🙂

Very motivated to read in Japanese and yay finally finished the first volume of the novelisation of the Demon Slayer manga! I was initially very confused at the various novels available, so I went to google the order of the Demon Slayer novels (鬼滅の刃 小説 読む順番). Putting it down here, in case anyone is interested.

First, there’s a difference between novelisation of the manga and novels that are complementary to the manga series.

Demon Slayer Novelisation books (in order)

  • 鬼滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 第一弾:炭治郎と禰豆子、運命のはじまり編 : covers manga volumes 1-4 and covers the story from Tanjiro piggy-backing Nezuko to the trio making their way to the spider mountain
  • 鬼滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 第二弾:きょうだいの絆と鬼殺隊編: covers manga volumes 4-7, and ends at the same part as the anime (i.e. getting the mission to go on the Mugen train)
  • 滅の刃 漫画ノベライズ 無限列車編: covers the content in the movie of the same title

There are 23 volumes in the manga and the novelisation only covers until Vol. 7 for now. Noooooo. I cannot believe I need to wait so long to find out what happens next! ): I’m guessing that they are going to release more novelisation when the second season of the anime comes out. WHENNN.

Demon Slayer Novels

I believe that the following books cover side-stories that are meant to be complementary to the manga and apparently it’s only in novel form (and not manga). According to a Japanese site, it’s recommended to be read in the following order:

  • 鬼滅の刃 しあわせの花: After manga volume 8
  • 鬼滅の刃 片羽の蝶: After manga volume 17
  • 鬼滅の刃 風の道しるべ: After manga volume 21

NOOOOOO. I bought しあわせの花 for now. But what. I hope I can enjoy the stories without reading the manga ): Now I cannot decide if I should get the other two books first. Maybe let me finish the novelisations first before I decide. The thing about all these Japanese anime-related books is that they go out of print sometimes. (sigh I am missing a few Psycho Pass novels!!)

For those who are keen, the Demon Slayer novelisations are pegged at upper elementary – middle school level (yes, they actually indicate at the back of the books). These books are more of YA fiction and hence get more furigana for the kanji 🙂 A good resource for those who are trying Japanese novels for the first time!

Double Reading Method

Oops, got carried away talking about Demon Slayer. I’ve been using my double reading method for foreign language books for years and it works very well for me. I’ve probably mentioned it throughout the years, calling it different names (like intensive reading), but these days I just refer to it as my “double reading method”. I don’t know if there’s a proper term (?) for it coined by some expert already and I’m sure out there, there are people doing something similar and calling it by another name.

How does it work?

Basically, I do two readings of the text. The first reading is meant to absorb as much as I could without looking up any of the words, relying on context instead to figure out what’s going on. At this point, I highlight unfamiliar words. The second reading is meant to get a deeper understanding of the passage, where I will search up the unfamiliar words on the dictionary and writing them in my notebook (word + meaning + example sentence).

For beginner readers

For those that are new to reading (in a foreign language), it’s likely that there are many unfamiliar words. So I would suggest to do the first reading for a paragraph, and then go back to do the second reading before proceeding on. This means that the first reading is about a para ahead of the second reading.

For intermediate readers

As you get better at reading, it’s likely that you would want to (and be able) to read further ahead and yet somewhat understand the story. At this stage, I would do the first reading for 1-2pages, then go back to do the second reading.

For advanced readers

When you are at the stage where you can enjoy long texts (novels) comfortably and perhaps only have 3-5 unfamiliar words per page, I would do 3-5 pages for the first reading and then move on.

What is the rationale?

Right from the beginning, I think it’s important that we learn (to try) to parse long sentences without relying on the dictionary. It helps to train our reading skills and to learn to figure out the meaning from contextual cues. Reading at least a para will also give you a sense of where the story/article is going, instead of stopping at every individual word when you have not even reached the end of the sentence. The second reading is meant to get a fuller understanding of the text and to learn new words along the way.

Personally I prefer to keep the first reading only a couple of pages ahead of the second reading for a couple of reasons. First, if I keep on reading too far ahead, I’ll never catch up with the second reading and it somehow feels more exhausting to do it. Second, it’s good to do the second reading when the para is still fresh in my mind.

I tweak this method as I progress in my reading skills. At first, the second reading would be the time when I read more carefully and thoroughly. But these days, as I’m pretty proficient in reading in Korean / Japanese, the first reading is now the time where I read more carefully and I only pick out certain parts to re-read in the second reading. Most of the time, I just search up words in the second reading because I still remember what the sentence/para is about.

For Korean, my first and second readings are about 4 pages apart these days, and for the Demon Slayer, it’s two pages apart. I find that this works well for me because for Japanese, there’s a tendency to keep on reading as I can guess the meaning of the kanji (cos I speak Chinese too), so it takes discipline to stop and look up the reading / exact meaning of the kanji.

Do you always do the double reading method?

Nope. I did it more often when I was in the intermediate stage. Technically, I can read both Korean and Japanese novels now without searching up too much words. So there are times that I just do one reading and only search up words in cases where not knowing the word would impede my understanding of the passage / novel.

For Korean non-fiction texts (like news articles), I usually don’t even do notetaking these days. I just read them and I would look up difficult words using the built-in dictionary in the Apple OS and just move on.

“It sounds tiring”

Over the years, I have received some comments that my double reading method sounds too intensive/tiring and not enjoyable at all. To that, my response is that everyone is different and I don’t think that in language learning (or anything else), there is a one-size-fits-all method. Despite how sometimes I sound overly opinionated about language learning methods, I am just sharing my two cents and what worked for me, instead of trying to promote “THE method to do it”. If there’s something else you are doing and works for you, it’s great. If not, then perhaps you can try other methods and see if they work better.

(and yes, I find a lot of joy in doing my double reading method hahaha)

Thank you, if you have reached this point of the blog post. 🙂 Curious about your reading methods, do share them with me!

Till the next post.

2 In Japanese learning journey (:

A Good Reading Day

Five days into 2021 and I’m in such a big Japanese-learning mood. It’s been a long time since I had the energy/time/motivation to sit down for hours at one go to do some reading. While it’s not about the number of hours, but I was very happy to be able to concentrate and really immerse myself in the story.

I have to thank Demon Slayer for igniting that Japanese-learning passion again 🙂 I have been so out of touch with anime released in the past couple of years, but I’m so glad I gave Demon Slayer a chance and wow I’m addicted. If there’s any anime recommendation (released over the past 4-5 years), please let me know!!

Sat down and read about 80-odd pages of the first instalment of Demon Slayer’s light novel and now I’m at page 99. I’m not sure about you, but usually I find it super hard to continue reading when I set a goal for myself (i.e. to reach page 99). I always want to stop a few pages short of the goal hahaha. So I try not to think so much about the “goal” and just continue reading until I’m tired.

I love how the light novel follows the anime very closely and I can imagine certain scenes in my head as I read the story. ♡ I usually start reading without any background music but when I start to feel a little restless and tired, I will play music in the background. I grew up listening to Rediffusion 丽的呼声 when I was a kid. It’s a Singapore commercial radio programme where back in the days, you needed to subscribe and get a radio set to tune in. I always remember the black bulky radio set in my living room and I studied while they air programmes telling wuxia stories (with self-made sound effects lolol) and ghost stories. So I think this is why I have a high tolerance of sounds while studying. I can tune out most things. The funny thing is that I cannot study with those relaxing cafe background music, but I can blast kpop dance tracks and concentrate well 🙂

My current playlist is old Taiwan drama OSTs. Think 王子變青蛙,惡作劇之吻,命中注定我愛你。I always think that that was the golden era of Taiwanese dramas. Guess it’s a sign of turning old – always thinking that my generation’s stuff were the best. (My mum says the same of hers!)

Listening to this now. Omg the feels!

I am doing my “double-reading” method for this book and I’m learning so much from it! (sidetrack: I will write about the method another day again) I can see myself highlighting less and less with each passing chapter and this makes me very happy.

I bought four Demon Slayer light novels (鬼滅の刃 ノベライズ) so far and nooooo please don’t tell me if I have bought the full set (suspect not). Don’t let me know. hahaha let me finish what I have first. Although I cannot finish collecting the Psycho Pass novels cos a couple are no longer in print…. ok no no.

I’ve finished watching the anime, so I’m now watching 文豪ストレイドッグス on Netflix. And yes I’M ADDICTED. Actually Bungo Stray Dogs is closer to the “type” of anime I like, so I’m actually surprised I love Demon Slayer. I love Bungo Stray Dogs too and I will want to get the novels next time. The number of unread Japanese novels at home is making me feel like a hoarder haha. The only small comfort is that I bought a lot of them in Bookoff, so they weren’t that expensive. But still.

I can’t wait to finish the first Demon Slayer book! I need to get back into Japanese reading mode (and speed).

Till next post!