26 In Korean Learners/ Special Series

[Special Series – Korean Learners] #2 Jessica

This is part of an ongoing special series when 1-2 Korean learners/bloggers each week are invited to share their Korean learning journey! It will be nice if you can leave a comment after reading! ^^ To participate in the series, check out this post. Check out previous entries HERE.


About the guest author:

Jessica. 21. Singaporean.  Has learnt Korean for 1.5 years and hope to continue learning the language. twitter@jessicahcy

My Korean Language Learning Journey

I discovered Kpop in January 2010 because of the Korean drama “You’re beautiful”. I loved the drama’s characters, humour and plot development so much that it immediately ignited a passion in me for all things Korean. Because of Lee Hong Ki in the drama, I got to know about FT Island and from there, I began to learn about other Korean bands.

I loved Kpop so much to a point that I remembered feeling frustrated at not being able to understand what my idols were talking and singing about because I wanted to understand them from what they say and not what subbing groups translate. If I did that, I thought that I would be a step closer to the idols.  (No offence to the subbing  groups! I love you guys for working so hard to translate videos. THANKS SO MUCH <3 <3 <3)

I started learning Korean in school in August 2010. I was lucky to have had a very enthusiastic Korean teacher who makes learning Korean fun and classmates who were as enthusiastic about Kpop and Korean as me. It makes going to lessons really fun and further increased my interest in learning Korean and its culture.

It was during this point in time that many Kpop group members began making Twitter accounts. I was really ecstatic to be able to understand some of the tweets that were made. I recall that the highlight of any day was when I was able to understand just part of a tweet.

I went to Korea for the first time when I attended Ewha Womans’ University’s International Summer College Session I in June 2011. It was one of the best times of my life because I was exhilarated at the freedom to explore a foreign country. It was the best adventure. I had many new experiences and made many friends.

I visited bookstores every other day to search for Learning Korean books. The number and variety of books available was amazing! Many of the books were not available in Singapore. I bought about ten learning Korean books when I was there. The books were priced affordably.  I also bought an electronic dictionary that helps me a lot when I am reading textbooks and doing assignments.

I realised that the little Korean I learnt could not help me navigate the country. I depended a lot on the help of strangers and tourist guides. But whenever I could understand Korean that was spoken by native Koreans, I was ecstatic! I was not that helpless after all! I wasn’t learning Korean for nothing! What I have learnt had come into use! I could understand like 1 or 2% of what they were saying! And to me that was an achievement.

I took Korean lessons at Ewha 3 hours a day from Mondays to Thursdays for 4 weeks. Lessons were taught totally in Korean. The teacher could not speak English and whenever we asked her questions, she tried to explain using gestures and simple Korean words. I think it’s one of the best ways to teach a language because by the end of the course, I realised that my speaking and my listening have improved immensely. So have my other classmates. I loved the teacher too because she was just so funny and enthusiastic. She made learning Korean an interesting thing to do.

I believe that my speaking and listening improved not just because of the Korean lessons I took at Ewha. Staying in Korea and listening to Korean 24/7 helped immensely. In Korea, when I spoke Korean, random strangers would help to correct my pronunciation and what I said. This is a great way to learn.

When I was at Ewha, I learnt about a scholarship scheme for students from Africa. They learn Korean 6 hours a day every day for a year. They then study for their degree in Korean universities. What I was most impressed with was that after such intensive studying, these students gain almost native fluency. To me, this shows that hard work and language immersion works effectively.

But I had a classmate who did not like such a way of learning Korean. She said, “If they are in Korea for a year, but they are not out experiencing the country and are just studying in a classroom, what’s the use of learning the language?”  It was a topic of contention for a group of us. We spent some time debating on this issue. What is your take on this?

After I returned to Singapore, I took the Beginners’ Topik test in September 2011 and attained a Level 2 certificate. At first, I did not know if I had learnt enough to get a level 2 certificate because my tutor in school told us that what we had learnt were not sufficient. After taking the exam, I was really afraid that I would fail. When I checked my results and realised that I got a level 2, I was so so excited!  I guess taking a language is like taking any other exam. It is important to have exam taking skills. And it does help that most of the Topik exam is in MCQ format.

Now, I am facing problems in my Korean language learning journey.

First, my school does not offer any more Korean lessons. Now I am in a dilemma. Should I continue studying  Korean by self-study or attend a Korean Language school such as the Singapore Korean School?

Second, my interest in Kpop is waning and so has my interest in Korean and its culture. However, my interest in Japanese and its culture has revived. What can I do to revive my interest in Korean? Has anyone experienced such a diminishing of interest?

Learning points:

1)       Learning a language is not a lonely journey. It is a journey that would be all the more interesting when taken with others.

a.       Having a good teacher who will ignite passion in one to learn will make learning a language much easier and aid one on one’s learning journey.

b.      Having classmates who share one’s passion will make learning a language more fun and allow one to continue learning.

2)      Exposure to a language is important. If possible, immerse oneself in a language in all aspects possible.

3)      Passion and interest are important. With passion and interest, no matter how difficult the journey is, how insurmountable the barriers seem, one will always be able to continue forward.

4)      Loving Kpop alone is not sufficient. It is important to love a country, its culture and language.  Only then will one have the determination and drive to work hard to master the language.

Note: This post is my opinion and experience. I do not mean to offend anyone. If I did, it is unintentional and I apologize. Please be nice ^^

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  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    I just wanted to comment on the waning interest. I kind of experienced this in an opposite manner – I was more into Japanese, then switched to Korean.
    For me, what’s helped me stay enthusiastic about Korean has just been the chance to speak with Korean people daily. The area where I’m from has very, very few Japanese speakers, but there are quite a few more Korean people, and I was lucky enough to become friends with several of the Koreans in my area. But even before that, I made several online Korean friends.
    Not being from Singapore I don’t know if there are many Korean people around there, but if you want to try and revive your enthusiasm, I would try meeting some of them and practicing Korean with them ^^

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      Yep this sounds like a great idea! I would love to try it! 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    “If they are in Korea for a year, but they are not out experiencing the country and are just studying in a classroom, what’s the use of learning the language?”

    That’s an interesting topic. Mmm I would disagree with that comment. Firstly, they are in a special situation where they have to gain fluency within a short period of time and I doubt that there is any shortcuts to that. Hard work is required. They will be in Korea for a long period of time and I’m sure they won’t just be studying in a classroom when they are finally doing a degree.

    But if a foreigner goes into a country for a short period of time and all he does is to study in a classroom everyday, I would think that it’s a waste. Not because of ‘what’s the use of learning the language’, but that he/she lost a chance to practice with the natives.

    As to your learning journey, I would choose the self-study route ^^ SKS is expensive ㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    Interest in a language (or in anything) will wax and wane and this is natural. I have no interest in kpop now and my interest in korean drama had waned until recently when I discovered 해를 품은 달 ㅎㅎㅎ It’s a natural feeling and don’t let that affect you. If you are sure that you won’t want to give up the language totally, just do some light studying and revision during your ‘low interest’ period just to maintain what you have learnt.

    Relearning a language is a very painful experience (points at self) and I don’t think you want to experience it 😀

    I’m really happy to hear that you had a good experience at Ehwa! Kinda curious on how the lessons are like 😛

    And thank you for contributing to the series ^^

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:50 PM

      I totally agree with you.

      And I think I would most likely choose the self-study route. SKS is really expensive 🙁

      Thanks for the suggestion 🙂 I would try to study a bit everyday. I wouldn’t want to forget all I have learnt ><

      Mm at Ewha, the teacher teaches us grammar points, follow by lots of drills and conversation practice. It can get boring. If one gets an interesting conversation partner, it can be pretty fun 🙂

      You're welcome 🙂 I am happy to contribute to something so interesting 🙂

  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    Thank for writing your journey. I’m also confused about my study in Japanese and Korean b/c I love them both.

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      I hope you clear your doubts and confusion soon! All the best! 🙂

  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    I also once experienced the feeling of my interest in Japanese waning. I am not into the Japanese music culture which allow you to be in contact with the language almost everyday.

    And I agree with the point in getting a good teacher. My interest in Japanese is revived after I met a good teacher who make the lesson interesting an relevant recently:) The time I felt my interest waning is when I get a really boring teacher and I felt I learn nothing new at all.

    I also feel that a good learning environment is very important to learn a language. the previous class that I am in , the people who enroll give me a feeling that they do not like that class but they are going because they had already paid their money. However, the class I’m in now have classmates that are very enthusiastic in learning the language! It totally change the learning environment!

    I hope you can still persist in your Korean learning journey and find a school to continue your learning:) I believe you will soon find the real reason behind why you are studying the language not because of k pop only 🙂

    I am just a beginner in self – learning Korean. I am still trying to figure out how they pronounce the word:)

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:51 PM

      Thanks for the encouragement 🙂 I will try to persist in learning Korean and find the real reason why I study the language 🙂

      All the best for your learning 🙂

  • Reply
    Xing Wei Poh
    30 January, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Well thought out and written. Revive your interest by getting a Korean boyfriend!

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:54 PM

      Thanks for the compliment 😉 HAHAHAHHAA that’s a great suggestion ;P HAHAHHAHAHAHAH

  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    Nice submission!. 🙂
    Made me feel like wanting to write my journey too.
    And Y U NO LIKE FTI/Kpop ANYMORE?~ 🙁 ㅋㅋ

    • Reply
      30 January, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      Thanks for the compliment 🙂

      Share yours too 🙂 I believe everyone would love to read about your journey 🙂

      I still like FTI and Kpop, just that I am not as crazy over them as before and don’t actively seek information about them.

      • Reply
        30 January, 2012 at 11:25 PM

        You’re welcome 😀
        Haha alright will try write mine soon.
        They had a new song today btw… hehe 😉

    • Reply
      2 February, 2012 at 12:54 AM

      Hi EZT! I hope you’ll write yours too. I love reading blogs and stories of fellow Korean learners for it inspires me and it makes me feel not alone. 🙂

      • Reply
        2 February, 2012 at 1:52 AM

        Hi Alodia!. 😀
        Thank you for your encouragement!. Me too!~ Haha Alright I will write mine soon~ 😉

  • Reply
    30 January, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    Nice post about the issues for someone learning a language, but not in the native country. I can understand waning interests as I use to be extremely into Korean dramas, but now I don’t watch as many as I use or. Or have the patience when things decide to take a detour onto Bad Writing Boulevard. Some suggestions to keep interest alive: What about Krock as a change of pace for music? You probably already have thought of going into random chat rooms to keep up on reading and sometimes writing. So, I’d suggest trying to find Korean books about your level to purchase so you can keep up with reading/translating and depending on the book it can be fun. I bet there are online daily comics you can see about too. I read those for awhile before I completely fell off my French bandwagon due to lack of discipline for self-study. So good luck on keeping and improving at your level! Trust me, once you’ve lost any kind of fluency in another language you aaaaannnnggggssssttttt over it so bad sometimes hahaha. /misses her French

    • Reply
      31 January, 2012 at 12:41 AM

      Hi Rachel, sorry to butt in but do you have any good Krock acts to recommend?. I am desperately looking for new Korean rock music to listen to, preferably punk/pop-rock 🙂

      • Reply
        1 February, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        Hi EZT!. !

        No worries ;)! I’m still a fledgling to the scene (started to get interested when I watched an MV for the band Axiz) so while I can’t right away rec anyone I know the place to go. Check out http://krockisreal.livejournal.com/ as it’s pretty much an awesome compilation of different rock and indie MV’s, clips of live performances, interviews, and more as the mod is pretty awesome on putting new stuff up all the time. S/he also will highlight random gems and post about releases for the week. The place is quiet, but I’m sure if you asked there you’d get plenty of recommendations!

      • Reply
        2 February, 2012 at 1:50 AM

        Hi Rachael!.
        First of all, sorry for mispelling your name the first time round. Got too excited thinking about krock.Thank you for the site though, it is awesome!~ ROCK ON!. ^^ m/

  • Reply
    Jenny Lim
    31 January, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I studied Japanese when I was 25 y.o. (now I am going to be 47 this year), I’m not into Japanese music but I like to read comics, so I pickup this Japanese language from JCS (Japanese Cultural Society) for 2 years and manage to pass my JLPT3&4 cert from Japan. Initially I don’t really like Korean, because I find them very “noisy”, talk “loudly” and “rude”, I never thought of taking Korean at all in my life (ha…, I should slab myself) but one day. In 2009 I saw this drama (Boys over flower) and I love this song very much (내 머리가 나빠서 from SS501), I found the music sheet (keyboard simple version) and play at home, after that I realized I can’t SING even a single word, I was so up sad and I told my colleague, my colleague ask me to “memorize” all the lyrics, OMG, how to memorize all lyrics because I started to “dip out” all the songs from SS501 and also exploring other groups (like FT Island, CN Blue, 2AM, 2PM…), so in 2010, I decided to learn the Hangul, just hangul only, I just want to know how to read the words and that’s all, but (again), I met a good Korean native teacher (I study from CC) 2 years ago, her patience let me continue to study with her for 18 months, now I’m not attending any class since last September 2011, I thought of going to Singapore Korean School to study but the school fee and lessons frighten me, my Korean study is not very good compare to Japanese, I’m self-study Korean now with HaruKorean, TTMIK, Koreanclass101, Seemile…etc, I try to read at least 30 mins weekdays and more hours on weekends, I really appreciated SS501 let me have the opportunity to love this beautiful language, cultural, Kpop and drama. BUT, till date I will still mix in Japanese when I try to communicate in Korean (this part quite headache).

    • Reply
      2 February, 2012 at 12:59 AM

      Hi! Haha! The last thing you said made me smile! I’m a linguistics student and in our university and we are required to take at least 2 foreign languages. Those who’ve taken many Japanese classes and will start with beginner Korean, they tend to do what you were doing, mixing it with Japanese. Since they are more comfortable in Japanese and was very frustrated because they can’t express themselves in Korean. And I did the same when I was in my Japanese class. It’s so frustrating how I can’t remember the vocabs (but the grammar part was kinda ok anyway), so I often fill my supposedly-Japanese sentence with Korean words. 🙂

  • Reply
    1 February, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Very cool post! I’m not sure if my advice will be helpful but here it goes 😀

    I definitely recommend self-studying. It shouldn’t be a problem if you are determined and are able to stay consistent. People who self-study and are not motivated end up giving up without finishing their journey ><;;;

    As for waning interests, when you don't feel like studying, STOP. Forcing yourself to be study any subject will prove to be stressful, I think. If you like Japanese language, study that for a while and if you enjoy it – you have succeeded! Personally, I have experienced the same thing many times. After many stages trial and error, I have been able to stick with Korean studying and found certain aspects of the language and culture that appealed to me.

    I hope I helped a little ^^

    • Reply
      Jenny Lim
      1 February, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      Thanks for your advice, I’m thinking to finish all my books at home and go back to CC again (maybe starts from Intermediate from another teacher) and this time I will try to speak more Korean and less English, my main purpose to go back is to revise and get more opportunities to talk and make new friends with same interest.

  • Reply
    2 February, 2012 at 12:48 AM

    Thanks for sharing your language learning journey Jessica! Nice to meet you!

    I envy those students from Africa studying 6 hours a day! I would do anything just to make my university allow me to study Korean (and Korean alone) for 6 hours a day! XD

    I hope you’ll find your interests in Korean again. I think it’s normal to have waning interest once in a while anyway. 🙂


  • Reply
    7 February, 2012 at 9:59 AM

    Hi, I have a question. I am thinking of doing the Session II at Ewha Womans’ University’s International Summer College. Since you did Session I I was wondering if you could tell me how the people are there (are they nice,etc)- also one of my main concerns is that I don’t know any korean (I only speak English) and I am worried that I will have problems communicating with people (do some of the people at the school speak english) and do you think I will have problems since I don’t speak korean. Also how did people treat you (since you were a foreigner and not of korean heritage). If you have any other information on your time at Ewah that would be great to (Session II is in August and I have heard that it gets really hot -how was the weather for you- also I know it may seem silly but what about earthquakes (having only been in the USA I have never really experienced them) is the possibility of a earthquake happening there great?). I don’t eat fish ( and I am picky with which meats I eat) and I don’t drink (do you think this would be a problem while I stay there?). I tried to find sites where people talk about their experience at Ewah but I couldn’t really find any but yours- thanks for the help .

    • Reply
      7 February, 2012 at 8:10 PM

      hi! although i havent been to ewha, i’ll still try to answer your questions and most of them will be relevant too 😀 I dont think ewha has a very different school culture from the rest!

      a lot of people go to korea without knowing any korean and this WILL NOT be a problem at all. International summer college students all speak English and you will find that alot of the regular Ewha students speak very good English too ^^

      I have never received any discrimination as a foreigner (im asian and probably passes off as a korean though) but none of my caucasian friends experienced it too. Unless you are really ermm loud and rude.. i dun think there will be a problem!

      The weather is hot (up to 30 degrees) but generally not humid so it’s fine. The rain season can be kinda annoying though.

      There aren’t any earthquakes in Korea – none that I heard of anyway. Fish is not a staple in korea. Most meat are pork and beef. But I guess you can avoid them if u wish. there is a huge selection of international cuisine in korea!


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