Archive for Are You Smarter Than a South Korean Child?

새해복 많이 받으세요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: Happy New Years.

Sometimes I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make a full transition to understanding Korean. Tonight was another trial where my Western-ness scuttled all my training.

So there’s a nice cashier at the convenience store where I buy cider after work. (The only diet soda sold in Korea is Diet Coke. When you tire of soda (and/or Coke), you’re then stuck with the one cider with no sugar added.) The lady’s super nice, and tries her best to teach me useful Korean phrases. (Or remind me of useful Korean phrases that I should know already, like good-bye.) Tonight as I left, she told me “새해복 많이 받으세요;” an expression I technically already knew.

The problem is I learned, and used, said expression around the Western New Year (January 1st). So I was expecting her to say something mentioning the Solar New Year (a/k/a Chinese New Years, or 설날)). I completely forgot that to most Koreans, the Solar New Years is the actual New Years.

So I asked her to repeat it, she did slowly for me, and them it all clicked. Fuck, I thought, I actually knew that one. And I totally blew my chances of impressing her by knowing something of note!

Well, I guess there’s always next year..


항상 공부하고 있어요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on February 10, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: I’m always studying.

I haven’t uploaded anything in forever, but it’s been a very hectic past few months. Summer vacations, suicides, Korean teachers coming and going, with me standing in the middle. Despite all of this, I have still been studying everyday, and recently I started drinking coffee for the sole purpose of studying more.

See, I’ve found that I love buying Korean grammar books to practice with. Unfortunately, I’ve also found that my apartment isn’t conducive to studying. Too many distractions waiting to distract me. What’s an idiot to do? Start drinking coffee of course! A small, enclosed environment, surrounded by Koreans speaking Korean, and nothing but a grammar book to distract me. And it’s been working beautifully.

This week I returned to 스노잉 (Snowing), which has a, you guessed it, snowing theme. Right down to its 스노잉화이트 (Snowing White Latte) which looks snowy. (There’s a cold one that looks cool too, but it’s much too cold right now to dare risk it.)

팀 선생님 시가 괴수입니다

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Oldies But Baddies, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2017 by shenanitim

Translation: Tim Teacher is a kaiju.

File this classic under: First year teaching ESL in Korea (October 2nd, 2015).

It’s not often that I don’t have an answer in class. Today was one such day.

“Tim Teacher is tall.”

While that statement is grammatically correct, and also correct within the confines of said class, in any other situation it is completely wrong.

How do you break it to a 9 year old that while I am taller than him, I’m still not actually “tall?”

이 번 주에 도서관에 다시 한국어를 공부하러 갔습니다

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2017 by shenanitim

Translation: I went to the library again this week to study Korean.

And my (haphazard) studying is paying off! I had quite a story about last week’s trip to the “Wild Food Festival;” all of which I first tried to say in Korean before writing it done for prosperity. (Also because my teacher wanted to check my spelling.)

Here it is, in all it’s corrected glory!

Also this week I learned a new (and useful!) conjugation, V(으)러. It means “I went to A in order to B.” Such as 화요일 저녁에 도서관에 한국어를 공부러 갔습니다. (Tuesday night I went to the library to study Korean.) I can’t stress enough how much fun it is to learn something that’s both useful and easy to use.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 57

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2017 by shenanitim

So I think I’ve hit critical mass with my new vocabulary. Still have quite the backlog of words to learn, and I continue to add (40-50) a week with my Korean classes at work. I’ve noticed my quizzes are getting bigger almost daily; usually averaging around ~170 words per day now, up from ~150 a few weeks ago. Which can only mean one thing:

A major culling is on the horizon.

With these many words hitting me daily, it’s a clear sign that some of these words just aren’t clicking. I’m not getting them, and (for some) I have no real motivation to try to learn them. I mean, I guess “hope” is a useful noun to know, but how often do you use “hope” in a sentence? And, if you didn’t know the word “hope,” would you be able to formulate a similar sentence working around it?

Further evidence of this is how often some of the new words (or not so new anymore words) are dropping out of the rotation. Each day one or two words will drop to Leech status. Not amazing in its own right (I add so many and have so many at this point that losing some is a given), but these aren’t words that have been around the block. These are words that were added within the last two months and never made a connection.


As for class, it was one BIG step backwards. With the hope that by resetting my pronunciation errors I’ll be able to step forward a bit more ably in the future.

(Arrgh! Did I just use “hope” in a sentence! I’m not even through a tiny blog and already I’m proving myself wrong!)

So this week’s class was based on me learning to recognize the sounds of 아, 오, 어, and 우. Korean doesn’t have a singular “A” sound. “A” is split into two: hard A (아) and soft A (어). While it’s not hard to tell those two apart, it is difficult to hear the difference between 어 and 오; because they both sound like “oh.” 오’s “O” is more similar to “over,” while 어 sounds like the “o” in “ought.”

Which again, might not seem that hard when you’re sitting at home saying “over” and “ought” repeatedly, but once you start putting them into words, and their sounds start mixing with other sounds, the little differences you hear disappear.

So all week I’ve been practicing chanting 아, 야, 어, 여, 오, 요, 우, 유 when riding my bike. You can see on the first photo the 10 question quiz I took in class Sunday. I got a perfect, my teacher would say a sound and I had to transcribe it. Often asking him to repeat the sound and then watching the shape his mouth made. (You can see my (bad) attempts at drawing the mouth shapes in Picture #2. But I scored a 100, so it can be done. It will just take a lot of practice.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 56

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on August 1, 2017 by shenanitim

Similar to last week, I spent almost all my time in the States. So no speaking Korean (unless I made a mistake and told an innocent 7-11 clerk “감사 합니다!” instead of the customary “thank you!” And even fewer words were added to my collection because… America.

One fun tidbit I did do before I left though, was buy a list of commonly used Spanish words. So after weeks upon weeks of contemplation, I decided to bite the bullet and start studying Spanish again too. Because why learn one foreign language when you can learn two?

One of which may actually be useful in the future!


One “fun” aspect of Korean which I believe I’ve touched on before is that of respect. Korean has various tenses and forms to show respect to people. As an American, respect isn’t something that is shown too often. Which leads to lots of fun, such as this example between myself and my (Saturday) teacher!


So teacher asked me how my vacation went. And she sent me some pictures of her and her daughter’s vacation (they’re in Belgium). The photo she sent though, showed her and another woman. So I thought I’d flex my Korean by asking, “네의 딸이 입니까?” (“Is that your daughter?”), when what I should’ve asked was, “선생님의 딸입니까?” (“Is that your daughter, teacher?”).

All part of the learning process, I guess.

Even today, in Tuesday vocabulary class, I learned a bit more about respect levels. Weeks ago, when I was learning various illnesses, my teacher thought it was strange that I wanted to learn “dementia” (치매). But I had a reason, and that lesson payed off last week when I saw my grandmother.

Thanks to my expanded vocabulary, I was able to say, “할머니가 치매를 없었으면 좋겠어요” (“I wish my grandmother didn’t have dementia”). It turns out I should’ve said “할머니께서” rather than “할머니가.” One uses the “~가/이” ending for people you’re close to. You use “~께서” to show (more) respect; such as when you’re talking about your grandmother. I’ve been told this subject ending before, but I’ve never wrote it before. Now that I have it immortalized in ink, hopefully this will lead to me being able to learn it and thus use it.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 55 (The Data-Less Edition!)

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on July 27, 2017 by shenanitim

I've been on vacation since Saturday. I flew out of Incheon airport, and back to the States, around 4 PM. As such, I have no new data to add this week. (At least until I make it home and get to my computer.) No classes on Saturday or Sunday will make this a very lite write up indeed.

Having no classes on the weekend left me at the mercy of my two vocabulary-centric classes this week. Not a bad thing, until you realize that my Thursday class left just Thursday night and Friday to add any vocabulary learned there to my decks. Which was a tall order since I take copious notes, and I needed to finish packing.

Tuesday's class focused on the remainder of the animal chapters in my book. Bugs, wild animals, etc. Thursday focused on hobbies, another thing you'll get asked about a lot when you're a foreigner. As I already know how to say the things I like doing in verb form, Thursday's class was useful as it allowed me to learn the same concepts, but in noun form. Sometimes it's the little things.

Traveling to the US remains as hard as it ever was, since I'm so used to answering people with 감사 합니다 is how I'm now conditioned to talk. At this point, what else would I say? This problem remains the one lifeline connecting me to how things were, as my studying routines also degenerated. There are just too many other things occupying my mind right now which prevent me from being able to focus. Finishing other (dangling plans), buying the remaining things I wanted to buy, etc. All taking up valuable mental space.

While I love my family and friends, and will miss them, I also miss the simplicity of living abroad. Find new word, learn new word, play with new word, (hopefully) internalize new word. This is now how I view life.

Also, maintaining a perfect Anki score while not abroad is extremely tough. I was hoping that Anki's internal clock would correct itself once I got off the plane and my iPad's clock adjusted. Alas, no such luck. So now the day's new deck seems to drop at the weirdest times, throwing my already off-balance rhythm further off-balance.

The saving grace being in 24 hours I'll be in San Francisco starting the final part of mr return trip. Normalcy never looked so appealing.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 54

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2017 by shenanitim

I’m rarely at a loss for words. Even yesterday, while at class enduring a way too high (for some reason) blood sugar, I still had plenty of words. Words I shouldn’t have been using, sure, but words upon words nonetheless.
“I just don’t understand this book. This chapter is stupid. Who says things like that? Do Koreans actually say, in casual conversation, ‘Well, since I’m older than you, you must call me ‘Big Brother?’ I’m guessing that’d be rude in any culture. And the girl [the character] is talking to is Korean! She’d already know the cultural norm and start using it. They should’ve done that, naturally, and used an asterix to explain the change in title in the footnotes.”

End rant, open bag, pull out glucometer, and check my blood sugar. Quickly followed by pull out my insulin and get myself back into learning, not combat, mode. It’s times like these where I can’t help but wonder how much better my Korean would be if my ability to speak/understand it wasn’t completely at the mercy of something I can only sort of control.

After that, class truely started and things went well. Then teacher dropped the bombshell on me.

Now my teacher knew I was heading back to the States next week for Summer Vacation. Which kind of stinks, because after vacation was booked, I found out that next Saturday my class is going on a 12-hour island trip (for summer vacation). In a perfect world, I would’ve known about said trip ahead of time so that I could’ve asked to have my job’s vacation held back a week (NOTE: my boss had asked me which of the two weeks I preferred. Since I had nothing doing on either, it really didn’t matter.).

But oh well. The $100 though? I don’t know where that came from. All I could muster was, “No, no, no, no! 네가 너무 친절하내요!” (“You’re too kind;” which is what I was trying to say. Except I learned 친절한 a long time ago, so I couldn’t figure it out. Also, this is Korean, so it translates to: “How kind of you!” anyway.)

After that (attempt), I had no words to say. I was instead left in a state of quiet contemplation where I tried to fight off the approaching dread. See, throughout this past month I’ve been worrying about this trip. But that “the trip” itself is bothering me, but what presents to buy my neices and nephews. So many kids versus so little luggage space.

Now I have the added problem of trying to figure out what to buy my teacher when I’m in the States! Things are supposed to get easier once I land, the stress is supposed to disappear; not ramp up!



As far as words go, not too big of a change. Less new words added (besides the (expected) massive word dumps on Tuesday and Thursday (dealing with illnesses and fashion respectively)), as I’ve started to feel a little burn out even with the lessened workload. But that might be a holdover from often attempting my daily quizes with a jacked-up blood sugar. (For the record, NOT A GOOD IDEA!)

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 53

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , on July 12, 2017 by shenanitim

So I’ve ended up going to church two weeks in a row. I’m still not sure about how I feel about it. While I didn’t mind the ceremonies (too much), I’m afraid there might soon be an expectation of me showing up. Which isn’t going to happen.

The impetus behind this week’s visit was my being tricked into agreeing to come last week. While the pastor’s wife was warning me about the dangers of STRANGE churches, she asked why I had never attended her church. Since I had already admitted that I would be going to church, I couldn’t exactly say “I don’t go to church” anymore. That would be a slight. So I agreed I would come to their church once.

Unfortunately for me, she took that to mean I’d come the next week. It wasn’t in my plans, but a pinky swear is a pinky swear. That, and I’m getting over two hours of Korean instruction at the church every week.

Keeping with last week’s church adventure, I again decided to ignore the pastor’s wife’s instruction to attend the English service, and instead opted to sit in on the Korean service. And what a difference it was. First, the church looks like an airplane hanger. But there was a full band: choir singers, violin players, you name it, they had it somewhere on the stage. Additionally, the (church’s) head pastor preaches like one of those television preachers. Getting angry, shouting, being totally into preaching. Which would’ve been annoying in English, but in Korean I can barely pick the words making it much more bareable.

As for Saturday’s actual class, it went a lot smoother than last week’s. While my study partner was still absent, my teacher and I no longer had to feel each other out to figure out what works best. I showed her some of my Korean writing from the week, spoke to her in Korean about various odds-and-ends, and then moved onto the book. This week was a lot less of stepping on each other’s toes, and a lot more working together.

And what a week in Anki news. I’ve been adding words pretty consistently all week, and while things are becoming harder, I haven’t hit a tipping point yet. (Hopefully reducing my New Word load from 20 to 10 new cards a day had something to do with this.) As the graphs below illustrate, this month was well on par to become the 2nd most (new) vocabulary focused month I’ve had. (It was in 3rd place when this screenshot was made Sunday, but after last night it moved into 2nd. Having two vocabulary focused classes per week with my boss teaching will be greatly expanding my word-base.)


ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 53

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2017 by shenanitim

Yowza. What a week.

So last week, at the end of my Sunday Korean class, my teacher, a pastor, asked me if I wanted to go to his church next week. For reasons only known to the Gods, after saying “No” 50,000 times, I was like what the hell? “Sure.”


“Yeah, I’ll go next week.” I figured it would be an interesting experience to say the least. I’d also get to spend upwards of two hours being totally immersed in Korean, and get to meet some more Koreans. What could go wrong?

We’ll put that on the backburner right now, as it’s just one piece into this weekend’s comedy of errors.

So then, on Friday, I arrive at work and my boss follows me into my classroom. This is never a good sign. Christ, what did I mess up this time? Dear Lord, now she’s pulling up a chair to my desk and telling me to have a seat. FUCK. Now she’s telling me not to worry, BUT I’M BEING INSTRUCTED TO SIT DOWN!

It turns out my boss was correct, I was overreacting. It seems that the new teacher is also super interested in learning Korean (he went to my Sunday class with me his first week here), she knows I’ve been studying awhile, and she’s interested in continuing her English mastery. Which is tough, since she’s living in Korea. So she offered this solution: we come in an hour early twice a week, and study with her. She bought a vocabulary book for us to study from (“Do you have a Korean book?, she (foolishly) asked. “I have 60 Korean books,” I laughed as I pulled the Korean textbook I had brought with me that day). So I’m officially in four Korean classes a week!

Which sounds awesome, but it raises the stakes considerably. I mean, if my ability keeps growing at the crawl its currently imitating, I’m gonna feel bad for wasting these resources.

That was Friday. Which brings us to Saturday’s class. First problem, my study partner Edwin was absent. (He’s a student working on his Master’s, and he had a seminar to attend or something.) Leaving me and the teacher alone. The reason this is a problem is because Edwin’s better at Korean than I am, so he acts as my interpreter. My teacher talks fast, and uses long sentences. Either of which, by themself, can make class a challenge. But both together? Practically impossible.

So class was just a blur of her talking too talk and me trying to keep up. A two-hour long, frustrating blur. And then it ends, and dinner starts. At which point, I’m excited, cuz when the books are away the budding Korean student will play! So I tell my teacher that I’m excited because I’ll be having four Korean classes next week.

“You have another class?”

“Yeah, I have one on Sunday. I go every week.”

“Where did you find it?”

“On Facebook.”

And that’s where our conversation took a turn for the worse. How do you know these people? Do you know if you can trust them? They might be STRANGE

“I’ve been going to these classes for the past year. I know those teachers better than I know you.”

Then she found out that I’d be going to a different church on Sunday. Cue a thousand more questions all hinged on the same presumption that everyone else in the world is STRANGE. I try to reassure her, but there’s a language barrier. Which is when she enlists the class’ director for help. Who, naturally, is also shocked that I’m not going to their church but I’m going to someone else’s.

I tried to explain that I’ve known 김목사님 longer, so by all rights I should attend his church first. But we have English service! How do I politely explain that I actually like that the church I’m going to is in Korean, that way I can focus on the language and ignore the actual teaching; which I’d probably disagree with anyway. Also, and most importantly, 김목사님 knows I don’t believe in God, but he still wants me to go. Whereas that church is so large I’m not sure they’ve all heard that I’m not a believer. (In fact, given yesterday’s SNAFU, I’m almost positive word hasn’t spread yet.)

Meaning next week’s class should be exciting. Maybe I’ll offer to go to one of their services too, but with the stipulation that I’ll only attend a Korean service. I’ll tell them the partial truth that I’m doing it to practice my comprehension, and leave out the part about me not being able to understand it is also a big bonus in the eyes of this sinner.


A big week for Anki. I continued to add vocabulary throughout the week, making it one of my most productive weeks vocabulary-wise in awhile if not all time. The 10 new words a day restriction seems to be working wonders.