Archive for Life as an Expat

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 47

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2017 by shenanitim

내가 그것을 했어요!

Translation: I did it!
Last January I gave myself a goal – go the entire month adding 20 words to my Anki deck everyday. I almost succeeded before burning out and deciding that learning 5-10 words per day was a more realistic goal. In true ShenaniTims fashion, I fell off that wagon this week.


My goal started out so simple. I had accumulated a sizable pile of Korean words at work, and had never turned them into flashcards. At first I started small, 4-5 words per day. Maybe a Post-It’s worth; work my way down slowly. By Friday though, I had just said “screw it” and went berzerk.

(Side note: last week at class my teacher noted that he really thinks I should be using his preferred textbook, which I then bought. Also, his -recommendation- was for me to improve my vocabulary. Hence the fire under my butt to get things done sooner rather than later.)

Granted, I’m not sure how much I truly believe that the slow drip method is best. While it makes the daily quizes easier, I’m not convinced that it helps me with the long-term retention of the words. I’m thinking there’s some words you’ll learn easily, some that’ll need to marinate, and some that won’t ever gel. So taking the hit early on and just diving in might be the best way to go sometimes.

And I think that conditional, sometimes, is key here. Ram in as many words as you can before you start to lose your motivation, and then slow down. Right now I’m straddling the line since I loathe being frustrated during the quizzes, but I love seeing how quickly my vocabulary is growing.

(As I prep this post (on 수요일 (Wednesday), I’ve already added upwards of 170 words.  And I’m still not burnt out by it.)

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Moving right along with my plan to speak only in Korean in Korean class, these are the only major notes I took Sunday. With these being sentences I said (err… attempted) first in Korean, then wrote their (corrected) versions down. So that I could pilfer and add the (unknown) vocabulary to my Anki deck later.

Also of note is that when I’m writing these notes, I’m (usually) guessing the spelling as my teacher says the words. Picking out the sound differences between 오 and 어 is infuriatingly difficult, but it’s just another wall for me to smash my head against until I knock a hole through it.

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ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 46

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2017 by shenanitim

First, an apology: 지난 토요일에 서울에 가서 그래서 저는 토요일의 수업을 못갔어요.

Translation: I went to Seoul on Saturday, so I missed Saturday’s class.

While that meant less practice with Korean, it also meant I missed having to sit with the teacher from two weeks ago again. And after that so-called “class,” I’ll take any kind of win I can get.

In a fantastic act of solidarity, this week my teacher was also absent from my Sunday class! Meaning new teacher, blahblahblah. Only this time it was different. Because this time, rather than suffer through the class and figure out how I’d modify it for next week, here I took control from the start.

Preclass Work

A snapshot of my pre-class work.

Of course, by “take control,” I mean dictate that the work pattern I follow with my usual teacher would be continued today. After Saturday’s adventure, I had written plenty about the weekend’s adventures (or lack thereof), and I managed to successfully say most of it. Causing my teacher for the week (actually the man running the whole shebang) to note that I know most of Korea’s language patterns; now it’s time to get to the vocabulary.

On a side note, it’s not like I haven’t been consistantly adding vocabulary. I’m guessing though that the words I’m interested in learning are quite different from the words most books want to teach you. I mean, do you really need to know “to taste” and “to smell” when there’s more amusing words like “elegant” and “pleasing to the eye?” This is me we’re talking about!

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Book Report Time! With Round One: Speaking over, we quickly moved onto a newly created Round Two: Reading. A few weeks ago I hit up the local Goodwill (Yes, Korea has Goodwills) to pick up some cheap children’s books. They’re great because the books are generally the same price as in the US (around 50 cents), making it a great resource to try to test your reading skill/comprehension.

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And, once again, I didn’t do that bad! My translations were pretty much spot on throughout the book. And I picked up two new conjugations: ~V할래 and ~V(있)더니. Now ~V할래 is probably the most useful, as it allows for the creation of easy “Would you…V?” sentences. 갈래? (Would you go?), 먹을래? (Would you eat?), etc. Short, simple to use, and direct – the type of conjugations these books should be teaching right off the bat.

The second conjugation, ~V(있)더니, is a bit more complicated. It essentially explains the preceding the sentence as “Since V…” or “Because of V…” While I can’t think of any uses for it right off the top of my head, I’m sure I’ll eventually find a way to run it into the ground too.

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Granted, me being me, I couldn’t take the needs to expand his vocabulary note without then fixating on it. You won’t be able to see the effects above, since I took that screenshot on Sunday, before class. But come next week, and you’ll definitely the ranks startin to swell with new vocabulary

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 45

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on May 9, 2017 by shenanitim

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One of the advantages of having two Korean classes weekly is that if one of those classes goes to shit, there’s always a chance that the other will pull through. Hell, judging from past experiences here, I’d say there’s a more than likely chance that the next class will pull through.

The short note(s): after a bad class, I tend to be in an incredibly foul mood. But rather than turn me off to Korean, it just lights a fire under my own ass. (“I don’t need a teacher!,” I think, as I purchase way too many supplemental Korean learning materials (books on idioms, sentence structure, etc.) This (albiet) tiny bit of self-affirmation allows me to return the next week fully prepared to make the “bad” teacher do what I want the next week. This has worked out in the past, it worked out yesterday, so I’m confident in believing that this is now a “thing.”

This week was essentially a tale of three classes though. The first one (or the first fifth of the first one) went as usual. With the Level 4 group working on things outside of my understanding, but workable, since they’d actually explain it to me. It ended as a sad outtake to “the Monkey’s Paw” though.

See, I arrived to class later than usual. So I missed the preliminary easy talk about what you did over the holiday, blahblahbah. Unlike normal conversation though, in a language class such small talk isn’t immediately bullshit. It has a purpose. It gets your brain thinking in the foreign language. A warm-up, if you will. Unfortunately I missed that this week, meaning I was jumping right into stuff too advanced for my meager mind. All I could think was, I wish this would slow down.

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And BAM! it did. Oh, how it did. So my teacher is going to be absent next week, so they brought in a replacement. Since my level and my partner’s level aren’t the same, they figured they’d give the new guy a chance to warm-up his teaching chops on me. What a disaster that would turn out to be.

Now see, a couple weeks back when I started the Level Two book, that was more just for testing purposes. It was determined that my vocabulary is a lot more advanced than that book, but the reading still gave me issues. Which is why the majority of that class was spent covering the sentences, with me using my vocabulary to answer the questions using the present, past, and future tenses.

My biggest weakness, vocabulary-wise, was me not knowing 20-90 Korean numbers. The reason for this is because Korea has two number systems: Korean and Chinese. They (generally) use Korean for small numbers: 1-10, and revert to the Chinese systems for anything past that. Since the Korean won is based on 1000s (₩1000~$1.00), you won’t hear Korean numbers too often. They’re easy to ignore.

Unfortunately the new teacher wasn’t having any of that. These words were put in this book for a reason, he seemed to think, and I was going to review all of them whether I had learned them or not! Thus began (possibly) the longest hour and a half of my life. (Or one of the longest hour and a half stretches of my life.)

I should’ve known things would be bad when he sat next to me (never a good sign). People who know me know that even my close friends and relatives usually give me a head’s up before hugging me. They know that I’m just not that cool with bodily contact. Yet the new guy kept touching me; no matter how uncomfortable I looked.

Making matters worse was the fact that this shit was too basic. No matter how often I told him. Or in what language I told him in.

“하늘 is the sky.”

“I know.”

“You know? 하늘 is the sky.”

“What the hell? I know. “알았어요” (I know that in Korean).

“You know? 하늘 is the sky.”

(Thinking that maybe if I use it in a sentence he’ll move on) “하늘이 푸른색 이에요” (The sky is blue).  Quickly followed up with “하늘색” (skyblue).

“하늘 is the sky. You understand?”

“Yes.”

“하늘 is the sky.”

And on it went, for the rest of the pages’ twenty-odd (beginner) vocabulary words. I wouldn’t even stay for the dinner the church gives after the class. I thanked my teacher (dman my politeness!) and bolted. (Granted, by the end he knew he had fucked up too. After an hour plus of my body sending the same message, he eventually realized that he had done something wtong. Which then made me feel bad. But not bad enough to stay.)

Which brought us to Sunday’s class. One were I only brought the church’s book, in order to push through all the beginner words/lessons. Force their hand, as it were, leaving them no choice but to advance me by next week. (Sunday’s teacher knew I knew these words, so we went back to doing what we do so well; using them as examples from which to base new question and answer sequences from.

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Anki-wise I’m still looking to add a few new vobulary words daily, and I finally made the move to increase my daily total review count from 100 to 126. Though I might head back and bump it up again to 137. Which brings my daily total (in terms of minutes) from ~27 to around 40. Which doesn’t seem like that bad of an expenditure when you’re learning a new language. I think I can spare those minutes each day.

목요일에 삼원에 갔어요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , on May 6, 2017 by shenanitim

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Translation: On Wednesday I went to Samwon.

Long story short, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Suncheon. It has a fantastic looking bay that I’ve been dying to explore. So, given that I had a five day weekend thanks to Buddha’s Birthday on Wednesday, and Children’s Day on Friday (and Thursday being off for being a “sandwich day”), I decided now was the time.

Unfortunately, I’m me, and I’ve never gotten along with buses.

So I bought a ticket to Suncheon. I got on the bus with the Suncheon sign in the window. And the bus dropped me off in Samwon. I’m still not sure how that happened. Or why bus drivers don’t at least check the tickets of foreign travellers before they leave the station. (No joke, in Korea, unless you’re going someplace where the seats are all spoken for, they’ll take your ticket after you arrive. Arrive wherever.)

So I’m in Samwon and feeling pretty stupid. Then I run into a friend I know from Korean class (she teaches in Samwon), who was like, “Oh, are you here for the festival?”

“Ehhh… of… course! Yes, yes, I came here for the festival. What’s the festival again? Where is it?”

Luckily it was right down the street by the river. “Just follow the people and the sounds.” The sounds of three middle-aged Korean men dressed up as ninja women singing to geriatric Korean women. (Apparently Buddha has a strange list of presents he wants.)


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ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 44

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 29, 2017 by shenanitim

One week, and two levels of advancement! That’s right, I was using the church’s level four book this week. BAM, just like that! Turns out I’m somewhat good!

Or not. The real reason behind the just was last week’s teacher was unable to sit with me (she plays a big role in keeping the whole class moving), so I was paired up with another, level four, student. He offered to work through the level two book for me, but I love a challenge. Also, we flipped through both books, and they’re not that different. Mainly, the higher level one uses more advanced conjugations, and my fellow scholar was super helpful with asking me, “Do you know ‘xxx’ form?”

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And I picked up some worthwhile conversational tidbits:

~것 같다 – used for giving a polite opinion (“Well, I think/feel…”). This one is invaluable since 같다 has been in My Anki deck for ages, but I’ve yet to see it used correctly. Now I know!

~…부터 – this is used to express “from…” Such as 지금부터 (“from now on…”), and I’m assuming 화요일부터 (“since Tuesday…”). Though I’ve yet to test this theory yet, as I’ve just thought of it.

~하기 로 했어요 – used for talking about plans, and/or things decided in advance.

~ I also learned the true, sad tale behind 식사 (“meal”). Now 식사 has been in my vocabulary awhile, but I’ve never seen it used. Rather 음식 or 밥 get used. So it turns out 식사 is the word used when talking about the action of “having a meal.” Which seems rather limited in use, causing me to wonder why I learned it so early on.

Which means while I didn’t get to have fun composing my own sentences, I was clued in on some useful verb sequences. Which, in turn, will pay off later with my sentence creation. Also, my vocabulary and that of my fellow student were remarkably similar. What advantage I had over him in terms of vocabulary was more than made up for (on his end), by his fluency. I think it worked out well for everyone involved, as we both had time to shine. Him, with teaching me some new conjugations, and me dominating our dicussions on colors, numbers, body parts, and family members. (Korean has two different words for “aunt.” One for maternal (이모), and one for paternal (고모).)

This also marked the second week where I’ve taught one of my Korean teachers a, wait for this, KOREAN WORD! Seriously, I can’t tell you how cool it is to teach a Korean a part of their own language. (This week it was “수장,” a stripe. NOT the normal, striped shirt kind of stripe though. More of a “I have a stripe on my back because my mom beat me with a switch” kind of stripe. Which led us to learn what the verb for “physically beating someone” is (Verb). Have I mentioned how much I dig these classes lately?

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As can be seen (as I took an image of my Anki results way too late), new vocabulary was the order of the day this week. A more advanced book = more advanced vocabulary. I’m not complaining, though I am trying to figure out the “perfect spot” as far as numbers go. 20 new words a day seems to overload me, and I don’t feel I can properly learn them. But one or two words a day isn’t enough, as I feel I’m leaving money on the table.

The struggle continues…

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 43

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2017 by shenanitim

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A test, a test! I took a Korean test! And I lived to tell the tale…

This week’s class kicked off with a line I always dread hearing: “Tim, I have something to ask you. Come over here.” This alone causes an instinctual level of dread to arise. I mean, I was asked this by the lady who invites me to service every week (which I decline). Had my non-church-going ways finally caught up with me?

Tim, we’ve noticed that you never come to church, and you’ve told many of us that you don’t believe. Yet every week you’re here using our free services. What’s up?” was running through my mind as the only possible outcome. Luckily, it was instead the seemingly benign, “Would you mind if you had a different teacher this week?”

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Turns out word of my (alleged) Korean ability has spread even to the bigger movers and shakers at the church, so now one of the top ones wanted to see for herself.

It turns out I’m smarter than an acorn.

Actually, it turns out my daily use of Anki for almost a year now has paid off generously. The general agreement was that my vocabulary is great: quite expansive for someone who started studying a year ago. My spoken Korean is thus where all the work needs to go.

Unfortunately this turned into doing reading drills. I’d read a sentence in Korean, translate it, then answer it in triplicate. Once using the present tense, once in the past tense, and finally in the future tense. Though this really wasn’t as bad as I’ve made it out to be, since, me being me, my answers did their best to expand upon the questions.

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I mean, what’s the use of being complimented on your vocabulary if you’re not going to use it?

Picking up on their lead, my teacher on Sunday kept pushing in this direction by having semi-conversations with me. Asking me questions that I could understand, so that I could create answers for them. Which doesn’t sound like much when I write it down, but, in the moment, it’s everything. Considering a little more than a year ago I was sounding out the alphabet and memorizing introductory sentences (“네 이름은 팀 입니다”) and now I can construct those sentences off the top of my head is crazy.

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On an Anki-based aside, I’ve stopped doing my quizzes in the morning. I started to fear that my still groggy brain might be hindering the learning process. So instead I take it during the downtime I have after completing my classes’ lesson plans. And continue during the (mini) breaks I get between classes (~5 minutes).

마이산에 돌아가고 있어요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , on April 23, 2017 by shenanitim


Translation: Returning to Maisan.

So just under a year ago (last summer to be exact), I went to 진안, and more specifically, 마이산, on a field trip with my Korean class. While it was fun to see everything with a number of Korean teachers at my side, ready to explaim anything and everything to me; one sticking point was we didn’t have enough time to climb the actual mountain.

So last week I went back to experience the famed “horse ear peak(s)” for myself! (“Peak” because the 2nd mountain is too landslide inclined to allow mountain climbers. Like any pair – there’s always a good cop and a bad cop.) Here are the results!

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 42

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2017 by shenanitim

“So I’ve been told that you know a lot of Korean.”

I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, lady, but whoever it is has clearly been playing a cruel joke on you. And possibly me by extension.

“조금 (a little),” I replied, clearly hoping that by speaking in short, incomplete sentences I could convince her otherwise. Unfortunately, she followed this up by asking me what I have been working on. And here’s where the wheels behind the “I’m actually the dumbest person here; honest!” illusion began to fall off. As stated last week, a new theme in my studies has been formulating basic sentences in my head, and then not translating them onto paper. This way I have to say them in Korean first. This works in two aspects: it gets me speaking more, and also prevents me from trying to create overly complicated sentences. Which, for the longest time running, has been my biggest weakness.


Sadly I don’t think this illusion took, however. My opening sentence was “이번주에 제 여동새가 말했어요.” (This week I talked to to my sister.” Granted, it was wrong, but only barely so. See, I said “talked to” which comes from 말하다 (to talk). But in Korean you’d use 전화를 컬다 – literally “phone call.” And while I guess you could say, “This week I called my sister in the phone,” in English that sounds a little too formal. Well, sure your majesty, and I’m absolutely positive you spread your butter on your toast divinely too! No one talks that way.

So I chaulk this up as a lost in translation error, where the meaning is still correct, but the local flair was missing. Like when Northerners visit FL and call soda “pop.”

But the damage had already been done. Once you’ve let the “my study plan is to try to think in Korean” cat out of the bag, there’s no convincing your teacher that you’re still secretly a dummie.

One thing I must applaud my teacher for is her ability to hone in on a skill (“I think we should work on ____________ today”), and then sticking with it. I had a momentary slip up using the present progressive (V-고 있다), which she caught onto and immediately started giving me more sentences to translate.

“Spring is warm.”

“봄에 따뜻해요.”

“봄 따뜻해요. Use the subject market as you’re talking about Spring specifically. ‘Spring is getting warmer.”

“봄이 따뜻하고 있어요.”

“봄이 따뜻고 있어요. ‘하’ becomes ‘해’ here because you always conjugate 하다 differently from everything else.”

While it seems basic on the surface, these exercises work on numerous levels. First, on my basic speech level, as well as my confidence in my speech level. But also by indirectly highlighting the fact that in Korean, “getting” is here included as part of the present progressive. This will stop me from trying to shoehorn “to get” (받다) into all of my compositions. So it’s practice and a clarification all rolled into one.

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ShenaniTims vs. Anki: Round 41

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 11, 2017 by shenanitim


I decided to do something completely different this week. Usually I spend my Sundays at Hanok Village trying to write comprehensible sentences in Korean. With varying degrees of success; some weeks I do great, some… not so much. Regardless, each week I try my hardest no matter what. 

Enter this week. There was no Saturday class (we took a field trip to Gunsan and Semangeum (새만금)), so I didn’t have any tangents to expand upon and/or practice. And given the storm clouds I saw upon arriving at Hanok Village, climbing a mountain to write, only to have to run back down it minutes later wasn’t high on my list. So no (new) writing. Until the ride home.


Now normally during my rides home I’ll get a burst of inspiration. Often simpler sentences (as I’m creating them in my head as I ride, I can only focus on the things I really know. So this week, instead of writing these sentences down while waiting at traffic lights, I instead just wrote down their English equivalents. With a note expressly telling me not to write them. No writing, at least, until I had spoken them to my teacher. This way the sentences are still getting corrected, I’m still writing them down (after the fact), only now I’ve managed to shoehorn some speaking practice in as well.

Perhaps my smartest study move lately, if not ever.

The biggest Anki news is my Mature card counts. Remember how excited I was back when one or two days a week had 20-25 Mature cards? Well now things have come full circle, with only a handful of games per month having less than 20-25 per day. Words can’t describe how excited I am over this, even if it’s completely inexplicable. Hell, I don’t even know why I’m so jazzed about it. I just am. Perhaps it’s related to the fact that my Mature cards correct percentage is usually where I’m most successful.

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한국에 일하고 있어요

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

Translation: Working in Korea.


One thing I love about Korea is their consideration. For everything. Seriously, for a country (in)famous for its isolation (and believe me, spend any amount of time on a board about Seoul and you’ll get an earful), out where I’m at, they couldn’t be more considerate.

Earlier this week, my boss let the third teacher at our academy go. They won’t be hiring a replacement. Instead, I’ll be working a little overtime picking up the remainder of the departing teacher’s load. (I had taken over the lion’s share of his workload two weeks ago, leaving him with a grand total of six kids split over three classes. And he couldn’t handle it. Seriously.) But first, my boss wanted to make sure I’d be alright working seven hours a day. Seven. My average day in retail was longer than that; by a large margin. I laughed and told her of course, since I’m used to working eight hour days, minimum.

She asked again though, to make sure I’d be okay with my condition. My diabetes. She was worried about my health! I don’t think my last boss at Target even knew I was a diabetic, and we worked in the same department for around three years. There was it was inconsequential. Something for me to handle (out of sight, out of mind), and for them to ignore.


“But ShenaniTims,” you shout into my mind, “of course she’s worried about your health! She’s your sponsor in the country. If something happens to you, it could potentially make her look bad.” Yes, that’s true. And please quit screaming in my mind.

My rebuttal, however, is my Korean classes. Today, the church announced that next week we’d be going on a picnic. As they were asking around, trying to get a headcount, I came up. Would I be going? Of course, I wouldn’t miss it. Would I be okay, with my condition? Would the exercise be too much?

Now again, this is (one of) my Korean class(es). They owe me nothing. I’m taking up their time, and unlike all the other students there, I don’t attend the Sunday services I’m constantly being in invited to. Yet they still want me to come along, and be safe while doing so. Here, it’s not just my issue, it’s a communal issue.

Back at Target, a company that prides itself on its diversity, I once had to sit through an hour-long presentation on respecting others. Including taking into account any special conditions your co-workers (“Team Members” in Target talk) may have. Mind you, I’ve been a diabetic almost all my life. (Diagnosed as Type-1 at age four.)


So while they’ll telling us that we have to be mindful of others, I’m sitting in a meeting room full of ho-hos, chips, and whatever else it is fat American fucks eat. So I laughed, and they were shocked. Was I disagreeing with corporate? Is such a thing possible? I told them that it was a nice aentiment, but that anyone suffering from a disease has come to terms with it. And realized we live in your world; you don’t live in ours. I pointed out that there were no snacks I could eat there, if I was inclined to. And added that I didn’t want to see shitty “healthy” snacks next week; so that I could watch everyone suffer through carrot sticks while shooting me eye daggers. No thank you.

But here, they genuinely seem concerned with how I deal with it. It’s slightly jarring.