Archive for Life as an Expat

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Convo

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!

Oi.

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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.)

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ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 52

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , on June 24, 2017 by shenanitim

It’s funny how knowledge of certain words or phrases in a (foreign) language will immediately mark you. Saturday’s class illustrated this point with the term 엉망 (messy). Now learning a language is all about making connections: connections to what you know, what you think, what you’ve heard, etc. So when I heard 엉망 I immediately noted that I didn’t know “messy,” but I did know its opposite: 깔끔하다 (to be neat/tidy).

At which point I had to check my memory by asking the teacher if I was remembering it correctly. I was, which caused David, my study partner to note, “팀의 깔끔해요” (Tim’s neat). Which lead to the teacher asking me if I was, in fact, tidy/neat. Leading us down the rabbit hole we’ve been down before on this site of my perception vs. that of everyone else. I don’t think my desire for cleanliness equates to actual cleanliness, but apparently wanting to be clean is all you need. Fake it until you make it!

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Bringing the term 깔끔하다 on par with other phrases that either define you, or become irrelevant the moment you learn them. Case in point (also from Saturday): I can’t speak Korean well. The class’ head asked me if I was speaking Korean well (she’s a big booster of mine), “한국말 잘 할 수 있어요?”

I immediately answered this the negative, “아니요, 한국말 잘 못해요” (No, I can’t speak Korean well). Which, by fact of using a negative in a phrase where it transforms the sound of the following word (해요here goes from the normal “hey-yo” to “tey-yo”), means that by the time you learn that negative phrase, you’re too skilled to properly use it in denying your proficiency.

And what would a two week span be if I didn’t try a new technique for learning vocabulary. So, after a lackluster last week (barely anything added to _anki_), this week has kicked off in high gear. This morning I added (by night’s end) ~80 new words, and I still have a lot leftover. I also bit the bullet and changed Anki’s (new word) distribution method. See, most often I’d struggle through 20 new words day. Then I’d make to day 2, still doable, but definitely tougher. Because then you’re dealing with a mixture of new words and the 20 new ones from the previous day. Then you hit days 3, 4, 5, etc. and all comprehension goes out the window. Too many words, too soon. You’re only remembering around half, recognition of previous words is close to nil, and so on.

So this week’s genius plan is to add a boatload of new vocabulary (80+ words yesterday, 20 by 7:30am Monday morning), but to limit the amount of new cards shown each day. Changing the total from 20 down to 10. We’ll see if this move help mitigate and, or all, the confusion from adding too many.

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ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 51

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2017 by shenanitim

Field trip week for my Saturday class. A sad field trip, as this was also the Ugandan students’ last week. So we went to my favorite spot in Jeonju, _Moak-san_, and had a farewell party. A farewell party if your definition of “party” involves introducing yourself to all the Korean teachers even though everyone there clearly knows my name.

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I did manage to do a lot better of a job this time around though. The first time (_on the bus trip to [name]_), I couldn’t say anything correctly. Stumbled my way through some of the basic introduction I had learned during my first week of class, after blanking for way too long. This time I rattled off what I could comfortably say off the top of my head, and called it quits. Deftly pulling the George Costanza “Leave while you’re still on top” trick in a country where no one would recognize it.

And apparently it worked, as the lady sitting next to me at dinner wanted to know why I hadn’t taken the TOPIK (Korean proficiency test) exam yet. Excuse me, lady, but have you heard me talk? I think a lot of Koreans get impressed by the fact that I use the proper words to say things, and assume my ability is greater than it is. I use the proper words because I love learning new vocabulary. My ability to use said vocabulary, however, is much less developed.

But I keep trying.

This week’s Sunday class was caught between superability ShenaniTims and “oh my God, what am I even attempting to do?” ShenaniTims. While my intentions were good, my opening salvo of lines was too much for my Korean to handle. Though I believe most (if not all) of the things I said were understandable by my (long-suffering) Korean teacher. There are just better ways for the Koreans to express the same sentiments. Which is what learning language is all about really.

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Anki stats from mid-week because I accidentally trashed Sunday’s proper scores.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 50

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

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I thought this week would be my last.

Not my last studying Korean, but rather my last Saturday study session at the church.

So each week I’ve been going to a church on Saturday for more one-on-one Korean study time. And, according to everyone I’ve talked to, it’s been working wonders. One thing I haven’t done, though, is actually go to the church on Sundays. I do this because, if you’ve read my other posts_ I’m sure you’ll recognize_, I’m clearly not a believer. But that doesn’t deter this Korean congregation. Blame it on my politeness maybe, and factor in a healthy dose of the language barrier surrounding our interactions. (By my count, only two or three church goers actually know I don’t believe. Know as in I’ve told them as much.)

So this week started with the normal amount of shock and delight that I showed up. Then the director beckoned me over for two important tasks. The first was for me to sign the log-in sheet, and the other for an important conversation. One of grave importance, she implied. At which point, I became scared. Did they figure out tha I’ve been coming for months, but have never attended actual church? Am I going to be called out? Forced to either stop coming, or show up tomorrow? These were all the thoughts flooding my mind for those brief seconds. Thoughts thought before she reached over and handed me this:

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A jar of melon seeds. One parishioner (whom I’ve never meet, by the way) has heard about me and my diabetes (or 당뇨 as it’s called over here), and being a retired nurse, decided to help. Nevermind that I’ve never seen her, or that she’s never seen me. She came in especially one afternoon to drop this off. For soneone she’s only heard stories about. I guess, given the context of church, this much isn’t that unbelievable. It still amazes the hell out of me though.

Unfortunately, the class itself, and the class on Sunday, were like beating my head against the wall. I was just off. Constantly. The things I knew I wasn’t able to say correctly, and the things I thought I knew… I quickly found out I didn’t. Normally my daily Anki quiz scores hover around 85% to 90%. Last week I had a day or two where I was batting in the 60s. Not bad for a baseball average, but horrible when you know you can do better. (Not to mention the fact that you usually have been.)

At dinner I was heartened to hear the theory (one that seems to hold up with my own experiences) that having a crap week of learning is usually a harbinger for an advance. Beat your head against a wall long enough, and something’s bound to make it through, I guess. Here’s to hoping for greener pastures.

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ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 49

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , on June 4, 2017 by shenanitim

이야기는의 수업 두 게 예요.

Translation: (first attempt) A Tale of Two Classes.

As the title suggests, this week I went to both of my Korean classes. After a day of on-again, (mostly) off-again shooting, I said to hell with making a shoe puppet movie solo. It’s just not that much fun working alone. Especially when compared to what is fun: eating corn on the cob, trying to master a new language, and riding my bike (everywhere).

Again (다시), as the title (제속?) suggests, there was a noticeable difference in the classes. Saturday’s class saw me reunited with my original teacher, but she was already mid-lesson with another student. A student who was studying from a TOPEK II (i.e. level II) book. (TOPEK, for those who don’t know, is the official Korean proficiency exam. And she’s studying at the harder level for it. I.e. waaaay above my level.)

Nevertheless the lady was nice. She saw that I needed practice speaking Korean, so she asked if it would be cool asking me questions in Korean. Now this is something that I’d normally be excited by. Unfortunately, since our levels were mismatched, her questions were too hard. Or not “too hard,” but too long. Such as nearly all her questions used conjunctions. Not a problem I know plenty of conjunctions and learn more by the week. Only she was using the “~면”conjunction,” the “if” conjunction. Whichnworks in Korean the same way the “because” conjunction works: in opposition to how it’s used in English. (Basically, in Korean, when using either “because” or “if,” you’re saying “Because…” or “If…” not the other way around. So “Because I exercised too much, I was tired” rather than “I was tired, because I exercised.”

At my level, this is (still) much too complicated. Too many words to keep track of at once. I could translate (most of) the first clause, “something something he goes if, blahblahblah.” (By the time I’m done translating the first half, the second half is flying by.) Though, as I said, she was super nice about it. It just wasn’t too fruitful of a match. I was confused and frustrated, though I would do my best answering in my basic Korean once our teacher translated the question for me. (There wasn’t a Level Four booklet like my previous classes were doing using so that I could crib useful notes/ideas.)

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Sunday, on the other hand, went a lot smoother. I had climbed a new mountain during the day, and, after polishing off two more sections of my book, I created a bunch of sentences to dictate to my teacher in Korean. Most of which I did perfectly. Even, and get this, a “because” one. A dreaded “because” one!

Mainly, I did what I had endeavored to do a couple weeks ago, when I tried combining two of my independent clauses via conjunction (because), and my teacher told me I sounded more natural, more fluent, speaking with the smaller clauses. As with everything in life, there’s no greater motivation in life than being told not to do something. So I figured, as talked about earlier, that the biggest hurdle to using “because” and “if” is how they’re opposite to how they’re situated in English. In Korean they go cause –> effect, rather than English’s effect –> cause. So I figured if I changed the way I envision them in my head, I might be more successful using them. So I’d compose them as “Because I didn’t go to class last week, my teachers were worried” rather than “My teachers were worried because I didn’t go to class last week.” And oh, what a difference a change in phrasing makes!

It worked! It worked great! It was almost effortless if you ignore me having to remember the “because” conjunction (~(으)니까) because I’m out of practice using it. But, by putting “because” first, mentally I’m alerted to what conjunction I’m using first, and away I go! As my exclamations can attest, it was a big moment for me. Especially helpful after a number of rough days with my Anki quizzes and then Saturday’s class.

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A perfect start to the week.

ShenaniTims Vs. Anki: Round 48

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

Almost a full year of doing these progress reports. While I’ve never failed in taking the (daily) quizzes, my enthusiasm here certainly has. Especially when I have a week like last week, which could simply be described as “full of new vocabulary.”

Nearly 20 new words a day, which saw me burning out midweek. I kept with it though, and some of the new words easily pop into my head when I’m riding my bike and formulating sentences.  Others, unfortunately, still elude me. “To Cause/To Stir-Up,” a/k/a 일으키다, will bow before me eventually!
As far as classes go, I missed Safurday’s class in a failed attempt to make a film for the “Make It Great In 48” film competition. I did, however, almost get picked up by US military security trying to film a project for said contest; so that’s something I guess.

My Sunday class went alright too. Same drill as previous weeks: write a ton of sentences about my week in English, and then do my best to say them. And I was generally happy with my performance this week. The sentences I missed were ones that I knew I was going to miss firsthand. But I still had to try: a.) to see if I was right, and b.) to actually find out how to say whatever I wanted correctly.

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And as with weeks past, my hit ratio wasn’t too bad this week either. The sentences written above are the ones that were major corrections to what I had been trying to say. And two of those sentences are variations on the proper way, making my hit ratio even better. Not bad for only studying for a little over a year!

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Oi. So I talked about loading a ton of new vocabulary into Anki last week, and so I started paying the piper this week. My deck is now frontloaded with a bunch of words I’m struggling with; making me think that adding 150+ in 7 days time might be a little too much to handle.

Sadly, the addiction still remains though. Despite realizing this, and having just typed it, and knowing that it’s real, I’m still tempted to make new flashcards for the vocabulary words I picked up at work today and yesterday.