Archive for Life as an Expat

어렵은 저녁이었어요.

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

Translation: It was a difficult evening.

5/10; as I start this new book, I’m also having to constantly remind myself that a tougher, more advanced, book will be more difficult. Such frustration was magnified tenfold when I realized here that the words I’m supposed to listen to and write and reasonably obscure. (The word in question here, 경로석, is a seat reserved for the elderly. As you can see above, said word is not introduced in any meaningful way, nor have I ever seen it used.

Needless to say, I spend a lot of time reminding myself that I’ve learning an extremely difficult language. Not to mention the fact that the book is tougher. If the problems didn’t get harder, then I’d be considered fluent and wouldn’t need the book.

My solution?

The HelloTalk app.

The ample supply of support there is encouraging when your own mind is doubting you. Especially when the sentences you posted weren’t double-checked first in Google Translate. Instead I thought of this as I was walking out of the 반찬가게.

As usual, my words failed me in the shop. But, as I was leaving, the normal interstitial dialogue came flooding into my head. Rather than turn around and speak to the shop owner (next time), I ran to the coffee shop where I scribbled it down and instead “spoke” it to the faceless internet dwellers. Giving me a boost right when I needed it most.


Apparently I wasn’t the only one with unfinished business, as the shop owner stopped me tonight as I passed by. Giving me some 게란말이 as “service” (Koreans’ way of saying “on the house”).


네 토요일을 어떻었어요?

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , on April 7, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: How was your Saturday?

I missed class today because there was another class going on, this one focusing on teaching techniques. (Courtesy of Jeonju’s “KoTESOL” organization; thanks!) While I hate losing one-on-one Korean study time, my teacher is on vacation this week (Vietnam), and I figure trading two hours of Korean a month for two hours of higher-level teaching tutelage is a more than fair deal.

Plus there’s still this, the “after class, but before dinner” self-styled, private, Korean session. According to my book’s answer key, I’m not wrong here!

Also, there’s this. Proof that once a year the skies above Jeonju clear up just enough that everything isn’t super-hazy/overcast.

새로운 우유를 찾았어요!

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , , , , on March 29, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: I found new milk!

Yesterday heralded the discovery of a new milk. A new… BLUEBERRY milk!

Thank God for early morning bike ride low blood sugars. And my refusal to accept the fact that I might need to stop at a new convenience store to buy milk to shore up said blood sugar. Instead I held out on going to my “go to” store before realizing that there was no way I’d make it there without the aid that I was riding there to get.

Yarg, that’s an ugly sentence. Gives you an idea of how I was feeling.

So I cut down a side road and found an unexplored supermarket. This is always exciting because it offers the chance to find somewhere that sells 피순대 (blood sausage) again. (My last hook up dried up.) Unfortunately this place didn’t have 피순대, but it did have blueberry milk. And surprisingly large, and cheap!, broccoli. So I’ll be stopping there this weekend when I stock up on vegetables for the week.

As for the milk itself, it’s okay (괜찮아요). Serviceable even. The blueberry taste isn’t particularly strong, leaving more of a milk aftertaste than a blueberry milk aftertaste. Which, in my mind, should’ve been the star of the show I guess there’s always next time.

바보의 해골이에요

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , on March 28, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: Anatomy of a Fool (Dumbass).

The above is a true statement. As with most statements in my (budding) bilingual life, I automatically try to translate all statements I make into the other language. It’s a fun test, even if, as the case is here, my audience will be none the wiser either way. My mind even pointed out to me the foolishness of using Google Translate to double check work that would never be checked anyway. (Single-checked?)

또 돌아왔어요i

Posted in Hogwan Hijinks!, Tales From the Hogwan with tags , , , , on March 27, 2018 by shenanitim

Translation: Back Again.

Same as it ever was. I’ve read the key to learning a new language is being consistent. While my blogging certainly isn’t, my ability to practice Korean grammar in a coffee shop after work certainly is. The biggest win from the corrections last night is that I could understand them all on a fundamental level. No looking them up on Google Translate to deduce what the words are doing. (“Oh, that should’ve been this. I get that.”)

After a rough two weeks of studying, this felt like the kind of payoff I needed. That and more books to work through.

Listening has always been my weakest area, and I love the Get It Korean Grammar series of books, so I was stoked to see they have a sister series dedicated to Listening. By hook or by crook, I’m gonna make it.

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.