Archive for South Korea

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.

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.

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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).