Stuck on the Plateau

Learning another language is an unavoidably humbling experience. Either you find yourself humbled by how stupid you feel but push on with the dream of some day expressing yourself to the fullest – or the feeling of stupidity crowds out everything else until you give up. Continue reading


Bad Language Days™

It’s time to talk about Bad Language Days™.

We all have them. And no, I’m not talking about swearing. I’m talking about the days when, seemingly out of nowhere, your brain shuts down and refuses to function in your second (or third, or fourth) language.

If I’m being completely honest, I’ll admit Bad Language Days happen in my native English, too. Cannot compute. Cannot English. Cannot Korean. Words come to a full stop, and if I’m lucky, this happens before I’m halfway through a word or sentence that I’ve forgotten how to say. A word that I’ve never had a problem pronouncing becomes a mouthful of pain. Continue reading

2018년: New Year, New Goals

여러분 안녕하세요! 늦었지만 새해 복 많이 받으시길~

And just like that, another year has come and gone.

The latter half of 2017 was a terrible year for my Korean language studies, but the rest was fantastic. I was enrolled in my teacher’s specially-designed independent study to write nine-episode fanfiction (mine’s published here). I also started my honors thesis around this time last year, and for several incredibly intense, fast-paced months, I immersed myself in prose, poems, and dusty tomes from the university library.

My thesis centered on The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness by Shin Kyung-sook (famous for Please Look After Mom and I’ll Be Right There). While I mainly referenced the English edition, I had the Korean (titled 외딴 방) to verify which Korean words were used for what. The nuance of the translation of ‘factory girl’ from Korean words like 공순이, 여공, and 노동자 was a vital part of my analysis. The history and culture surrounding each word is different, and it makes a huge difference in contextualizing meaning and emotion.

This is the nuance of language, the nuance of feeling: the essence of the everyday. Continue reading

페북 추천: Learning Korean with Humans of Seoul

This is a bit of shameless self-promotion since I’m a translator for the Humans of Seoul page, but did you know that we also have a page dedicated to dissecting the Korean interviews and explaining intermediate-level Korean? You can find us at Learning Korean with Humans of Seoul. While I contribute, I also love reading the posts my fellows create there. There’s always something new to learn, no matter how much you already know!


Below the dissection, you can read the entire original interview in both Korean and English (not pictured here).

Continue reading

Your future is created by what you do today


Your future is created by what you do today.

미래는 오늘 당신이 하는 걸로 만들어진다.

– Robert Kiyosaki

Mondays are rough. But you make tomorrow through what you do today. Want to improve your language skills? Putting off that quick vocab review until tomorrow isn’t going to make fluency and confidence come any quicker. Language learning and upkeep takes dedication – even a little bit, every day, has an effect that goes a long, long way into your future. 오늘도 화이팅하세요!

Translation by yours truly. All mistakes mine. 

Books I bought in Korean (and other acts of madness)


새해 복 많이 받으세요!

It’s already been over a week since I left the Land of the Morning Calm and returned home – and discovered that Seoul has more snow than Michigan, which is terrible. Michigan, I feel betrayed!

In my three heavy suitcases, I lugged back my earthly possessions: clothes, gifts, selfie sticks, and of course, books. Textbooks, biographies, and works by Andrei Lankov, obviously, but more pertinent to my language studies, I brought back books in Korean.

Me in the Kyobo Bookstore inside Gwanghwamun Station

I am a firm believer that the more you read, the wiser you can become, and the better you learn to write and comprehend. It doesn’t matter what language you read in; it will help you. Korean is no exception, which is why I pushed myself to buy two novels that I know I cannot read without laboring over each paragraph. You can’t get better without challenging yourself. I also chose to buy poetry, because poetry is artistic and allows one to learn about the creative soul within a language.  Continue reading

Manhwa Mania (sort of)


This summer has been full of preparations (mixed with far too much stress and madness) to go to Korea and almost no true, consistent studying of Korean. The one reassurance that my Korean abilities haven’t completely fled comes from my nightly manhwa time.

만화 (manhwa) – a glorious method of reading delightful comics for fun under the thin disguise of “studying Korean”.

When I began reading manhwa, I only really read Penguin Loves Mev because even that simple and sweet story was difficult for me to read in Korean. Each short sentence had a cute, comical illustration that helped me figure out the meanings of words I didn’t know – but I struggled through one chapter at a time, and I translated infrequently but with great effort, dissecting the grammar and asking my language partners about the usage of some words.

Sometime last fall, I got a new phone and discovered that Naver Webtoons has an app (I’d always read Penguin Loves Mev on my laptop). While I was exploring how to use the app, I became interested in trying other manhwa. As much as I loved Penguin Loves Mev, I wanted to challenge myself more (and I generally like fiction/fantasy/adventure). I bookmarked a few new manhwa to try and quickly became fascinated with 천년구미호 (1000 Year Gumiho).

There are lots of reason to read this manhwa. I absolutely love mythical creatures and legends, so anything about a nine-tailed fox (gumiho) from Korean myth – there are related legends in other Asian countries – is sure to grab my attention. I could also extol the virtues of the illustrations and plot….but this post is about language learning.

Time to put my study face on. And study James McAvoy’s beautiful face.


The other reason I love this manhwa is because of the language itself. It’s set in modern-day Korea, so there’s slang and modern colloquial conversations, but since it incorporates lots of ancient mythical creatures, these characters converse in old, historical Korean: very formal and often very different from what you’d hear a friend say to you. It’s an awesome mixture of old and modern Korean and I learn new things in every single chapter.

One of the best things about this manhwa is that the story is so interesting that I never can read just one chapter at a time. I often read at least five, even if it takes a long time, but this is a huge improvement from me struggling through one chapter a night (if that). I’m motivated to continue reading and practicing Korean because I want to know what happens next.

Don’t misunderstand; I definitely don’t understand everything in each chapter, but I’ve vastly improved since last fall when I began reading manhwa again. I can tell that my speed and comprehension has picked up enormously, and the more consistently I read, the better I am at Korean in general.

And, you know, it’s just so funny sometimes. The chicken is probably my all-time favorite character.


Yes that wondrously evil-looking face is the face of doom. A chicken. Technically a rooster. Ah, well.

There are beautiful moments of comedy that make me burst out laughing, scenes of angst and romance, and entire chapters full of action and danger. And then there are scenes where someone FINALLY MENTIONS that one of the evil guys has a hairstyle that makes his head look like a 송편 (songpyeon) which is a traditional Korean food. Check out the head of the guy on the left and compare it to the picture of songpyeon.

cheonnyeon 2

Do you read any manhwa? Let me know if you have a favorite or if you’ve also enjoyed reading 천년구미호. Woohoo for reading!

And 감사합니다 for reading this^^


지금 재생 중 (because 괜찮아, 사랑이야 (It’s Okay, That’s Love) is a fantaaaaaaastic new Kdrama that finally confronts the stigma about mental illness as not being worth the same care as physical illness. Also because this song is really pretty):

Summer Goals

Summer’s almost here. My last final is tomorrow and yet I’m most overjoyed over the prospect of never seeing or hearing from my roommate or her boyfriend again. I’m going to truly miss the vivacity of campus life as the town empties of most of its students, but at least I know some of my friends will be here for a month or two longer. 가지마~~~ ㅠㅠ

Please, GD, kajima!

I can’t fairly complain about people leaving me though, since I’m planning on spending the fall 2014 semester in Seoul. Yes, Seoul. Is it possible to miss a place you’ve never been? I think so. In the meantime, however, I need to get ready. And by getting ready I mean I need to immerse myself as completely in the Korean language as I possibly can over the next several months, because my goal is to return for the winter 2015 semester and test directly into the second semester class of 3rd year Korean. I’ve never been formally tested to see what my level of fluency or ignorance is, and so I’ve been taking 1st year Korean during my freshman year – a seriously entertaining choice because my comprehension of grammar points reaches into much of 3rd year Korean….yet my speaking abilities were basically nil when I entered the class in the last dog days of August almost eight months ago. Or nine. I’m not sure; math isn’t my strong-point and I definitely just counted the months on my fingers and still am not sure if it’s 8 or 9.

I’ll soon be writing up some posts about my experiences taking Korean this past year (this is a promise because otherwise I’ll conveniently forget to do it while reveling in summer sunshine, bubble tea, and the hopes that Big Bang might actually make a comeback within the next decade),but in the meantime I’d like to discuss some of my language-learning goals.


1. Complete review of all Talk To Me In Korean levels up until my current one. And of course, resume actively studying new lessons and leveling up. LEVEL UP. Oh wow, I feel my gaming days returning already….Ahem, and in doing these reviews, I’m going to focus on speaking practice – my biggest nemesis in language learning. Because who really wants to hear herself mispronounce things repeatedly?

2. Establish vocabulary studying regimen (alongside my best friend/language study buddy) of exchanging lists of at least 20 words each every week and then practicing with all 40 via italki posts and my own journaling.

3. Reach a fluency level enabling me to write short stories in Korean! This is a big one for me, since one of my biggest passions since kindergarten has been writing stories. I used to write intense murder mysteries about three detective fairies while I was in kindergarten. Yeah, you’re jealous.

4. Work my way through one Korean novel per month. Now that‘s slightly insane and also mostly possible. I’ve had a book from the library that I’ve been renewing for about 10 months now and I understand the entire first page easily. I just get a bit tired by the second page…but that’s just laziness. This is summer! And summer means….study….time. Actually, summer means finally reading the books I wanted to read all school year long but couldn’t because I had twenty-some novels for my classes to plough through first.

5. Confidence in Korean. This is a big one for me. I’m all fluent and wordy when I’m practicing alone or making small talk with two of my fellow Korean-learning friends, but when confronted with the sweet ahjumma at Arirang who is asking what I want to eat, or when greeting my Korean friend’s wonderful aunt who makes jokes in Korean to me, I freeze up and retreat into the fortress of my native language. This goal isn’t really something I can specifically practice for, other than by practicing and practicing and letting go of the safety-rail of English. Mistakes are okay. They really, really are. And I usually tout this belief quite strongly until my face is burning red from mispronouncing something or randomly swapping the ending to the verb from past tense to future because I’m so completely caught up in being grammatically correct that I forget what the meaning of my sentence was in the first place. So, confidence. Confidence in Korean.


Do you have language learning goals for the summer? 화이팅!!! 그리고 감사합니다!


linguanaut – language learning survival tips


One of my favorite quick-reference sites is linguanaut. It has over 50 languages available, but I use it for Korean and Japanese. (Depending on the language you’re looking for, it has even more than just what the Korean section includes. For example, the Japanese references include a category just for famous Japanese sayings, which is pretty neat!) Its Korean section includes: Continue reading

Extra Help with Hangul

안녕하세요! Are you still struggling to read Korean? Maybe you mix up certain vowels all the time, or you just cannot seem to ever pronounce a specific letter correctly. While I still think that practicing writing out words, phrases, even lyrics to entire songs in Korean can really help you master Hangul, it’s always nice to have a quick and easy reference to check when you’re struggling. My best friend sent me this post from Pinterest; it explains how to read Hangul through a comic-style format by associating the different symbols with words and objects that use the same pronunciation. I definitely recommend this Pinterest post whether you’re just beginning to learn Korean or if you’re a seasoned champ who reads a chapter book written in Hangul a day.

Check it out here if you still haven’t clicked: