Wednesday, October 31, 2007

그동안 많이 배웠다

It has been two months since I started preparation for TOPIK and KLPT. I literally slept with my books and dictionary every night. Actually I have all the reasons and excuses in the world not to work hard as the test results are inconsequential. I don't need them to study or find a job in Korea. But I decided that I should prove a point to myself that nothing is impossible in the face of determination. The natural course of thing is that before anything makes a turn for the better, everything else looks bleak. At certain point of time, it seems that there will be no light at the end of the tunnel. However, after coming through all, I realise that I have indeed learnt a lot over the last two months. TOPIK's result will be out tomorrow and KPLT's result will be out a month later. I am not losing sleep over what I will get for my test. I have already gotten what I wanted, which is the state of learning. 드디어 다리를 뻗고 잘 수 있다.

I am always reminded that there are many more people out there who are quietly putting in effort and time to study Korean. There is this middle-age guy who used to be in the same class as me in SKS. He is a Malaysian who lives in Johor Bahru. I used to think that he works and stays in Singapore but I was later told that he works and stays in Johor Bahru. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening, he will make his way across the causeway and take the MRT down to SKS to attend lesson. After the lesson, he will make his way back to Woodlands and across the causeway and as such, his passport is always in his bag. I am not too sure whether I will do likewise if the only place to learn Korean is in Malaysia. Will I ever go through the immigration checkpoints and cross the causeway four times a week just to study Korean language? Quite a number of people told me that they like very much to continue to study Korean but SKS is too out of way for them. They are not wrong to cite inconvenience as a reason for not continuing with their Korean study but it just makes what this middle-age Malaysian does, for the sake of studying Korean, all the more respectable.

I received the following e-mail from my "hu-bae" (후배-後輩) or junior who is studying at NUS Extension. He sent me this mail a few days before his Basic KLPT. I thought the mail was quite inspiring to me and I will like to share it.

Dear Equinox!

Hi there! I was just searching randomly and I just happen to come across your blog cos I was searching for materials on KLPT and your write up on it came up. Anyway, I'm taking the B-KLPT this Sunday at NUS-extension.

Not going to write a long mail but just want to tell that it's a good thing you wrote your journey on learning Korean in your blog. I started learning Korean last July with NUS extension and currently I'm waiting to start on Lv 6 on Nov 9. Up till now, I felt very alone in this journey I decided to embark upon last July. I took up Korean because I like the culture alot and wanted to learn more about it. I also thought that a third language would help me open up more rooms in my career. However, after a year of lessons, struggling and swimming in the deep pool of the Korean language, I begin to feel that Korean is not just a language, it is a life style and a way of life for many people. Thus, I took up the challenge to get a taste of real Korean life in Korea through the 3-weeks programme at Kyung Hee University from 3 Sept 07 to 24 Sept 07.

Reading your blog, reminded my of my own experiences in learning Korean as well as my time in KHU. Even on the KHU programme, I thought that we are like the few Singaporeans ever on the programme. Some how feel that Singaporeans are very obedient and few would venture out of their comfort zone to try new things. Thus it was a warm feeling to know there there are so many like-minded people out there passionate about Korean. Previously, I only planned to study Korean to get my B-KLPT and stop there. However, the KHU programme totally changed my perception. I realised that I really love the way Korean way of life and will continue my journey with the language.

Thank you for letting people like me know that we are not alone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

시험 본 후의 생각

I took my KLPT last Sunday at NUS Extension. This time round, I knew exactly what to expect. I was not a bit intimidated by the test and completed all the questions within the time given. I know I will definitely cross the 200-marks passing point unlike last year when I have to hope to be lucky to pass. I am also quite sure I will surpass my last year result of 245 marks. A year has indeed made a different to my Korean proficiency.

There were 16 students this year who took the test though 18 had registered. The size was slightly smaller than last year probably because many potential takers were streamed to take Basic KLPT instead. Within the exam hall, I could see many familiar faces. To be exact, I knew half of the group inside the exam hall. Among those, were my Korean Basic Level 1 classmates who started learning Korean with me two years ago. The best time of my life was spent in Level 1. It seems like yesterday that we have all just started studying Korean.

Whatever result I may get eventually, I am quite aware that I am nowhere near proficient in Korean language yet. I think I will probably be back to take KLPT again next year. Perhaps, I may stop taking it once I can cross the 400-marks point. Hopefully by the next test, I can reach that target. This will mean that I will have to continue to study hard in the coming year. With probably only one or two more semesters of Korean lesson left, I may have to do quite a bit of self study next year. Whatever thing may be, I will take it in my stride. KLPT, see you next year. I'll be back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

사과 및 사과

[Photo Credit: Chosunilbo, 조선일보, 朝鮮日報]

October 24 is "Apple Day" or 사과 날 in Korea. This day was introduced in 2002 and is now into its sixth year. The main objective of Apple Day is to encourage making of apology, through using apple as a means, to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Coincidentally, apple and apology are both written as "사과" (pronounced "sa-gwa") and hence the natural linkage between the two words. Apparently, not many Koreans buy apple during Apple Day to make apology as much as they would buy chocolate or sweets during Valentine's Day and White Day.

I believe affections as well as misunderstandings have their fair share of our lives. While it may sometimes be difficult to say you like someone, it maybe more difficult to say, I am sorry. Saying out "I am sorry" doesn't take a second of our time but when emotion is attached to it, it can be a mountain to climb. To be exact there are two mountains to climb. Firstly, it is always not so clear-cut who is right or wrong but there is a natural tendency in people to believe I am right and others are wrong. If people think that they are right, rationally, apology will not cross their minds and misunderstanding persists. Secondly, for those people who are ready to offer apology, pride and ego are the next hurdle that stand in the way. People tend to wait for others to apologise first before apologising themselves. If we do believe so much in upkeeping our pride and ego then it will be difficult for anyone to make the first move. As a result, misunderstanding gains a firmer foothold in our lives.

In reality, no one is fully right or wrong and pride and ego are not really worth that much than we think they are. It is mere foolishness and ignorance of human beings that misunderstanding persists and happiness curbs. In Chinese, "sa-gwa" sounds like “傻瓜" or fool (바보). Perhaps if I may, I would like to add that besides offering each other an apple as an apology, we should eat the apple to remind ourselves that we have to be fools to even start the misunderstanding. The world will definitely be a better place if there are less misunderstanding and more understanding. For a long time, we have nothing in form to represent a sincere apology. Apple Day will definitely make this world a better place to live in if everyone can celebrate it with earnest like Valentive's Day. Afterall, in life it is not just love but also forgiveness that we need to learn.

P.S. Singaporeans are known to utter "I am sorry" without much hesitation for the fact that we tends to be late than punctual. Noted an expatriate, "I am sorry" is a very Singaporean way of saying "Hello, how are you?". From his observation, the first sentence a Singaporean will likely to say is, "I am sorry, I am late.". That being the case, I think I should organise more gathering and meeting and as a rule makes those late-comers buy apple as a form of apology. From the apples collected, I should be able to set up a fruit stall very soon. ㅎㅎㅎ

Sunday, October 14, 2007

잠시만 기다리세요

In the next two weeks, I shall be staying at home to keep my KLPT preparation books and dictionary company. During this period, I will taking a break from blogging. I think it may not be that bad afterall as meanwhile I won't have anything interesting to blog. I shall be back in two weeks time. Things shall get a bit interesting in November and December. Until then, 기다리세요.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

지금 땡땡이 치고 있다

I just feel like loafing now though I should be preparing for KLPT. Perhaps, I shall immerse myself into KLPT preparation again for a good two weeks starting from next week. It is a pity that I cannot continue with Advanced level 2 course at SKS in this semester but I am likely to miss a lot of lessons if I am to sign up for the course. This is the first time in 2 years that I have chosen to give up on a chance to study Korean. Every chance to study Korean in Singapore is precious to me but with all the constraints, I guess my study will have to wait until the next semester. Meanwhile, I am not about to loaf around everyday and by the way, today is an exception. I am actually quite excited about the things that will be happening in the next two months but I am not divulging anything yet. Perhaps, I may share it as things unfold themselves.

Three weeks ago, my last TOPIK class ended our semester with a gathering at Su (수-秀) Korean Restaurant located at Far East Plaza Basement 1. It was supposed to be a treat by our teacher, Ms Min Yeon-hyeon, but it ended up as a treat from us to her. It was a hilarious moment when we "threatened" the female boss of the restaurant that we would not bring our family or friends to her restaurant in future if she was to accept our teacher's money. Of course, we got our way at the end and to the relief of the female boss who was caught in a dilemma for a long while. During the gathering, someone asked our teacher where she would recommend in Korea to study Korean language. She started by stating that Yonsei is among the first few universities to offer Korean language courses but because it has a long history in teaching Korean language, its teaching method is also quite antiquated. She recommended Kyunghee as she finds that its teaching methodology has kept pace with time. I must qualify that our teacher is doing a part-time Masters in Korean language at Kyunghee so there may be some possibility of biasness.

Our teacher went on to say that many foreign students self-funded their study in Korea by giving English or Chinese tuition after school every day. In fact, a language tuition teacher can earn more than a normal company employee. Almost every other Korean students need an English tuition teacher so the demand is always there. This piece of information sounds reassuring for any Singaporean who want to study Korean in Korea but are afraid of their livelihood. If Americans, Canadians, Britons can earn a living by teaching English in Korea, there is no doubt that Singaporeans can do likewise if not better since some Singaporeans are effectively bilingual. In addition, we can throw in teaching Singlish for free ^^;;

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


생각하라 그 속에 모든 답이 있다. Think, all answers are within. I knew I used to think a lot during my undergrad days. I think a lot more in depth when I was studying quantum chemistry. Have you ever wonder why there is a saying, "curiosity kills the cat."?

It originates from a thought experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger to illustrate the duality nature of quantum mechanics. In this experiment, Schrödinger imagined a cat inside an enclosed steel chamber along with a tiny bit of radioactive substance and a mechanism which will release poison upon detection of an atom emitted from radioactive decay. There can be only two outcomes for the cat inside the chamber after being left alone for some time. It can either be dead or alive but we can never be too sure unless we open the chamber. The fact that the cat can be dead and alive at the same time mirrors the duality nature of quantum mechanics. Duality exists if there is no human intervention. Let say, a person, out of curiosity, opens the chamber. There will then only be one outcome for the cat. Duality vanishes upon human intervention. So if the person finds a dead cat, the cat can never be alive anymore which is why curiosity kills the cat.

From what I have learnt about from the world of quantum mechanics, I believe in "non-human intervention" for my future. That means, I don't believe in having my fortune told. I rather let my future takes its natural course. Possibilities exist because I don't intervene but if I do intervene, be it good or bad outcome, I think it is still worse off than if I have left it alone. If I know my future is good, I may become lazy and not work hard. And if it is bad, I may resign to fate and give up trying. I must say that I believe in fortune telling and I am not afraid to have my fortune told but I would rather "tell" my own future by working for it.

Talking about possibilities, can Singapore really be a "City of Possibilities". It can but not when the government intervenes. Being pragmatic and outcome-driven, I think it is very difficult for our government not to intervene. Perhaps a more appropriate description of Singapore is that it is a "City of Outcomes". But then again, do our people really care whether it is a "City of Possibilities" or a "City of Outcomes"? For the fact that Singaporeans seldom "intervene" with what the government says, we can always live with the "duality". At this juncture, I would like to think that if a person thinks too much, simple thing can become too complicated and a spade can no longer be called a spade. At times, it may sound counter-productive to think. Yes, I may end up at the same point where I started but because I think, I ended seeing with clarity the two sides of the same coin.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

인기 많은 가요

땡벌 is a rather popular "gayo" (Korean pop song). I think 땡벌 means wild bee. In the song lyrics, 땡벌 is used to describe a girl whose fickle-mindedness and unfathomable thought almost drives a guy's patience to the limit. But her kind and warmth heart more than make up for it. The song, though sounds a bit passe, is popular with both young and old. This can probably be attributed to its simple lyrics and catchy melody. This is a "must-learn" song for the noraebang. Even if I cannot sing well, just echoing 땡벌 땡벌 would still be very fun.

아~ 당신은 못 믿을 사람
아~ 당신은 철없는 사람
아무리 달래봐도 어쩔 순 없지만 마음 하나는 괜찮은 사람
오늘은 들국화 또 내일은 장미꽃
치근치근 치근대다가 잠이 들겠지

난 이제 지쳤어요 땡벌 (땡벌)
기다리다 지쳤어요 땡벌 (땡벌)
혼자서는 이 밤이 너무 너무 추워요
당신은 못 말리는 땡벌 (땡벌)
당신 날 울리는 땡벌 (땡벌)
혼자서는 이 밤이 너무 너무 길어요.

아~ 당신은 야속한 사람 아~ 당신은 모를 사람
밉다가도 돌아서면 마음에 걸리는 마음 하나는 따뜻한 사람
바람에 맴돌다 또 맴돌다 어딘가
기웃기웃 기웃대다가 잠이 들겠지

당신을 사랑해요 땡벌 (땡벌)
당신을 좋아해요 땡벌 (땡벌)
밉지만 당신을 너무너무 사랑해

Sunday, October 07, 2007

꿈의 나라

I am not contented to just dreaming. I want to make dream a reality. A dream can as real as anything in this world if I put in the required effort to make it happens. It is just a matter of time before I realise my dream but meanwhile I am not praying for good fortune to fall from the sky. There are many more things I need to work on. Life is more interesting if there is a dream to pursue. Have you ever wonder why victory is sweet? I think it is because the hard work leading to victory is bitter. Dream fulfillment is like victory, before you can taste sweetness, you have to take in a lot of bitterness. There is a Chinese saying, "Because of dream, mankind is great." (人因为梦想而伟大) Therefore, I believe that everyone should have a dream and every success in life always begin with a dream. Dream has weight, 梦是有重量的, 꿈이 무게 있다.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

2년 동안

제가 한국어를 배운지 2년 가까이 되어 갑니다.
한국어를 처음 배우게 되면 어려운 것 보다는 재미있는 경우가 더 많습니다.
한국어를 배우는 과정에서 실수 한 일이나 틀리게 단어를 쓴 일을 회상 할 때마다 얼굴에 웃음을 짓게 되고 재미있었다는 생각이 들게 되더라고요.
어느새 이 일들은 가슴 속에 소중한 경험으로 새겨지게 되었습니다.
2년 동안 저에게 한국어를 가르쳐 주신 선생님들께 정말 감사합니다.
앞으로 더 열심히 한국어을 공부하겠습니다.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

밖에 나가고 싶어

The travel bug is biting again. It's time to look out to what is on the other side of the wall. Prolonged exposure to enclosed office environment is sure bad for healthy mind and body. I need to start planning or I may end up not going anywhere. Did anyone say that work can never be finished? I shall not wait until all my work are finished or I will never go anywhere. Well, if I have to go, I guess I will just go. Sorry boss but I need to live my life.

Monday, October 01, 2007


TOPIK - Test of Proficiency in Korean (한국어능력시험)

1. Administrating Body: Korea Institute of Curriculum & Evaluation

2. Singapore Test Centre: Singapore Korean School

3. Type of Test Paper: B-TOPIK (Business TOPIK) and S-TOPIK (Standard TOPIK). I will only be talking about S-TOPIK in this comparison. The S-TOPIK is divided into 3 different types of paper, namely Basic level, Intermediate level and Advanced level. Basic level paper is meant for people who want to attain 1st or 2nd grade pass. Intermediate level paper is meant for 3rd or 4th grade pass and Advanced level paper is meant for 5th or 6th grade pass.

4. Exam Date: Twice a year in Apr and Sep but in Singapore, TOPIK is only conducted in Sep every year.

5. Test Fee: S$50 (fee has been revised to $80 since 2008)

6. Test Duration: 180mins in total conducted over 2 sessions of 90mins each with 30mins rest in between.

7. Test Score: 400 points in total. 100 points each for vocabulary/grammar, writing, listening and reading.

8. Test Paper Format: There are two set of papers. The first set of paper covers vocabulary/grammar and writing. There are 30 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) for vocabulary/grammar. As for the writing, there are 10 MCQs, 5 sentence-making questions and a composition. The composition alone is worth 30 points. The first set of paper is taken in the first session. The second set of paper covers listening and reading. There are 30 MCQs each for listening and reading. The second set of paper is taken in the second session.

9. Grading System: The TOPIK grading system is a little bit complex. With reference to the below table, if a person wants to attain a 2nd grade pass, he or she must obtain an average score of more than 70 points from the 4 different sections tested in the Beginner level paper and none of these sections should score below 50 points. If he or she has an average score of more than 50 points but less than 70 points, he or she would still be considered to have failed the Beginner level paper if any of the sections falls below 40 points. Under that situation, no grade will be given.

10. Preparatory Course: Starting this year, SKS begins to conduct preparatory courses for TOPIK Beginner and Intermediate. The course fee is S$481.50 for 20 lessons with each lesson lasting two hours each. Commencing in July, courses are conducted on every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

11. Study Aid: Past years test questions and answers are available at TOPIK's homepage.

Personal note about taking TOPIK - TOPIK requires students to use black marker pen instead of pencil to shade the answer sheet. This means that you cannot alter a wrong answer after you have shaded. Don't bother to change the answer sheet if you discover that you have done one question wrongly. It is just not worth it. You have at most only 1.5mins for every question. Changing the answer sheet and reshade is "suicidal". It can take away precious time for 3 to 4 questions worth about 12 points. Another point to note is that the passages in the reading section are quite long. There is no way to comprehend the full passage in 1.5mins unless you are so good that you can understand the passage in just a glance. So what I did was that I didn't even bother reading. I just picked any one answer.

Our teacher told us that student who obtains a 5th grade pass for TOPIK can apply to enter any Korean university directly without the need to attend further Korean language course. Personally, I find that TOPIK is much more challenging than KLPT and it requires more preparation work as well. In particular, I have to spend quite a bit of time practising my writing skill. The test is very thorough and I am unable to hide any of my inadequacies. This is a test that, I think, best indicates my level of proficiency. Of course, the test result will not show my conversational ability as this proficiency is not tested.


KLPT - Korean Language Proficiency Test (세계한국말인증시험)

1. Administrating Body: Korean Language Society

2. Singapore Test Centre: NUS Extension

3. Type of Test Paper: B-KLPT (Basic KLPT) and KLPT. B-KLPT is an easier paper. I am only talking about KLPT in this comparison.

4. Exam Date: Twice a year in Apr and Oct but in Singapore, KLPT is only conducted in Oct every year.

5. Test Fee: US$30 according to KLPT website but NEX charged S$125 (S$60 for NEX admin charge and S$65 for KLPT registration)

6. Test Duration: 110mins in total with 40mins for listening (40 MCQs) and 70mins for vocabulary, grammar and conversation (60 MCQs).

7. Test Score: 500 points in total. Each question is worth 5 points.

8. Test Paper Format: One set of paper with 100 questions. 40 MCQs on listening and 15 MCQs each on vocabulary, grammar, reading and conversation.

9. Grading System: The KLPT grading system is quite straightforward. Depending on how many point you score, the following level of proficiency will apply.

10. Preparatory Course: NEX also conducts preparatory course for KLPT. Students who wish to sign up for the course are required to take a placement test to determine their level. Currently, only KLPT elementary level course is conducted. The course fee is S$400 for 10 lessons with each lesson lasting 3 hours each. Commencing in August, course is conducted on every Saturday evening.

11. Study Aid: KLPT textbooks from elementary level to advanced level can be bought at S$45 each over the reception counter at NUS Extension, level 12, Park Mall.

Personal note about taking KLPT - Unlike TOPIK, KLPT allows the use of pencil for shading the answer sheet so wrong answer can still be salvaged at the very last minute. However, you probably can't find time to correct your answer. For listening portion, only 1min is given per question and that include the time for the question to be read out. For the rest, only about 1.17min is given for each question. You won't have time to translate words in your head nor will you have time to daydream. However, I always have this belief. I am taking this test simply because I am not good enough so why do I need to think so hard. If I don't understand the question, I just guess. At least I have 25% chance of getting the question right.

Frankly, I don't really know the market value of a KLPT certificate. I took the test more for practisng my Korean language. I think it is supposed to be used when someone would like to seek job in Korea or in a Korean company. Exactly what level is good enough to get a job is not something that I know.