Friday, June 27, 2008

A3 할게요

I received a call from SKS yesterday. The school's administrator, Victoria, confirmed that Advanced 3 Course is going happened in the coming semester which starts next week. Five students have signed up for the course, just nice to make a class. Although it is the first time A3 is offered in SKS, strictly speaking, it is not a new course. It covers chapter 5-8 of Kyunghee's Intermediate 2 textbook which are similarly covered in former A2 Course. Old students of SKS need not rush back to sign up for the course as there is nothing new about it except the course title.

A3 will be my last Korean language course in SKS and perhaps in Singapore. There is unlikely any higher level course beyond this point. It will be my "graduating" course although I am sure there won't be any graduation ceremony at the end. Singapore is quite unlike Korea where they have opening and closing ceremony for all sort of courses. Almost after 3 years, I am finally going to "graduate" but I am quite reluctant to meet the end so soon. Even before the start of A3, I am already missing class as if I have already completed it. My thought seems to have travelled ahead in time.

With or without class, learning should still continue, so I am going to recommend a Korean grammar book. The "Korean Grammar for International Learners" was first introduced by our A1 teacher, Ms Jang, who found this book at Kyobo bookstore while she was back in Korea early this year to celebrate Seollal and her father's 60th birthday . The 442-pages book authored by Ihm Ho Bin, Hong Kyung Pyo and Chang Suk In is published by the reputed Yonsei University Press. You probably won't find another book that gives such a comprehensive coverage of Korean grammars in English. My only gripe about this book is that grammars are generally not explained with enough depth. But lack of a better alternative, this book will still be of great help to Korean language learners. In fact, everyone in my class is in possession of this book. I can't remember how much I paid for the book. I think it is either 15,000won or 20,000won but more likely to be 15,000won.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This is the 40-Steps Stairway (계단, 階段) found somewhere in Busan Central (중구, 中區). There is a sculpture of an old man playing accordion seated at the halfway point. The stairway is meant as a reminder of the hardship experienced by the Korean people in the 50s and 60s, after the end of Korean War. For me, I was reminded of the hardship of our forefathers after the end of World War II. Singapore and Korea share many commonalities in our modern history and because of that I can relate well to their history. Anyway, I thought it was so apt to associate life hardship with the steps of stair. Regardless of how hard life is, one just have to take it one step at a time. In Korea, the number of steps to take per day is definitely more than 40. I counted them in hundreds. I got my daily workout by just walking up and down the stairs. Who needs to go to gym when there are so many steps to take everyday?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

발음 - ㅎ 자음

The consonant "ㅎ" is romanised as "h". The "h" sound in English and Mandarin is quite strong and distinctive. However, in Korean, it is supposed to be pronounced weakly. When speaking Korean, it is alright if "ㅎ" sound is inaudible but it sounds unnatural if "ㅎ" sound is loud and distinct. As a English speaker, I have this tendency of emphasising the "ㅎ" sound and this habit contradicts how a Korean would pronounce "ㅎ". My teacher said that Koreans find it difficult to pronounce "ㅎ" and hence "dislike" pronouncing it. This "dislike" is quite apparent in the pronunciation rules which they set. In the two cases to be discussed below, the "ㅎ" sound is either "merged" with other consonants or totally "omitted".

격음화, 激音化

Rule: When "ㅎ" meets with "ㄱ", "ㄷ", "ㅂ", "ㅈ", it will "change" into aspirated consonant "ㅋ", "ㅌ", "ㅍ", "ㅊ" respectively. This process of "change" is called 격음화. The "change" only occurs in pronunciation and not in the written word.

1. ㅎ + ㄱ, ㄱ + ㅎ → ㅋ
Example: 많고 [만코], 밝히다 [발키다]

2. ㅎ + ㄷ, ㄷ + ㅎ → ㅌ
Example: 많다 [만타], 닫히다 [다치다]*

* According to this rule, 닫히다 is supposed to be pronounced as [다티다]. However, palatalisation rule (구개음화, 口蓋音化) also states that when consonant "ㅌ" meets with vowel "이", "ㅌ" will have to be palatalised to "ㅊ". Hence the right pronunciation is [다치다].

3. ㅎ + ㅂ, ㅂ + ㅎ → ㅍ
Example: 좁히다 [조피다]

4. ㅎ + ㅈ, ㅈ + ㅎ → ㅊ
Example: 많지 [만치], 앉히다 [안치다]

ㅎ탈락, ㅎ脫落

Rule: When batchim "ㅎ" appears in between "ㄴ", "ㄹ", vowel and vowel, it is "omitted". "ㅎ" is "omitted" in pronunciation only and not in the written word.

1. Batchim "ㅎ" in between "ㄴ" and vowel.
Example: 많아요 [마나요]. In this example, batchim "ㅎ" is in between batchim "ㄴ" and the vowel "아". Hence, it is "omitted".

2. Batchim "ㅎ" in between "ㄹ" and vowel.
Example: 잃어요 [이러요]. In this example, batchim "ㅎ" is in between batchim "ㄹ" and the vowel "어". Hence, it is "omitted".

3. Batchim "ㅎ" in between 2 vowels.
Example: 좋아요 [조아요]. In this example, batchim "ㅎ" is in between vowel "오" and "아". Hence, it is "omitted".

The above two rules explain for the "mysterious" disappearance of "ㅎ" sound which puzzled me for a long time. I guess the best way to deal with things that you don't like is to make them disappear. ㅋㅋㅋ

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

발음 - 반모음 탈락

Semi-vowel [y] Omission - 반모음[y] 탈락, 半母音[y] 脫落

There are two semi-vowels in the Korean language. They are [w] and [y]. Word like 와 (wa) and 여 (yeo) carries the semi-vowel [w] and [y] respectively. However, the omission rule to be discussed below only involves semi-vowel [y].

Rule: When semi-vowel [y] comes after a palatal sound (ㅈ, ㅉ, ㅊ), it is omitted.

You probably won't know what the rule means by just reading it. Neither do I. The examples below should give a clearer explanation.

Example 1: 가르쳐요 is pronounced as [가르처요]. As the semi-vowel [y] comes after the palatal sound "ㅊ", it has to be omitted. 쳐 (ch-yeo) is hence pronounced as [처] (ch-eo].

Example 2: 예뻐졌어요 is pronounced as [예뻐저써요]. Similarly, the semi-vowel [y] comes after the palatal sound "ㅈ". As required by the rule, 졌 (j-yeot) is pronounced as [젔] (j-eot) after the semi-vowel [y] is omitted.

All my teachers pronounced 쳐요 as [처요], but for a long time, I used to think that it sounded that way because they were pronouncing 쳐요 very fast to the extent that it sounded like [처요]. I didn't feel that something was amiss as I was also not corrected when I pronounced 쳐요 as 쳐요. As I continue to hear 쳐요 being pronounced as [처요], I changed my thought. I thought, perhaps Koreans like to simplify 여 to 어 during speech, so I started to pronounce 쳐요 as [처요]. It may sound funny now, but I also started to pronounce 며 (m-yeo) as [머] (m-eo) and 력 (l-yeok) as [럭] (l-eok]. While my teacher corrected my mistakes this time round, I was left more puzzled. All this while, I wasn't aware of this semi-vowel omission rule. But when I learned about it, everything seems to fall into place nicely. I guess, the reason why this rule exists is because it is naturally easier to pronounce 처 than 쳐. To pronounce the semi-vowel [y] after "ㅊ", "ㅈ" or "ㅉ" just feel awkward even before I know about this rule.

연극은 성공

The last day of term in SKS has never been so stressful. All Korean classes in SKS were required to stage a performance yesterday. I think the scale of the event is unprecedented. As far as I can recall, cultural events in SKS don't usually involve a lot of preparations and efforts. But this time round, things are quite different. Many of the classes came prepared with costumes, stage props and makeup. In order to ensure that there would be enough time for every class to perform, the cultural event commenced at 7:30pm instead of the usual 8:00pm. Guess what? At 7:30pm, our class was still outside the school auditorium rehearsing our script. That only shows how last minute we were in our preparation. There is only one expression that best described my feeling then - 너무 떨었어요.

Our script was taken from episode 14 of the Korean drama "My Lovely Samsoon". Our teacher "spoon-fed" us with the script since none of us knew any better what we should do for the cultural event. The main difficulty of reading the Korean script was that it was so colloquial and quite unlike the conversational style which we were taught during lesson. For example, lesson don't teach us how to scold others but the script does. It took me quite a while to get over the difficulty of reading colloquial Korean but once that was done, I thought acting in colloquial Korean was quite an interesting experience. I would have probably enjoyed myself if our teacher had no expectation or whatsoever. But from my observation, our teacher was actually quite worried about our performance yesterday.

Being the most "advanced" class in the school has both advantage and disadvantage. The disadvantage is that people will always look upon us to set the standard for our "후배" (juniors). It doesn't matter whether we think we need to fill the shoes, there is always an expectation for us to do so. Our teacher was quite mindful about this unsaid expectation, if not, she wouldn't have shown a sign of relieve when we performed well. Our class won the third prize although we didn't invest much time and effort into preparing and rehearsing for our performance. That is an advantage of being the most "advanced" class - with more experience, we can get away by doing less. Though we scored low for our effort and creativity, we made up in our Korean pronunciation. Frankly speaking, I was quite embarrassed when we won because I knew we didn't put in as much efforts as the other classes - 너무 창피해요.

With the end of the cultural event, this term has also come to an end. I am not too sure if Advanced 3 will start on 1st July as scheduled. Two of my classmates have decided to take a break, so Advanced 3 is unlikely to start unless there is infusion of "fresh blood". If there is no class, I think I shall just spend my free time preparing for TOPIK Intermediate and KLPT. Whatever happens, I just need to keep learning - 끊임없이 공부해야 겠어요. 길이 아직도 멀기 때문이에요.

Friday, June 13, 2008

기말 시험

We had our end-of-term Korean language examination at SKS yesterday. It comprises an oral and written test. For the oral test, we were first asked to read a short story and then answer a few questions. The interesting part was I didn't know what I was reading and neither did I know what were being asked. Yet, I could still answer all the questions correctly. It seemed like I just knew, in my subconscious, where to find the answers in the story. I wonder if my teacher could see through that I didn't really know what I was saying. Anyway, there was also a free conversation which I was supposed to comment about the course. Among other things, I said that I have learnt a lot of new grammars and vocabulary. I also got more writing practices compared to previous courses. Last but not least, I took the opportunity to "complain" about the absence of multiple choices in the written test (I was doing my written test halfway before being called out for the oral test).

I must confess, going into the exam, I was expecting an easy test paper that comes with multiple choices and fill-in-the-blank sort of questions. However, what we got, threw me off completely. For example, we were required to explain the meaning of "이열치열" (以熱治熱) in Korean, write down the correct Korean idiom (no multiple choices) after being given the explanation and complete 12 sentences using the grammars provided. Then there was a "long" passage (about 3/4 page length with single spacing) that we must read and comprehend before we could select the most appropriate answer to fill in the blank. The passage was not taken off our workbook and that was quite out of my expectation. Despite that, I could understand this passage much better than the one given for oral test. At least, I know that there was a tiger, a crying child and a mother who tried to scare her child by saying that tiger would eat him up if he continues to cry. Finally, we were required to write a 50-words composition about Singapore's gift or food that is of special significance. Though the questions in the test paper caught me by surprise, it wasn't a very difficult paper afterall.

It's one more lesson and a drama to the end of Advanced 2. Hope that we don't make a fool of ourselves during the cultural event next week. Tell you a secret, our teacher is more worried about our drama performance than ourselves. 선생님, 걱정마세요. 우리 연극은 잘 될지 모르겠지만 최선을 다 하겠어요.

Monday, June 09, 2008

토요일 수업

Our teacher, Ms Kim, has a habit of elaborating on the vocabulary and grammar being taught. Besides elaborating about language points and grammars, she like to tell story and sometimes gossip a bit during lesson.

Situation 1: When she elaborated on the word "혼란" (混亂, chaos).

Elaboration: These days, Seoul is in a state of chaos. Do you know the cause of this chaos? Koreans attribute it to the President, "이명박" (李明博, Lee Myung Bak) and do you know what is his latest "별명" (別名, nickname)? It's 2MB. Why 2MB? 2 and 이 (Lee) have the same pronunciation and MB is the initial for Myung Bak. So is 2MB or 2 megabytes flattering or derogatory? It's derogatory because it means low capacity, i.e. Lee Myung Bak is equivalent to low capacity.

Situation 2: When she elaborated on the word "휴일" (休日, rest day).

Elaboration: Do you know what day is 6th of June in Korea? It's "현충일" (顯忠日, The Memorial Day) and it's a "공휴일" (公休日, public holiday) in Korea. Saturday and Sunday are considered "휴일". Since the Memorial Day falls on a Friday this year, Koreans will have three consecutive days of rest this week and this is called "연휴" (連休, consecutive holidays). Other times when Koreans enjoy "연휴" are Seollal and Chuseok.

Situation 3: When she elaborated on the word "폭우" (暴雨, rainstorm).

Elaboration: The word "폭" means extreme. Besides "폭우", "폭" can also be used with "설" (雪, snow), "염" (炎, heat) and "한" (寒, cold) to give "폭설", "폭염" and "폭한". "폭설" means snowstorm or blizzard, "폭염" means "더위" or extreme heat and "폭한" means "추위" or extreme cold.

Situation 4: When she elaborated on the word "소나기" (shower).

Elaboration: Do you know what do people mean when they say "소나기밥"? It means sudden overeating (by someone of usually modest appetite). "소나기" is rain that falls suddenly and Koreans tend to associate suddenness with "소나기". Hence, it is not too difficult to see why sudden overeating is called "소나기밥". Besides suddenness, Koreans also associate "소나기" with romance. Have you watch "The Classic"? There is this scene where the guy uses his jacket to cover the girl while both of them run to take cover from the shower. Isn't that romantic? There is also this very famous romance novel in Korea by the title of "소나기". Many movies actually copied the romantic scenarios written in the novel.

Situation 5: When she elaborated on the word "장갑" (掌匣, gloves).

Elaboration: The action verb for "장갑" is "끼다". Why "끼다"? It is because "끼다" tells of something being sandwiched in between and gloves are supposed to be sandwiched between the hand and the item being held. And do you know what mittens are called? They are called "벙어리 장갑" (literal translation: dumb gloves). Don't the mittens look like gloves without "mouth"?

Situation 6: Suddenly thunder went off while we were having lesson...

Elaboration: Do you know what is thunder called? It's "천둥". And what is lightning? It's 번개. Both use the action verb "치다".

There are so much things to learn, that is beyond textbook, during our Saturday Korean class. Initially, I hestitate about revealing what our teacher says in class because it seems like I am writing some sort of "spoilers". However, when I think a bit further, this Intermediate 2 class may probably be her first and the last I2 class in Singapore as her tenure at NEX would be ending early next year. What this means is that I may probably write more of the interesting things she says in class. ^^

Saturday, June 07, 2008

발음 - 동화

We have a relief teacher, Ms Kim Jung Joo, for our SKS's class this week. She is a Samul-nori (사물놀이) teacher at SKS. I saw the Samul-nori performance put up by her students last year at the Korean Speech Contest and I must say that I was very impressed with their percussion skills. This Thursday, she came to class with a bad throat because she had over-exerted her voice box during her Samul-nori class in the afternoon. I could imagine how intensive the training must have been to the extent that she almost lost her voice.

During our lesson time, Ms Kim came across as a teacher who is very particular about our Korean pronunciation. I have yet to meet a teacher like her who goes after my pronunciation with so much vigour. I wonder if it has something to do with her being a music teacher. Perhaps mispronounced word, to her, sound like a wrong note or a beat that is off. She never failed to pick out and correct all my bad pronunciations. Due to her teaching, I discovered that I have a lot more to learn about proper pronunciation.

There is some good explanations about 발음 in the elementary-level KLPT preparatory book and I thought it may be useful to share them here since pronunciation is seldom taught and explained in class. To start off, it is best to go back to the basic. Of the 19 consonants (자음, 子音) in the Korean language, only 16 of them (ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ excluded) are used as "batchim" (받침). And of these 16 consonants, there are only 7 distinct sounds. It is important to recognise and remember these 7 "batchim" sounds as it will help a lot in understanding the many "deviations" in Korean pronunciation later.

1. ㄱ,ㄲ,ㅋ are pronounced as [ㄱ][k]
Example: 각,갂,갘 are all pronounced as [각][gak]

2. ㄷ,ㅌ,ㅅ,ㅆ,ㅈ,ㅊ,ㅎ are pronounced as [ㄷ][t]
Example: 닫,닽,닷,닸,닺,닻,닿 are all pronounced as [닫][dat]

3. ㅂ,ㅍ are pronounced as [ㅂ][p]
Example: 밥,밮 are all pronounced as [밥][bap]

4. The other four "batchim" sounds are ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, and ㅇ

One main difficulty of getting my Korean pronunciation correct is that I don't quite know when the pronunciation for a Korean word will change. And when a word sounds differently from its written form, I usually call that a "deviation". This just shows that, for a long time, I am quite ignorant of the rules governing the change in sound. My KLPT preparatory book has something to teach me about the "rules of change".

Nasalisation - 비음화, 鼻音化

When "batchim" ㄱ, ㄷ or ㅂ meets ㄴ or ㅁ, they will be "nasalised" in the following manner:

1. ㄱ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㅇ (Note: ㄱ includes ㄲ and ㅋ)
Example: 먹는다 [멍는다], 국물 [궁물], 작년 [장년], 박물관 [방물관]

2. ㄷ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㄴ (Note: ㄷ includes ㅌ,ㅅ,ㅆ,ㅈ,ㅊ,ㅎ)
Example: 걷는다 [건는다], 있는다 [인는다], 좋네요 [존네요], 엣날 [엔날]

3. ㅂ + (ㄴ or ㅁ) → ㅁ (Note: ㅂ includes ㅍ)
Example: 합니다 [함니다], 십만원 [심만원], 입는다 [임는다], 싶는다 [심는다]

* In the case of 없는다, it should be pronounced as [엄는다] since 없다 is pronounced as [업다] and "업" has ㅂ as "batchim".

Lateralisation - 설측음화, 舌側音化

When ㄴ meets ㄹ, ㄴ will be "lateralised" to ㄹ in the following manner:

1. ㄴ + ㄹ → ㄹ
Example: 연락 [열락], 신라 [실라], 곤란 [골란], 원래 [월래]

2. ㄹ + ㄴ → ㄹ
Example: 설날 [설랄], 일년 [일련], 틀니 [틀리], 칼날 [칼랄]

Palatalisation - 구개음화, 口蓋音化

When "batchim" ㄷ or ㅌ meets the vowel "이", they will be "palatalised" in the following manner:

1. ㄷ + 이 → ㅈ
Example: 굳이 [구지], 해돋이 [해도지]

2. ㅌ + 이 → ㅊ
Example: 같이 [가치], 겉이 [거치]

My experience tells me that, even after understanding these rules, you will probably still read the Korean words as they are. To be able to make the right changes to the pronunciation, as and when required, will only come after a lot of practice. The truth is I am still struggling in this aspect. More often than not, I am still reading Korean words as they are, even when the situation warrants a change in the pronunciation. It means I need to put in a lot more effort so that I will not sound stiff or "딱딱해요" when speaking in Korean. That's all for today but this is not the end yet. More rules on 발음 shall be coming up.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


"더" - this simple and innocent-looking word is creating a lot of confusion these days. In basic-level Korean, we were taught to use "더" to make comparison like 더 좋아해요 (I like this more) or 더 중요해요 (This is more important). In fact, it was one of those simple Korean words that I frequently used. However, I was never warned that "더" will undergo "extreme transformation" in intermediate-level Korean.

In intermediate-level Korean, "더" manifests itself in the form of sentence-endings like ~더라고요, ~던데요 and ~더군요. It also appears in the middle of sentence as ~던, ~던데 and ~더니. In some sentences, it even appears both in the middle and at the end. The basic meaning of "더" in this context is 회상 (回想) or recollection. It is used when a person is recalling a past experience, event or memory. Explanation of the word is quite easy to understand but the correct application of its many different forms inflict quite a bad headache. It is almost like trying to tell Chinese, Korean and Japanese apart. They all look so alike.

Our teacher, Ms Kim, was trying to explain the grammar "~던" the other day. "~던" is used to express an action or state that was frequently being carried out or was continuous in the past. It can also mean an action that was stopped halfway previously. For example, depending on the context of the sentence, 읽던 책 can mean a book that I used to read frequently or a book that I have read halfway in the past. Our teacher has probably pre-empted that students may ask her why not just use "읽은 책"? So she went on to explain that "읽은 책" only says that I have read the book previously but it stops short of telling others if I have read the book halfway or have completed it.

To make thing simple for us, she added that "읽은 책" has the same as meaning as "읽었던 책". Then one student asked, how do I express 책을 읽었었어요 in the form of ~던? Our teacher replied that "읽은 책" is more appropriate since "책을 읽었었어요" doesn't say if the book has been read halfway or completed. Then another student followed on by asking her, how do we then express the book that I have completed reading, shouldn't it be "읽었던 책"?

You can be forgiven if you are confused at this point of time because our teacher was also "confused" by our questioning. Acknowledging that "~던" is confusing even to native Koreans, our teacher said that this grammar would not be tested in TOPIK or KLPT. Anyway, one thing ironic about learning is that a person will usually be confused before he understands. It's chaos before order. Given a choice, I would rather be in a state of confusion than ignorance. To say 헷갈려요 (I am confused) is definitely more helpful than to say 물라요 (I don't know), especially for someone who want to learn something new.

When our teacher felt that she had explained enough of the grammar "~던" and any further explanation would not lead to better understanding, she asked the class, 느낌이 왔어요? What she meant was, has the feeling (on how to use "~던") come? I was amused by her use of 느낌 but I kinda agree with her that some language points just can't be explained in details and sometimes the only way to fully understand them, is perhaps through "feel".

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

시작, 끝

Intermediate 2 Korean class at NEX began two Saturdays ago. The class started with eighteen students but by the second lesson, the number ballooned to twenty-one. I have not seen such a large class since Basic Korean level 1. In the first lesson, our teacher, Ms Kim Sehwa, tried to establish some form of 규칙 (規則) or regulation for the class. Each group was instructed to come out with one regulation as well as to determine the 벌금 (罰金) or penalty to be paid by those students who violate the regulation. There seemed to be some unspoken understanding among the students. All groups avoided saying things like we must do our homework diligently or we must be punctual for class because such regulations are difficult to observe since many students are busy working adults. So we ended up with "painless" regulations like we must enjoy our lesson, we must put our handphone to silent mode and we must not talk on the phone during lesson. The penalty was equally "painless - either no penalty or just a token 10 cents for violation. I think our teacher "gave up" on the class on the very first lesson. -_-"

Advanced 2 Korean class at SKS is coming to an end in two weeks time. In case anyone is confused, Advanced 2 at SKS is the equivalent of Intermediate 3 at NEX. Last lesson, our teacher, Ms Hwang Jung Hee, informed us that the 4th Korean Language Speech Contest will be held on 22 November this year. Since we are the most "advanced" class in SKS, she was encouraging us to participate in the contest. Unfortunately, out of four students, two are already "banned for life" from participating while the other two don't seen to be interested. I guess SKS will have to look to other classes for participants. Anyway, the next two weeks will be a period of anxiety. There will be the end-of-semester test on 12 June. Following that, on 17 June, the last day of this semester, each class is supposed to go on stage to put up a 5 minutes long drama. Our teacher has already prepared a few pages of Korean script for us to memorise. I shan't reveal our script content at this moment. All I can say is that it should be quite entertaining provided we can get our act together. But I am not too sure if we can even act in the first place, not forgetting that we need to act while speaking a foreign language. >_<

Monday, June 02, 2008


Picture taken in Hyeri Art Valley. At Hyeri, even a mailbox is an artpiece.

E-mail is like a magical mailbox. I never know what's next will "appear" in it or who will be next to write me a mail and for what purpose. There is always an element of expectation and surprise when I "open" the inbox of my blog's e-mail.

Sometimes, I get to answer queries,

"Just like you, I'm crazy about the Korean culture and language which is why I am going to Kyunghee to study Korean. I read your blog and saw many beautiful pictures of Korea!! They really make me look forward to going there.

Anyway, is it ok if I ask you some questions about the dormitories there? Right now, my friends and I are looking at which dorm to apply so we would like to find out more about the dorm that u stayed at. If I'm not wrong, you stayed at Osvill right? May I know how it was? Like how much did you spend on the dorm? How was the room? Was there shower facility in the room and also was the dorm very far from the location of the class?

I am so sorry for emailing you so abruptly but because we are rather clueless as to which dorm we should get or should we even stay in dorm. Thank you in advance for your help!"

Sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised,

"I'm a silent regular visitor of your blog. I sat beside you during the first Advanced 1 class in Singapore Korean School on Tuesday.

Actually I learnt the Korean language in Singapore Korean School from October 2002 to September 2003. At that time, the school only offered 6 levels (Elementary 1-2, Intermediate 1-2 and Advanced 1-2) and was using a set of textbooks called Korean Through English by Seoul National University. After completing Intermediate 2, I stopped studying for about 9 months. When I resumed my Korean learning with the school again in June 2004, I was advised to join the Free Conversation class (Singapore Korean School changed the course structure and the levels consist of Elementary 1-3, Intermediate 1-2, Free Conversation and Advanced 1-2). I stopped attending Korean language class again after Free Conversation course ended. In 2005, Singapore was finally made a test centre for TOPIK, so I self-studied for TOPIK Level 1 using the TOPIK book I bought in Kyobo bookstore and took the exam in Singapore Korean School. But, the TOPIK Level 1 that I took then was under the old format where there were 6 levels instead of the 3 levels now.

I just came back from 3-month of Korean language study in Sogang University about 2 months ago. I know if I stopped my Korean language learning again. I'm going to slowly forget what I had learnt previously, that was why I decided to continue my studies in Singapore Korean School again. But, Singapore Korean School is now using the book series by Kyung Hee University. Frankly, I was very overwhelmed after first class in Advanced 1. I went home that night and browsed through the first 4 chapters of the book. Since I've not learnt most of the grammar points cover in the first 4 chapters, I've decided to downgrade to Intermediate 2.

Hmm... I was kinda looking forward to having you as my classmate before Advanced 1 lesson started. I read in your blog that you are repeating Advanced one. But... what a pity, we can't be classmates liao..."

Other times, I am completely surprised,

"Not sure if you remember me from your early days in NUS-Extension Korean language class. I only took the class up to Basic Level 3 and stopped after that because of a switch of job and other commitments.

I recently chanced upon your blog and was sincerely awed by your determination and interest in Korean Language to have pursued it so far. Reading of your journey of learning Korean language has sort of stirred my interest in the language again. I'm still very busy with work... but I still hope to continue where I dropped off soon. :)

The main reason for this email is to praise you for your wonderful beautiful photos of your travels in Korea. You really do have a very keen eye for good composition and your photos are so clear, sharp and awesome.

Thanks for sharing them on your blog. I'll take my time to read and admire the nice scenes."

Thank you all for your mails. I really appreciate them.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Perhaps this is just another certificate to many but to me, it holds a lot more significance. It marks more than one and a half year of wait since I last received the certificate for completing my Conversational Korean Level 6 in November 2006. I have a mixed feeling when I received this certificate in yesterday class. On one hand, I am happy that I am back in NEX - the cradle of my Korean language's aspiration. On the other hand, I feel a tinge of sadness as I don't feel I have made much significant progress since I last left NEX. Though I gained a lot more experiences by continuing my Korean study in SKS, I still feel that my Korean language ability has not improved at a satisfactorily rate during this period. I must clarify that my feeling has nothing to do with the quality of SKS lessons. SKS's Korean lessons are really fine. In fact, I trust SKS's class to help me obtain good grade in TOPIK or KLPT anytime. The feeling is more of an outcome of the many "disruptions" which I experienced in the last one and a half year. To speak the truth, I am very tired of hoping for the next higher level Korean course to start soon, only to be disappointed time after time. Continuity in Korean study is hard to maintain when it reaches intermediate level because currently there aren't many people in Singapore who are interested enough in the language to go that far and if there are, many will be too busy with work to continue. To illustrate what I mean, by attending the NEX's Exploring Korean (Intermediate Level 2) Course, which started last Saturday, I will be revisiting chapter 5 to 8 of the Kyunghee's Exploring Korean Intermediate Book 1 for the third time. That's how much thing has stagnated for me. I wish I could have reached another level of mastery by now but there is always a dimension of reality that I have to grapple with. Regardless, I am glad that I am still able to do what I like. These days, I am having 7 hours of Korean lesson every week. I am tiringly happy though.