I have these weird spurts where my energy will be pulling me in certain directions. For example, sometimes I will be in the mood to do my graduate school work, and other times I will want to watch a Korean drama and tell myself I’m doing listening practice when I really just want to know what happens next. I also get in the mood to read or write or clean… you get the idea.
Since I got back from Korea and had Junkyu’s family visit Japan, I have been in the mood to study Korean a lot more lately. Specifically, I have been doing a lot more reading practice. I never skip through a Facebook status if it’s in Korean, so I can try to figure out what it says. I have subscribed to a few Korean reading practice Facebook groups as well, in order to add more studying to my daily scroll. I even put Facebook in Korean and it’s been really fun learning all the words since I already know what all the buttons mean.
I get a lot of speaking and listening practice just by talking to my boyfriend in Korean every day, but reading and writing I don’t do as often. I did keep up with my Weekly Korean Diary for a while, but I put it on hold for now. I have a lot of documents to prepare in order to go to Korea, and I have a lot going on in my grad class as well. I was also told to prepare a presentation for our next ALT meeting (which falls on the day after my birthday – blech). Therefore, putting more stress on myself to get out a weekly update of my life in Korean isn’t really going to help.
Therefore, I have turned to…drumroll please…. WEBTOONS! Naver has so many great (FREE) webtoons with amazing art, hilarious and interesting plot lines, and some of them are even officially translated into English. I have been studying a ton through reading webtoons and whenever I don’t know a word, I look it up and write it down and think about a way I can include the word in a conversation with Junkyu next time we talk. He is usually always asking me ”What did you study today?” and I will give him my list of words or read off a few sentences I learned how to say, and he will continue the conversation from there in Korean and he will even give me more ways to say the same thing or tell me how to say something more naturally.
Back to webtoons. Right now I am reading Cheese in the Trap, which is being turned into a drama series. I have read most of it in English, and occasionally I read it in Korean, but I think I want to challenge myself to read more of it in Korean before reading it in English to check my understanding. Reading it in translation gets harder and harder the more I study Korean. The same thing happened to me with Japanese. I no longer read anything that was originally written in Japanese in English. Reading manga in English makes me squirm. My brain automatically translates some of the awkward phrases in English back to what they were probably translated from, and it leaves me thinking ”This would sound better in Japanese.” I used to think I wanted to be a translator, but the languages I learn are all separated in my brain, and I’m not comfortable with translations. It’s kind of strange. I just think translating erases some of the original nuances. I know a lot of people who love reading Murakami but I read some of his works in Japanese and absolutely found him boring and unimpressive.
Cheese in the Trap is great so far, but I am pledging to read the rest of it in Korean (and probably will end up read the translations when the situations get muddled – since the webtoon switches between past and present often) so that I can practice my reading skills. I think webtoons are some of the best reading tools for beginners, since there are pictures and mostly just dialogue. Grammar never gets too complicated, and I learn some slang words which don’t come up in textbooks. For those interested, here is the original Cheese in the Trap on Naver and here is the English translation. As you can see, the translation isn’t up to date, so reading it in Korean gives you a lot more of the story. Naver webtoons are (usually) updated weekly, and a new Cheese in the Trap episode comes out every Thursday.
I also really like We Broke Up – 우리 헤어졌어요 (Kind of a play on We Got Married hehe). I really think this concept is unique and the situations are often funny enough that even if I don’t understand all the vocabulary, I understand what is going on. I learned a TON of vocab from this and I am excited about continuing it. Not sure if there is an English translation, but I started reading it in Korean only so I want to continue that way.
Another I intend on reading is The Stories of Those around Me, which I read the first part of and it looks really cute. The main character is talking about how her friends are awesome and she talks about their love lives which makes me think eventually she will come to find her own story. After reading Cheese in the Trap and We Broke up in Korean, I think reading this one will be easier, so I might not start for a while. The link for it above is the English translation, but here is the Korean version.
I don’t really want to spend a lot of money on studying Korean from now on. I use Talk to Me in Korean resources and How to Study Korean, and a few other sites for grammar and listening, and webtoons will give me another dimension to my language study. Dramas and music are also ways I continue to practice listening and speaking (hey I have to practice for noraebang!) and of course I talk to a native speaker of Korean every single day. Right now I’m watching It’s Okay, That’s Love (a really progressive drama about mental illness and relationships) and I am loving it so far. I have a few books in Korean and some language books already as well, so I really should use what I have until I move to Korea to buy more. Free webtoons and lessons online are really making learning Korean so much easier for everyone who can’t go to Korea and buy lots of books or take lessons with teachers.
I need to get started studying for the JLPT N1 soon, but at the moment my brain doesn’t see it as a priority. I think that’s because I already function in Japanese every day by living here, so I get by without studying now, but wow has my kanji comprehension dropped since I graduated college. Lately when my students tell me ”I don’t like Japanese – kanji is hard!” I just look and them and think, ‘Yeah but you learn them every day!! I had to start from nothing!’ hehe oh well they don’t know how lucky they are, but it’s interesting to see that kanji gives them headaches too and it’s not just me.
In other news, I got full points on my most recent grad school paper and the class is winding down. My next course will be on leadership and communication so I’m really excited about it. I’m so glad I only take one course per term, otherwise my full-time job and my language study and my weekends of meeting friends and going to concerts would all probably suffer. I feel like I always keep myself a little too busy but most of the things I do are enjoyable and help me feel productive.
Spring is coming soon and that means cherry blossom season!! I can’t wait to share pictures of how beautiful Japan is when the cherry blossoms bloom. Japanese winter is frustrating but those sakura are worth it.