Lately I’ve been seriously lacking motivation to study Japanese, even though my JLPT N1 is coming up in little over than a month. I’ve taken the test before and I know that it’s mostly an endurance test to see how many tricky answers they can throw at you before you get frustrated and flustered. Recently, whenever I’ve opened my JLPT study books, all I’ve done is groan. I have about two months left in Japan before I visit my family in America and move to South Korea, so to me studying Japanese isn’t a priority as much as it used to be.
Studying Korean, on the other hand, has been really great still. I haven’t lost motivation very often in the year or so that I’ve gotten back into self-studying it, and I hope I can keep it up when I’m living in Korea. I find that it’s easy to coast by with what you know when actually living in the country of your target language. However, I don’t want my Korean to flatline. I have a lot of career goals that depend on my Korean getting better, and I’ve found a lot of ways to make it fun and easy for myself.
I use Naver every day in order to improve my Korean and get used to it, since it’s the #1 most used search engine in Korea. I made a Naver account a few months ago and it was fun learning words like ‘password’ and ’email address’ and all the things you need to know when signing up for an account online. I even made use of the address book tool and entered my fiancé’s information so I can have it all in one place. It was a good way to study practical vocabulary while doing something that was immediately useful in Korean.
I’ve posted many times about how I used (mostly Naver) webtoons to study Korean. I really love them because they are free and easy to access and they have pictures so I can try to guess what’s being said even if I can’t read everything. Learning grammar and vocabulary from textbooks is good, and I sometimes supplement my learning with them, but making learning fun by reading webtoons and using Naver is what really keeps me motivated. There are also English translations of webtoons in case I want to check the meanings without looking up every word. I think it is less likely for me to burn out when I study a little bit every day doing something I really enjoy. At the moment, studying Japanese is exhausting and not very rewarding since, even though I still live in Japan, I don’t use terribly difficult vocabulary or grammar in my daily life. When I was a student, learning Japanese was enjoyable because I could use it in many ways, but being an English teacher and meeting up with my expat friends who speak English makes Japanese less useful in my life.
Naver is a great tool for learning Korean, as it has a smartphone app and lots of tools I can use to help me learn more about Korea. For example, the Naver dictionary allows you to make vocabulary lists by creating a folder and adding words to it. Whenever I don’t know a word or I want to add it to my dictionary, I simply look it up on Naver dictionary and click the ‘add to dictionary’ button. It then lets me choose which folder I want to save it under, and if I have already saved a word and I try to add it again, Naver will open a new tab and direct me to my vocabulary list. I have the Naver dictionary widget on my phone as well, so as long as I am signed into Naver, I can look up and save words.
There is also a memo pad where I like to save links from other sites, and if I want to bookmark any page within Naver, I can scroll to the bottom and click ‘bookmark’. I do this a lot for articles in Korean. If I am at work or I don’t have time to sit down and read a whole article, I can bookmark it and read it later. Webtoons on Naver have their own page, and they are organized by what day of the week they are updated. All I have to do is remember which day of the week my favorite webtoon is released on, and I can easily get to it. Also, I can save webtoons under ‘my favorites’ and ‘follow’ them so that each time a new episode is added, I can check it on my page called Naver Me.
Naver also features newspapers and news articles on the main page, but recently I’ve been reading Ohmynews, which is a more independent news source (meaning the content is not as influenced by advertiser money, as most news sources in Korea are). If I ever want to read an article online, I can bookmark it, look up the words in Naver dictionary, and add the words to my vocabulary list. This process took some time for me to get used to it, but now I am 100% comfortable using it. I also learned how to type on the standard Korean keyboard, and I added it to my Macbook keyboard, phone keyboard, and work computer keyboard. In my mind, all of this is preparation for my move to Korea. Now I can easily type in Korean and navigate Naver, and I have a go-to news source.
Another thing I find fun is looking up people or places in Korea on Naver. If I find out about a cute cafe or sightseeing location, I try looking it up on Naver. Usually, I find a few blogs with lots of pictures and information about it in Korean. This adds another natural element to my Korean study method, and I’ve even tried posting on my own Naver blog. Maybe once I get settled in Korea, I will actually start using it to write in Korean. There are also tools like Naver Movie, Naver Books, Naver Music, etc. which are good for keeping up with that sort of thing directly rather than going through a foreign news source like Allkpop.
I go through phases when studying Korean. Sometimes all I want to do is watch a drama (right now it’s The Girl who Sees Smells 냄새를 보는 소녀 – which is based on a webtoon) and other times I get excited reading news articles. I think this way is the best way for me to stay motivated and enjoy myself.
I know if I were planning on getting a job in Japan, I would have more motivation to keep studying kanji and grammar, but right now I just don’t. I have lots of Japanese books and manga that have gone unread for a while, but I think for the time being, my energy is better spent reading and studying Korean. The mind is a powerful thing.