[001] Goals

(EDIT: I started a Reddit thread to get specific advice about how to tackle my goals. I got a lot of useful advice, so feel free to give it a skim. A big thank you to all the anonymous commenters there.)

As with any blog, one has to start with something. This post is just a quick description of what I have in mind, after waking up in the middle of the night last night. I will probably extend these thoughts once things become clearer with time.

I’ve been in Korea all in all, a little bit less than 2 years. This time has been interrupted with 6 months in Austin Texas.

Since I’ve arrived, I’ve spent some time learning the language, with more or less success and motivation over time. I’ve tried several methods, which I might describe or discuss in later posts, and I have come to a point where I think I know how to proceed from here to reach my one goal, namely…


Let’s call this my ONE DAY goal. So, how to get there?

Continue reading “[001] Goals”

Featured post

2020 Update

Back when I started this blog, I had some very clear (and grand) goals about what I wanted to achieve with respect to the Korean language. I smile when I look back at my goals of achieving TOPIK 6 in 2 years. I’m nowhere such academic fluency.

Yet, I still live in Korea, recently became father to a beautiful son, and have been improving my Korean steadily. With heaps and bounds, active learning has mostly become passive learning, no recent chats with my tutor on Italki… yet, still… I am far beyond where I was at at the beginning of my journey.

To illustrate this, here a few wins in the last few days, weeks and months:

  • I could register my son at the Korean immigration without having to rely on my wife for this.
  • I can understand most things my wife says to me in Korean. Even though I sometimes have to ask to repeat it slower or to provide some additional context.
  • I could converse with a taxi driver who asked if I was happily married using a barely intelligible dialect.
  • I can read random stories on the Humans of Seoul facebook page without too much effort. I have it right 3 times out of 4.
  • I can read and understand many random Korean snippets I encounter on a daily basis.
  • I can receive emails in Korean from the lab secretary. I can even answer to her in Korean sometimes if I take the time and am not in a hurry.
  • I pick up much more Korean recently thanks to hearing my wife speak Korean to my son. We still mostly talk in English to each other though.
  • I get compliments from hospital staff for being able to gather what they say to me or my wife in Korean.
  • Explain Korean grammar to random people in my dreams.

I finally got to the point where I can improve my Korean without doing too much effort. It took much longer to get to this point than it was to get to this point in Spanish. Yet, my experience with Spanish tells me that things will only get better from this point onwards.

This doesn’t mean I don’t plan on adding some more active learning in a near or not so near future. For the record, I took TOPIK II and got a score qualifying for TOPIK 3 or 4 for all categories but writing. I miserably failed for the writing part thus bringing down my overall score. With the right type of targeted study, I could probably reach level 4 within a couple of months.

But now, my priorities are:

  • spending time with my family (a newborn does not allow for much sleep…)
  • increase my research output to obtain a permanent job in academia within the next 14 months
  • get back to sports and stay healthy

What are your goals for 2020?

[133] 더 이상

It means: no more, any more, no longer.

The sentence I encountered it in (Sogang 4A workbook page 11):

그 친구는 벌써 여러 번 저에게 거짓말을 했어요. 그걸 안 다음부터 저는 이제 그 친구의 말을 더 이상 맏지 않게 됐어요.


This friend already lied several times to me. From the moment I knew (found out about) this, I don’t trust this friend’s words no more.

Short examples from endic.naver.com:

Longer examples:

Can you guess what they mean?

Happy studying!



[132] -ㄴ/는 경향이 있다

It all started with this Reddit thread here:

I got sidetracked with the part that conveys the meaning of tending to do something.

So, yes, it is considered a grammar pattern by many, here, here and here. One can find many examples there.

An important note is made in the first link:

Remember that “tends to” implies that sometimes a different choice is made.  If he always sleeps when he is stressed, you would not use “tends to.”

Also, notice that -는편 이다 is very similar to the pattern in this post.

Finally, a couple of examples from endic.naver.com for the most natural ones:

All pretty formal sounding sentences, so I guess it is not used that much in daily language. Can you guess what they mean?

Happy learning!


[131] Verbling review

When talking about platforms that help you find a language tutor or teacher online, Italki is probably the first one that comes to mind. If you are not familiar with the concept, the idea is to practice speaking Korean (or any other language) with a native speaker over Skype or using similar chatting tools.

I have benefited from a long-term interaction with a native Korean living in Mexico while myself being physically located in Korea. Sounds paradoxical, but… I have already written about why real-life language exchanges are not always your best bet in Korea as you often end up speaking English rather than your target language.

Over Skype, while paying your language partner, you are sure to get quality service for a usually lower fee than what you would pay for a real-life private lesson in Korea. It can be as little as 8 dollars for one hour of one-to-one language tutoring.

Yet, besides Italki, there are several other ones out there that seem to be worth a try.

Yesterday, I had my first class on Verbling.

I was a bit skeptical as most teachers on there are slightly more expensive than the amateur tutors on Italki. At the same time, Verbling seems to filter unexperienced language tutors to only keep teachers that have a proven track record teaching online or offline. So it’s a pro with a con kind of deal. Note that you can filter the teachers from cheapest to most expensive to find the one that suits your wallet.

I also had my doubts as they force you to use their own native chatting tool. I assume because they want to make it more difficult for the teachers or the students to meet outside of Verbling circumventing the fee they charge for using their service. A quick calculation teaches that a teachers 15% of what you pay goes to Verbling, the remaining 85% goes to the teacher. That’s similar to Italki. languagetools.io seems to charge the lowest fees.

However, my doubts turned out to be unwarranted. Their platform is actually pretty slick. The video and sound quality are as good as on Skype.

The positive difference lies in all the extras they offer:

  • You can easily share youtube videos and files from within their platform.
  • The teacher can assign homework to you and you can submit your copy, all through the platform.
  • You or your teacher can make flashcards while talking together. These flashcards can be reviewed after the session using spaced repetition or even exported to CVS format or directly into Anki.
  • The platform keeps track of all your interactions with the teacher so it seems to be a very good place to build a long-term relationship with a particular teacher.

Also, for Korean, I noticed some teachers offering free or very cheap trial lessons, so it’s a no-brainer if you are still on the fence about trying out any such platform. I don’t think I ever saw free trial lessons on Italki.

Do you have any experience using this platform? Or any other platform such as Italki (reviewed here) or languagetools.io (I have also tried out the latter, I will write a review for it soon).

If you feel like trying out Verbling, feel free to use my referral link.

Happy learning!



[130] -지 않도록 주의하다

Yesterday, I encountered this useful expression. Apparently it is used pretty often.

It basically means: Be careful not to do something.

The one I encountered:

독버섯을 먹지 않도곡 주의 해야해요. You have to be careful not to eat poisonous mushrooms.

Some other examples from endic.naver.com:

Can you guess what they mean?

If you need a reminder on the -도록 grammar pattern, check out this page on howtostudykorean.com.

I, for one, see it often but it doesn’t feel natural yet to use it myself. So my strategy now is just to remember a few patterns where it can be used. Such as the one in this post.

Happy learning!

[129] 어느새

Looking at a contact’s profile picture on Kakao this morning, I got to know this little expression.

어느새: before one knows it.

In this instance, it was a screenshot of a Korean show showing a shy-looking middle aged man with his hands folded over each other where the subtitles reads

어느새 정말 댄스가 좋아졌어요.

Probably he was admitting that he started to enjoy dancing without realizing it.

endic.naver.com gives us many more examples (click on them for translations):

The last one is interesting as we can probably all relate to this kind of statements.

We get old without knowing it.

Until then (i.e. the moment our brains stop working because due to onsetting Alzheimers or, if lucky, quick death), happy learning!

[128] 안물안궁

It’s a contraction of 안 물어봤고 안 궁금해: I didn’t ask, and I don’t care (I’m not curious about it).

Recently, I had a small role-play discussion in Korean, and out of the blue, I mentioned something personal my conversation partner didn’t really ask about.

Naturally, my partner said 안물. I didn’t ask about it, so why are you telling me?

Yesterday, I used it with someone else, and that native speaker didn’t know what it means. Like in most languages, slang and internet slang are very location and age-dependent. So not sure everyone will understand you. That might also be because natives don’t always expect Korean learners to use slang.

Still, it shows up in a couple of internet searches here and here, so it might be useful to at least be able to recognize it.

Just before hitting submit, I just found there is even a Talk to me Korean video about it. So it’s definitely a little popular.

[127] Useful expression: 한번 시작하면 끝을 보다

Quick one again today…

한번 시작하면 끝을 봐야돼요.

basically means

Once you start it, you must see it through to the end.

It’s kind of interesting that 보다 is used in this figurative way in both English and Korean.

Note that when I heard it, 끝을 sounded more like [끄칠] so it took me a while to understand what was being said to me.

[126] Present tense -아/어져요 grammar

Sometimes, it helps to go back to some of the basics.

The following piece of grammar trivia I just encountered in the beginner level 2 of the Sogang University curriculum.

The present tense of the -아/어져요 grammar…

I already naturally use the past tense of this grammar construction indicating the nuance of becoming or change by adding it to an adjective.

소라 씨가 요즘 많이 예뻐졌어요. Sora became very pretty these days.

Meaning she was not that pretty before.

So that one is common and easy (to me).

If you need more details, check out here (at the end of the page) and here.

However, I never used it in the present tense before.

The Sogang workbook tells me:

When speaking of widely known facts or generally agreed-upon truths, the present tense of 아/어지다 is used.

Here two examples to illustrate this:

텔레비전에 많이 나오면 유명해져요. You become famous when you appear on TV often.

한국 사람하고 많이 얘기하면 한국어 발음이 좋아져요. You improve your Korean speech if you speak with Koreans a lot.

This reminds of the importance of following a structured curriculum to properly learn everything. Not the kind of textbook hopping I’ve been doing for years 😉

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