2022 so far

This year has been really fluctuating for me in terms of my language learning goals and methods. I started the year fully focused on Mandarin Chinese, hoping to move to China by the end of the year. However, as the days went by and I realised that China won’t be opening any time soon my motivation kinda dropped.

I also got really absorbed in dancing and it was hard to juggle both hobbies and dedicate same attention to both, so by summer I was already slacking, but still trying to have a Mandarin class at least once a week.

Then we went to Korea in September and completely stopped with Mandarin lessons for a good few months. Original plan was to stay in Korea for a month, but after a week I already started looking for a language course because I felt I should be working on the language while I was there. I did find a pretty good language school called Winter Korean and started classes there on the next day, 3 hours a day. Original goal was to brush up on Korean which I haven’t studied since 2016 (OMG, 6 long years), and see how fast I can improve in a short time, and seeing my fast progress I’ve decided to stay for one more month and continue with 3 hours of Korean classes a day. However, I again forgot that language learning is a marathon and not a race, and when by the end of 2 months I still wasn’t satisfied with my level I had noone else to blame except myself. The school was also pretty laid-back, there was not so much homework (because noone except me was doing it) and there were no tests.

I did make good progress but it still wasn’t nowhere near where I wanted to be. Now that I’m back home I decided to try something new: instead of just self-studying grammar and vocab, I’ve found a new italki teacher and booked TOPIK preparation classes with her with main focus on writing. TOPIK is Korean equivalent of IELTS. It is the ultimate test for Korean learners that get graded levels 1-6, and getting past level 3 is already a feat. TOPIK language is very academic, the vocab is advanced, I’ve tried solving some past exam papers this week and they almost brought me to tears as it was so out of the comfort zone of easy Sogang books which we used at Winter Korean. I’m trying not to lose motivation and keep telling myself that with time these complicated grammar points and words will start making sense, I just have to keep on pushing.

To be honest, I don’t even have an intention of applying to TOPIK exam right now, because they only do these exams twice a year – in spring and autumn and I’m usually travelling in those times. The only goal why I decided to study for it is to challenge myself and grow as a language learner. In the beginning I was just concentrating on spoken language, saying who needs the academic language, who needs complicated writing when the main point is understanding people. But right now I’d like to try something new, because I feel that I stopped progressing and was kinda stuck in my old ways of just stringing simple sententences together and being able to only communicate daily life, not being able to have a conversation on deeper topics. I find it hard to write 600 words on a topic such as “my thoughts on whether economic freedom leads to happiness” and the main reason for that is because writing was never my focus. Until now.

At the same time, as I finally settled in the routine of being home and self-studying this week, I started dabbling in Chinese again and tomorrow is the first class after a loooong time. I spent at least an hour today watching Shuoshuochinese, Yoyochinese and even read a story on Duchinese and it felt good. Hope it continues this way and I can keep growing in all directions πŸ™‚

Long time no see

One of my coping mechanisms with anxiety and uncertainty is studying.

These past few weeks I’ve been really diligent, gotta pat myself on the head for that.

I finally got help with my written Slovenian because I kept making the same mistakes even after 12 years of using it daily. There are so many things that I didn’t know since I just learned naturally, it’s actually quite interesting! I like my teacher, she’s from Ukraine and cancelled our lessons twice due to bombings, I really hope that she will survive this invasion…

Found 2 nice new Mandarin teachers on italki, booked a 10-lesson package with one of them and study with both of them once a week, so twice a week. They both use structured learning, one uses textbook and another uses pdfs with expressions. In the past such methods used to bore me to death, but now my level is already so high that I feel it’s actually important to revise the basics and learn small things like measure words for dishes and how to say “one chopstick” instead of “pair of chopsticks”. Let’s see for how long this will last before I get bored again. To be honest, probably I got bored of just free talking because at some point I started feeling like our level was not improving and we were just using same sentences and vocab all the time – we also were so overwhelmed with all the new words that even with the help of Memrise it was really hard to remember all of them. We’d have a free talking sesh where our teacher would send us all the new words and then we just wouldn’t have time to learn them and make same mistakes the next time we spoke. It is still hard and vocab still remains one of our biggest challenges, but hey, slowly but surely. We also continue studying characters and grammar with Yoyochinese, it’s going much slower than planned due to hubby resisting them, but he’s slowly getting the hang of it. I’ve never felt prouder.

I also bought a Korean “course” from Instagram, which is actually just a set of exercises that gets checked with feedback. It’s not very difficult, but it made me revise some basics and it felt good to actually think of Korean conjugations and google the rules again. So when I got an email from TTMIK with 50% discount I caved in and paid for it. It’s just a third of the price I paid for Glossika which I’m not even using, so I figured even if I learn just a couple courses there it will still be a good investment.

Today I did a placement test and placed in the highest level. To be honest, the last 2 questions I was lacking vocab and was merely guessing, going by my gut, but I got all of them right!

I started a course on Long Sentences today and it felt sooo good to see Hyunwoo again, he’s like a long-time friend, who I haven’t seen since 2017, the year, when I stopped learning Korean.

I just hope to keep going, in these turbulent times the languages really help me stay focused and not collapse into an emotional mess.

Also I think I’m getting motivated by the prospect of resuming our travels soon. My friend from Slovenia moved to Japan today, as soon as they opened the borders to foreigners. She has been plannning this move together with her husband for ages, they both were learning Japanese and preparing for it, and then the pandemic happened. So as soon as it was possible – they flew in. We didn’t even get to meet to say bye. Almost at the same time Korea opened its borders, from 1st April it will be possible to go there without quarantine. Now it’s only China that remains closed, but I hope that China too will open up at some point. All these changes push me to study more, to be ready for our next adventures πŸ™‚

Lindie, Shunchan

Today I hopped on a livestream with Lindie Botes and got to hear her speak so many different languages at the same time, it was super inspiring as usual πŸ™‚ I even got a chance to tell her that I really love her channel and that I literally freaked out when I saw that she subscribed to my blog. Lindie, if you’re reading this – you made my day!

To be honest, I had a break from active language learning in June and I wasn’t updating this blog much, but now I feel ready to be back in the game. This week I had two important encounters – first one with an owner of a bingsu cafe here in Ljubljana, and second with a Chinese lady yesterday in Maribor. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I only practiced languages via devices, be it Skype. Zoom or Clubhouse. This week was the first time I got to speak Chinese with a real life person, and more than 2 years since my last Korean encounter, so it was super exciting to have a real life conversation πŸ™‚ I was so proud that I could speak to both of them without freezing or lagging much, and seeing their amazed reaction was especially satisfying.

I feel like my motivation to learn these two languages is now finally back, luckily the Indonesian course has now come to an end and so I have more mental resources to dedicate to them. I finished Indonesian course with a clear understanding of how I don’t wan’t to study – the traditional way of learning is just soo not for me.

Also, Shunchan just released a new video talking about Engish education in Japan and I found myself agreeing with everything he said. You can’t sign up to any class and except to learn the language by the end of it, you have to put in the extra work yourself. It is surprising that a lot of people don’t have such mindset and just expect to learn the language by passively showing to language classes few times a week and doing their homework. It doesn’t work that way πŸ™‚

I’ve signed up for HSKK!

After 38 days of every day revision with Memrise, I feel like I’m finally all caught up with Unit 1 and can now move onto revision of Unit 2 πŸ™‚

Last week I was pretty good with Korean – I had 2 language exchange calls, wrote a small text in my notebook, and got through Unit 1 of this book, revised 8 grammar patterns and did a test at the end of the unit, which was very hard, but I got just 2 questions wrong (out of 12), so I feel pretty good about it!

However, yesterday I did 2 crazy things which I was not planning to do – I signed for HSKK, the oral Chinese speaking test, intermediate level. I checked mock tests and they seemed quite manageable, however, as I started reading more about the test I got a little bit more intimated, but I don’t wanna turn back, I want to have a go! Even if I fail, there’s another one in June and the test fee is only 20 euros (unlike English certificates, which can cost from 200 to 300 euros). So now I have to go through the HSK 3 and HSK 4 vocab, as well as schedule some practice sessions. Fun, fun fun!

I think I mentioned here a few times that my Chinesepod subscription ended last week and I was not planning on renewing it in order to save money. However, yesterday I got a newsletter from Du Chinese with a very good discount thanks to Chinese New Year, so I couldn’t resist and bought a one year subscription πŸ™‚ Du Chinese is a website mostly for learning how to read Chinese characters, and even though one year ago I kept saying that reading characters is not for me, I feel like I can finally start working on it. Actually, I really want to learn to read and write in Chinese and I hope that with DuChinese I will be able to get a little closer to that goal.

So… how many languages do you speak?

There is no more confusing question that this one for anyone who is multi-lingual.

The thing is, I speak freely and fluently just 3 languages – English, Russian and Slovene. I don’t have to think what I want to say in these languages, the words come to my mind naturally and I can feel super relaxed while conversing in these languages.

Then come the rest of the languages in which I can speak, but with more difficulty – Italian, Spanish, Korean, and recently Chinese. To be honest, I keep mixing Italian and Spanish, so in order to get myself in the “flow” of either of these I need to speak for like one hour straight and then the fluency comes back to me, I get in the “flow” and stop thinking which word should I use – “fare” or “hacer” and so on. Korean and Chinese – well, they are extremely difficult languages, and I often feel difficulty expressing myself on some topics even after weeks and months of studying – some things are easier, some things are harder. I can speak them, I can easily hold conversation about myself, my life, general topics, but I’m definitely not fluent.

I also leave Indonesian out – I only finished A1 and know just some super basic stuff, so I can’t even say I can speak it, because what I can do for now in this language is super limited.

And then there are passive languages – like Serbo-Croatian. I was exposed to it quite a lot through my dad, who speaks it well, so I understand almost everything, I can read subtitles if we’re watching a movie in a language I don’t know. But I can’t speak it. It is not an active language for me, it is a passive one.

So how do I answer to the question – “so, how many languages do you speak?” Do I say 3 because these are my most fluent ones? Do I say 7? Or do I say 8 and include Serbo-Croatian (which I can’t really speak?)

And this is why I always get confused what would be the best reply when I get this question πŸ™‚

Indonesian streak

Yesterday was the final exam for A1 Indonesian course by Indonesian embassy. It was quite challenging, so I’m curious to see my results. The last task was especially challenging – we had to describe the picture using words given below, and we had to use a total of 90 words. While it was challenging it was also fun at the same time, because I got to be creative πŸ™‚

So today is the first day I’m not going to complete my streak, which is 50 days now, from the day that we had our first mid-semester test.

At the same time, my Howtostudykorean streak at Memrise is steadily increasing and is already at 23 days. I’m happy that today I managed to lower “Classic Review” words to just 79, when I just started again there were over 400 of them. At first, it seemed like it will take me ages to get through them, but here I am πŸ™‚

I’m also glad that A1 Indonesian course is over, I’m not sure yet whether there will be A2 and if yes when it will start, so for now I will hopefully be able to dedicate more time to Korean and Mandarin, studying 3 languages at the same time is definitely not my forte, so let’s see if I’ll be able to do it with 2 πŸ™‚

How I learned Korean

I was learning back in 2015, so probably since then a lot of new resources have appeared, but here is my way and my way only. Here is the list of my main resources and I will go into each one in detail:

  1. Tengugo app for Hangeul alphabet
  2. Howtostudykorean website
  3. Memrise SRS
  4. Koreanclass101 classes and especially dialogues
  5. Korean Grammar in Use books
  6. Korean Cyber University Youtube channel
  7. Language exchange apps (HelloTalk, italki)
  8. Motivational Youtube channels and podcasts (Motivate Korean)
Continue reading “How I learned Korean”