How I’m Studying Korean, Japanese and Chinese

I always try to be as organized as possible when I’m studying foreign languages. I started learning Korean a bit over three years ago- I think-; I picked up Japanese again last year and started learning Chinese about a month ago. I still remember when I first started Korean I was all over the place and it took me almost a year to get some semblance of progress and order. I think all my trials and errors during that time helped me figure out how to plan efficiently for the additional two languages. I usually try to tailor most of studies to a specific goal, but still maintain some sort of balance between skills.

My first step is to establish a definite short term goal (something you can actually measure and test). Right now these are my goals for each language:

Korean: Pass at least TOPIK II Level 3 in October/ November 2016.

Japanese: Be able to write a simple 5-sentence-long paragraph.

Chinese: Master the Chinese tones and be able to distinguish between them when I hear them.

My second step consists of figuring out where I was failing. First by asking myself what are my weaknesses and then how to remedy that using my strengths (and change strategies if one doesn’t work).


Problem: I can’t do the writing section of TOPIK because I lack vocabulary.

Solution: Read, read, read and read. Then, write, write, write and write.


Problem: I can hear the difference but I can’t produce it.

Solution: Listen and practice the tones as much as possible while a friend corrects me.


Problem: Lack of pretty much everything, but especially vocabulary.

Solution: Write the vocabulary down and make up simple sentences using the vocabulary.

My third step is to figure out how much free time I have and how much I can dedicate to each language. In this case, Korean is my main language so I tend to devote a lot of time daily to it and alternate between dates among the other two. For example, I dedicate 3 hours daily to Korean and study the rest for an hour on alternate days.

My last step consists of figuring out the material I will be using and then spreading them out. At the end I get something like this:

Korean (each block 1 hour):

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Textbook Textbook Textbook Textbook Textbook Textbook Textbook
Grammar V: list/quiz R: Yonsei Grammar V: list/quiz R: News W: TOPIK
R: Novel R: News Writing L: Drama R: Novel W: TOPIK L: Drama

Chinese/ Japanese (each block 30 mins): 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Japanese Chinese Japanese Chinese Japanese J/Ch J/Ch
V: review Tones Writing Tones Grammar Textbook Textbook
Listening Vocab. Writing Writing Listening Tones/ W T/W/Gr

My study blocks change once I have accomplished my goal and set another one. That’s pretty much how I manage to study all three. Then find out how much time I have during a period of time.

That’s it! Until next time!~


March- July 2016 Book Haul

Hi! I’m back -sort of-. I have been on a non-stop lazy mode the last two months (more like moping). Maybe because my new friends are leaving in August and I decided to stay longer in Korea. Also, work has made me become busier LOL. 

Not that stopped me from buying books. 

Learn Korean Books

I mentioned that I was on the verge of finishing Ewha Korean 3-2.  I bought the 4th level texbook, workbook and study guide. I think my pocket might have cried a bit. I also bought Yonsei Reading 3 and I have to say that it’s perfect for me because I don’t have to look up in the dictionary for words I don’t know.

Ewha 4, unlike the lower level books, has a discussion section. I think it’s pretty neat because it includes the sort of expressions you should use to express whatever the section is about as well as you can practice them. The drawback is that the section is designed to be used in the classroom so there isn’t much you can do.

I chose Yonsei Reading 3 because I thought it would be challenging enough. Imagine my surprise when I started reading it and I pretty much knew almost everything hahaha. I really like that you get a variety of excersices before and after reading. I use the questions as writing prompts since that’s my weakest skill. 

Korean Novels:

I loved the drama 성균관 스캔들 and whenever I’m out of dramas to watch, I go and watch it again. I’m actually surprised it took me this long to buy the novel hahaha. 

The actual title is 성균관 유생들의 나날. It is divided into 2 two volumes and it has a sequel which is also divided in two books. I only bought the first one and haven’t really started reading it LOL.

I also bought 구르미 그린 달빛 which will have a drama coming out in August. It has 5 volumes in total -something I didn’t realized when I bought it hahaha. I have started reading it two weeks ago and I’m already on the second chapter (I’m in page 43). I think I’m reading it quite fast considering that I only read it twice a week (as part of my study blocks).

Korean Webtoon/mahwa, Korean version of Japanese manga and Japanese manga:

I read webtoons like there’s no tomorrow hahahaha. One of my favorite webtoons is 우리 사이 느은. The story is about these friends who fall for each other while they are in college. It’s really funny amd cute~ 

 I also read 밤을 걷는 선비 ( which is really different from the drama). I love the Japanese manga 高嶺と花 so I bought the Korean version of it but it also had another manga called in Korean 불로 남매 by the same author.

These two were a birthday gift from one of my closest friends here in Korea. Sadly, volume two wasn’t in Kyobo so my friend bought me vol. 1 and 3. Now, I’m just missing 6 out the 10 volumes~

That’s it for today! Until next time~

Plain Form -는다/다

I just realized that it’s been over a month since my last post. All I can say is that I’ve been busy studying and traveling he. I’m on the verge of finishing the last Ewha Korean 3-2 (I’m in the last chapter). Once I’m done with the book, I will review all the grammar points I didn’t get and see if I can post them here. I’m also preparing for the writing section in TOPIK II so you will see a lot of posts related to that (some will be long, others short).

Korean, like any other language, has a established format for writing formally. It is usually called the plain form in English. It doesn’t require the usage of any politeness level as it’s not directed at anyone in particular. It is seen in academic writings, novels, newspapers and dictionaries. It is also one of the most important points of the writing portion for TOPIK II. It’s pretty straightforward, but it can be tricky f you confuse action verbs with descriptive verbs. In addition, it uses the plain form pronouns such as 나.

A. Present Tense:

Part 1: Action Verbs

a. Stem ends in a vowel= -ㄴ다.

Ex: 사다–> 사 + ㄴ다= 산다

b. Stem ends in a consonant=  -는다.

Ex: 먹다 –> 먹 + 는다= 먹는다

Important note: If a stem ends with ㄹ, you drop the ㄹ and add -ㄴ다.

Ex: 열다–> 연다.

Part 2: Descriptive Verbs

Stem +다

Note: It doesn’t matter if it ends in a consonant or vowel. The verbs 있다/없다 are treated as descriptive.

Part 3: 이다

If the preceding word (the noun) ends in a consonant: 이다

Ex: 학생이다.

If the preceding word ends in a vowel: -다

Ex: 사과다.


It is something that a lot of people seem to get wrong so I will point it out.

If you’re negating using -지 않다 or even if you’re applying a grammar point at the end, it follows the 3 rules mentioned above.

Action verbs:

Ex: 먹고 싶어 하다 (x)–>먹고 싶어 한다.

Ex: 먹지 않다 (x)–> 먹지 않는다.

Descriptive verbs:

Ex: 예쁘지 않는다 (x)–> 예쁘지 않다

Copula (이다)

Ex: 쉽기 때문인다 (x)–> 쉽기 때문이다.

(even if it’s with an action verb!)

Exception for 있다/없다.

If you use these two verbs, they will always be the focal point of the plain form so it follows their rule.

Ex: 할 수 있는다 (x)–> 할 수 있다.

B. Past tense:

It’s quite simple as every action and descriptive verb are conjugated the same way.

Stem + 았/였다.

a. 이다:

Consonant= 이였다

Vowel= 였다

C. Future tense:

a. Action, descriptive verbs:

Stem +(으)ㄹ 것이다.

note: You have to look out for the exceptions such as the verb 다르다 (it’s conjugated as 다를 것이다).

b. 이다:

Noun +일 것이다


That’s it for today! Until next time~

Late December-February Book Haul

It’s been a while since I posted about my most recent book-binge. It seems that I spend a lot in books, but I consider it investment. This time around, it’s mainly books related to TOPIK II. I also decided to push back the date I will take TOPIK II because I’m still at loss with the writing part (Btw, I got 46 points in reading and 40 in listening while doing a previous test, but I need to pull myself together for the writing lol).

So without further ado~

Part I. Korean Books in General:


I bought Ewha 3-2 books as soon as I finished the first part (I’m almost halfway through them as well). There isn’t much to say about these except that I love the series and when I tried to change to the Seoul/ Yonsei/ Sogang Uni books, it feels like I’m going back (with half of the grammar of the level already covered in lower levels of Ewha books).

The next book is the Dictionary of Korean Idioms.


I love this one! It’s quite clear in explaining how the proverbs and idiomatic expressions came to be, a possible equivalent of it in English, a literal translation, what it actually means, how can be used and explained in both Korean and English. I believe this book is a must-have for serious Korean learners or those curious about how the expressions came to be (plus lots of vocab acquisition as well).


This book is a graded Korean reader I found while I was looking at some books in the Books about Korea section at Kyobo. It contains 5 Korean folk stories with CDs. I think this is pretty recent because there are no other levels available. You can see them below:

I went to visit the Lee Hyo Seok Memorial Hall in Bongpyeong, Pyeonchang (I live in Pyeongchang although in a different city) when a friend of mine came to stay with me for a couple of days. In case you don’t know who he is click here. Did you know that by buying one of the versions of the books, you are both helping his descendants and the museum.


I bought two copies, the white one just contains one story translated into 5 other languages (English, Spanish, French, Japanese and Chinese) and the original in Korean. The other one is a child graded reader (for Elementary and Middle school students) and it contains other stories as well and it has some notes on archaic words.


I bought the Korean version of the Japanese manga どれだけ甘いシナリオだって. I bought it because I loved the cover, but I do find the story funny. I finished reading it so I’m actually awaiting the second volume (it hasn’t come out yet in Korea ;A;)


Part II. TOPIK Books:

I’m not a fan of buying study guides because for me they’re not worth it. However, when I bought the HOT TOPIK 읽기, I liked how they went into detail for each type of question and tips on how to solve them on your own (plus lots of practice). After that, I give them the benefit of doubt. I must confess that I was at a loss with the writing section (and nearly no books like the 읽기 had come out) and I spent 2 weeks trying to get an idea, but all I could figure out was what word should I use in the short questions. I realized I lacked vocabulary so I bought a vocabulary book.

Right now, I’m using the 쏙쏙 토픽 중급 어휘 and I like it. It gives you two sample sentences so you know the context and the translation in English, Chinese and Japanese. I just use it to make flashcards using the Leigtner’s Calendar System so I’m already half-through it.

I bought 토픽 II 쓰기 but I soon realized that it was not what I needed. I don’t need practice, what I need is to understand the nature of the questions before I tackle writing. I was sorely disappointed, but it still remains a good book if you’re in the advanced level and just need practice. It gives some tip on why the answer is such, but no more than that.

I kept looking for other books and made a list to check in Kyobo, at the end I was going to buy just one more book, but HOT TOPIK released a book about 쓰기! I was like which one I’m going to buy, but because I couldn’t decide I bought them both hehe.

I bought TOPIK II 쓰기, 이 책으로 끝! It’s quite a title but I believe it lives to what it says. The book breaks down each type of question, then makes you practice the relevant grammar structures, makes you break down each part and then you finally start practicing sample questions. Also, it has a lot of tips on how to write (like spacing, oral speech vs. written, and other things) and gives you some practice on it. It also makes you review a bit on basic particles and then quiz you on them. I think this book is fantastic and well planned.

HOT TOPIK 쓰기 is heavenly-sent. This book goes first to make you take a diagnostic test so you can see where you fail. After that it goes into details about each type of questions. First, it breaks it down and the kind of subjects it’s usually about. Then it gives you (at least for the short questions) different grammar patterns according to the nature of the question (계획, 금지, 부탁 and so on). It has a ‘mistakes clinic’ section so you can know about common mistakes , tips and practice. Then it gives you visual tips on where to look to guide your answers. Finally, you practice the type of question. Like  TOPIK II 쓰기, 이 책으로 끝!, it covers different rules for writing.

The major difference between HOT TOPIK and   TOPIK II 쓰기, 이 책으로 끝 is their approach. HOT TOPIK covers thoroughly how to answer while the other one makes sure you write properly. Also, in TOPIK II 쓰기, 이 책으로 끝 they make sure you practice a little bit the relevant grammar. I believe both books complement each other and you have nothing to lose if you buy just one of them. I’m glad I bought both of them and hopefully I will be able to review them thoroughly once I finish with them.

That’s it!

Until next time~


After watching a movie about a pair of lovers who couldn’t be, I wondered about love. What is love, exactly? Attempts have been made, but all seems to fall short. Attempting to describe love is like having a word that could explain it perfectly at the tip of your tongue, but never able to get it out. Because it proves to be elusive, we try to arbitrarily catalogue its traits by what it can’t be. Are we physicians,then? Because if we define love by what is not, does it bring us to what it really is? I am not quite sure. You see, nothing exists by what it is not. Everything exists because it simply is.

For some love is a kiss or a touch. They can feel it, but is it really? Wouldn’t it be Lust lurking around making sure we don’t cease to exist? For others, love is selflessness. To love someone above and beyond yourself, to the point where your wishes no longer belong to you, to the point you are no more. I was tempted to believe love was that. But then, is it not selflessness a being in its own?

Perhaps, love is a chameleon that takes the colors of whatever it is behind of and covers itself as to not be found. Perhaps, love is a catalyst and nothing more. One that enhances whatever we are truly made of, be it good or bad. If that’s the case, why does it matter if love is returned or not, if all there’s to it is whether we are better or worse because of it? I believe love is meant to be the valve that lets our emotions and sensations overflow in order to let us know there are things that exist beyond the Realm of Words.

Are we too obsessed with possessing it that we no longer know what love truly is? Will it remain covered by what magnifies within ourselves? Will we ever know it’s true color? If we never know, does it mean love will not truly exist?

Preparing for taking TOPIK II

As some of you might know, I’m going to take the TOPIK II this upcoming spring in Korea. I decided I needed more time so I decided to take the test in April, but in case I fail I will still have enough time to take the one in July. I’m not sure whether I will pass any level or not, but I do know I need to study hard. I think the writing portion of the test is going to be a nightmare and I realized that the reading portion is not too hard if I know the vocabulary. On the other part, listening is one of my best skills as well as figuring out grammar by context.

My Achilles’s heel is vocabulary, I have a special talent of forgetting it as quickly as I see it. I have tried various methods, but the one that seems working the best (also the quickest) is memorizing vocabulary using the Leitner’s  Calendar System. I have been using it for 10 days (I’ll talk about in a separate post), memorizing 30 words daily as well as reviewing all the ones I studied. So far I’ve memorized 270 words with different degrees of success. I believe that as I keep going further in the cycle, I can remember them. The downside is that while it does help with reading, it doesn’t when it comes to writing.

I have been studying Korean for 4 hours per day. Two hours for the textbook, two hours for memorizing and reviewing vocabulary. In January, I focused on learning level 3 grammar found in Ewha Korean 3 books. I still haven’t finished with them, but I hope I can finish them in within the next two weeks. In February, I hope to focus on writing and once March starts focus on reading. Last but not least, I hope to use the few weeks before TOPIK in April for listening.

Memorizing vocabulary and grammar are not really effective if you can’t use them immediately so my next step is focusing on writing. I hope that by writing I can recall as much as possible. I’ve thought of buying a book focusing on writing for TOPIK as each time I see the short writing questions, I don’t even know what I’m supposed to write about LOL. I’m also unfamiliar with vocabulary related to statistics so it’s equally bad. In the meantime, I will focus first on the writing assignments on the Ewha books. A friend of mine suggested that I blog in Korean. So far I made a blog in Naver, but I haven’t written anything yet. 

Personally, I feel like I’m cramming and not really learning and improving (I am though). Sometimes, I wonder if it will be worth it in the end. It might be due the fact that studying is really time consuming, but then when I read something in Korean I become amazed at the fact that I understand it better. Maybe once I’m done with TOPIK in April, I will be able to look back and see how much I have improved.

I might be scarce in the upcoming months as I start working again on mid February and I need to study as much as possible. Any tips are welcome!

Until next time!~

Korean Intransitive and Transitive Verbs

There are some verbs in Korean that exists as both transitive and intransitive (like in English and other languages). Transitive means the verb needs an object while intransitive does not need it or accept it. I decided that I would unveil which one was which. Once you find out it will definitely improve your writing skills.

There are some verbs that end in 나다/내다 like 끝나다 and 끝내다. When I first encountered them way long ago, my teacher didn’t make a distinction over their use. It started niggling me some days ago so I started looking information on it. I want to point out that not every -나다/내다 verb refers to its transitiveness or not, but if you encounter two verbs that means the same but just ends slightly different there’s a high probability it’s just denoting its transitiveness.

If the verb ends in -나다: it is intransitive.

If the verb ends in -내다: it is transitive.

There also other endings as well like for example there’s the verb 서다 (to stop, stand) and 타다 (to burn). Both are intransitive verbs but they have transitive counterparts.

서다 —> 세우다

타다—> 태우다

I can assume that probably any verb ending like that will be transitive and I think 에/애 are a sign that you can use objects. At least, it is what it looks like.


That’s it for now! I will keep updating this post as I find more information about it.

Until, next time!~