Koen speaks…

Sharing my experiences of self-learning Korean language!

New Post in 코인의 코너 Blog – “네팔에 있는 문화” – “Culture of Nepal” plus “Languages of Nepal” — November 7, 2015

New Post in 코인의 코너 Blog – “네팔에 있는 문화” – “Culture of Nepal” plus “Languages of Nepal”

In my last post, I told you that I started my first Korean blog.

And I just wrote my first proper post in my Korean blog 코인의 코너 – Korean’s Korner in NAVER. It is entitled “네팔에 있는 문화” – “Culture of Nepal”, where I briefly introduce six main aspects of the Nepalese culture.

  1. Caste system
  2. Languages
  3. Religion
  4. Festivals
  5. Food
  6. Dress

    Have a glimpse at my post:

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Korean writing practice through “Picture Story Writing” — October 17, 2015

Korean writing practice through “Picture Story Writing”

A great method of learning and remember new vocabulary words and grammar structures for people with terrible memory

For the past couple of months I have been concentrating my time and efforts towards some Korean writing practice. Of course I am still continuing my listening exercises and word memorization (through dramas and others) on my free time. But I have been making conscious efforts to do some free writing practice in Korean as well. So this week, I have started a great new method of practising Korean writing, which is “Picture story writing”. This was actually one of my Korean friends :신지원, Jiwon Shin’s idea (another good friend I met on the language exchange app HelloTalk). I am really grateful for her for her simple yet fantastic idea. It is perhaps the simplest exercise that has always been there. But it is really effective, especially for a visual learner like me (who, by the way, has a terrible memory). As you may have already guessed from the name itself, what you do essentially is you write a story in your target language (in my case it is Korean) from a picture. Just simple as that! You create a story in as much detail as you want. You are free to let your imagination run.

The picture that my friend Jiwon sent me was a series of pictures quite similar to the famous old fairy tale “Goldilocks and the three bears”. So all I had to do was to guess a story from the picture and write it in Korean.

(source: www.wikihow.com)
(source: http://www.wikihow.com)

Now if you ask me “What’s so damn special about writing a story from a picture?” well my answer would be that it is “learning through imagination”. The picture is not just a random static picture, but rather a series of pictures that depict a “STORY”. Therefore, when you sit down to write a story from it, you will obviously imagine the story. You will imagine the scenes, from the first scene of Goldilocks discovering the porridge to the last scene where she runs away from the bears. So when you do your “vocabulary search” before writing the story in your target language (Korean), there is a much greater chance that you will remember them better than if you were learning it from a rigid vocabulary list, or through some “word-to-meaning” kind of memorizing techniques.

What I have realized through this exercise, is that you will learn the new words and remember them much more effectively, through three main techniques:

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One of the best language apps – “HelloTalk”- Review plus my experience — October 4, 2015

One of the best language apps – “HelloTalk”- Review plus my experience

I have been self-learning Korean for a little over a year now. And like all enthusiastic language learners, I’ve explored almost all resources available out there to help me learn the language. Since I am learning Korean on my own and that too not in South Korea, it is not easy finding a language partner to practise my language skills. So I was desperately looking for a solution, which came in the form of this awesome app called HELLOTALK (Thank heavens for that!). HelloTalk is basically a language exchange and learning app, which provides you with an online messenger platform, to meet native speakers of the language you are trying to learn. The idea is to find language partners so that you can teach each other your native language (or languages that you are fluent in).

I found out about this app from Hyunwoo Sun (선현우) of the Talk to me in Korea (TTMIK). If any of you are learning Korean, then I am sure you are well aware of Hyunwoo, his awesome TTMIK team and his abundant resources (most of which are absolutely free) at talktomeinkorean.com. The fact that TTMIK was introducing this app itself was quite reassuring for me. So I tried it and I am in love with it ever since.

HelloTalk has the widest assortment of fantastic features, which have been especially tailored designed for the language learning purpose. (I’ll explain in more detail in a while). But the best thing about this app is that it has a huge community of users, 2 million users worldwide, which I think is the largest among all (strictly) language exchange apps till this date (you are welcome to please correct me if I am wrong). Since I am learning Korean, I can vouch for a humongous community of Korean users in the app. There are dozens of Koreans joining this app every single day). And from the app reviews by other users, I gather it is the same for multiple other languages too. So as there are more than enough number of native language speakers, it is very easy to meet friends or language partners of all ages, gender and places around the world. Especially I have seen that Koreans are pretty keen on learning multiple languages.  English tops the list by far, as good English skills are regarded as a valuable skill in the South Korean job market. (TOEIC is a big deal in South Korea).

I have been using this app since June 2015, and I have made many good Korean friends through the app. I have met Koreans who want to genuinely learn English and we’ve been helping each other through regular “paragraph writing in the target language” exchanges, grammar corrections, pronunciation mistake corrections as well as simply chatting and more chatting in our target languages. And “Oh My!” I have made four times the progress in my language skill, especially my Korean writing skills (I sucked before) than I made in the entire year.

Language learning is all about training your brain to remember the new patterns of words and new sounds. Similarly, as one Korean teacher Mr. Sung Bong Lee (이성봉) puts it, “It is not making your own sentences in the target language but rather finding the sentences that are already there (previously used by native speakers)”. So language exchange apps like HelloTalk help us to do just that- get used to the sentences so that you can easily retrieve them from your memory when you need them.

To fulfil that very purpose I have tried almost all language exchange apps available out there. But so far, none of them have managed to beat HelloTalk and its features and especially its community of users. Some apps had features similar to HelloTalk but they just didn’t have enough users to communicate with. It’s the tiniest details like the font size, the help centre response time, the speed, the memory usage, that kept me sending back to HelloTalk. So here I am spending my evening sharing my lovely experience with the app so that all language learners out there can take the benefit of it too (If they already aren’t using it).


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12 things that language learners do or feel — September 29, 2015

12 things that language learners do or feel

(Language learners who are completely into the language they are learning)

edited pic2


  1. You try to translate everything you read, hear or even think into your target language.(Street signs, book titles, article titles you see in newspapers, magazines, song lyrics you hear, daily exclamations, greetings and brief thoughts like “Oh my god!”, “Damn it!, “Thank you”, “Sorry”, etc. Just the short ones because longer sentences need too much work and you either don’t have enough time and energy to translate them or you are just too lazy to do it right now.

  2. You get super aware of the foreigners in your neighbourhood or any place you go. It’s like you grow this new receiver antenna that scans your surrounding and picks up the language you are learning. If you’re learning an Asian language, you get super alert of any Asian tourist (And Man! It is not easy telling Asians apart from other Asians). If you are learning a European language, you are extra alert of any European looking foreigner.

    Your motive however can vary depending on what kind of person you are. If you are one of the shy types, then your motive is to try to listen upon their conversation in order to test your own listening & comprehension skills. You get extremely amused if you actually manage to understand some of their conversation or at least the gist. But if you are sort of an outgoing person, you would like to make friends with them, if possible. Because it is not easy finding a language partner or someone to practise your language with. This is especially true if you are learning a language in your country or some other place and NOT in the country where your target language is spoken.


  3. You get obsessed with the TV shows, series and movies in the target language. For example, If you are learning French, you watch Tv5monde 90% of the time. If you are learning Korean, your TV remote is stuck in the switch-between-channel-mode between Kbsworld and Arirang. You know all the latest shows in the country and you also know at least five websites where you can get the best content in your target language. (Ssssssh! For free!) They do serve as excellent ways of enriching your vocabulary in your target language.

  4. You are also addicted to the music of the country of your target language. Learning lyrics and new words from the songs is one of your favourite methods of learning the language. You have apps in your mobile phone that get you the lyrics of those songs, either in the script of the language or in romanization.

  5. You make your friends and family watch your favourite programmes in your target language, even if they are not interested in them at all. This is because you want to share the joy with them and also because you think that they are missing out on a whole new world, good television content, humour, etc. Plus you make them listen to all the interesting facts you learn about the new language or the culture.

  6. You are a huge fan of a few youtubers, bloggers and websiters who produce language or culture related courses in your target language. They are no less than celebrities for you. You admire them and you would like to meet them. Besides that, you know all youtubers, bloggers and websites that teach your target language.

  7. You suddenly become curious about your old friends (friends that you no longer talk to and no longer cared much about) just because they happen to be working or living in the country of the language you are learning. So you text them out if nowhere and ask them about their whatabouts. A little deep into the conversation, you can’t wait to tell them that you are learning the language, and even show off some of your language skills to them.

  8. You are aware of all the hot news, trends and events happening in the country of your target language. You also know the recent weather conditions, upcoming festivals, etc in the country. You may or may not be aware of what is going on in your own country or your neighbouring countries for that matter, but you make conscious efforts to keep yourself updated with the buzz in the target country. This is almost 100 percent true among language learners who are friends with the native speakers of the target language and who regularly talk with them. After all, you have to find a topic that both people can associate with and talk about, right?

  9. You look for places associated with the target language or the country in your own country, such as the restaurants, stores, libraries, organizations, anything! For example, if you are learning Mandarin Chinese, you look for Chinese restaurants and go there just to be able to experience some Chinese culture. Never mind if you can barely identify a few words in Chinese. And you look for Chinese people there, the chef or the staff or even customers. And you get super annoyed if you find out that all the staff there are in fact non-Chinese, who just learnt the Chinese cuisine.

  10. You accidentally mix random words from the target language while you are conversing in your own language or in a third language. This does not happen to beginner level learners but to learners who have reached at least the elementary level. This happens more frequently to learners whose native language sentence structure is more similar to that of the target language. Usually they are these short words like with, so, because, and, to etc that secretly creep into the conversation in a language where they don’t belong at all. But it is not a bad thing at all for the language learner. It is in fact a good news. It is an indication that the language they are trying to master is coming naturally to them. As for the second person in the conversation, well, who cares what he/she thinks, right? As long as you are making progress in your language challenge.

  11. You feel the urge to use words or expressions in the target language that best describe certain feelings or situation, the words or phrases that DO NOT EXIST or CANNOT BE PERFECTLY TRANSLATED into your own language. And you feel really irritated and annoyed when you can’t find a perfect close substitute word or expression in your own language.

  12. You go cold turkey on subtitles or take similar extreme measures. This is generally done by intermediate to advanced level language learners. All of a sudden you go cold turkey on subtitled TV programmes or movies and start watching raw video materials. Moreover, you also change the language of your mobile phones to your target language. Of course it is an extreme measure and really messes up your mind. But it is an excellent way to train your brain to accept the new language. Of course there are relapses and learners often find themselves crawling back to their original language or subtitled contents. But these relapses gradually become less frequent, if you are really determined to learn the language.

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