KIIP 2단계, Day 1

I take back everything I said about wishing I was in 3단계. 2단계 is the right level for me. It’s just enough that I understand what’s going on, and has enough hard stuff to keep me very, very busy.

My class is the only accelerated class in the schedule. It goes from May 15 to July 03. Other classes started today or will start next week, and end in mid-August.

There are 12 people in my class. Nationalities are Vietnam, Mongolia, Ukraine, Russia, Bangladesh, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, China, and America.

The Ukrainian and Russian women are both married to Koreans. One of the students from Bangladesh was so amused at how my parents are of different Asian races, and that I’m classified as American on the class paperwork.

Everyone can speak better than I can, but I think (lol) I can read the best. Not that reading-out-loud skills matters, because I’m not going into academia or public speaking. I would rather have better conversational skills.

It rained when we got out of class, and we also had a problem unlocking the doors to get out of the place. Syria figured out how to unlock the back door (quite simple really… just reach up really high and flip the deadbolts, except everyone else was too short). Russia and I found out that we take the same bus back home, and we ran for it. We got drenched anyway.

I was shivering miserably in the cold at the longest street light ever, to cross the road over to my officetel. It’s 17 C right now which is really nothing, but it felt much colder with the wind and rain.

Hints: Bring 7,000 won in exact change for the book. Nearly everyone seemed to have 10,000 won bills, and the teacher wasn’t able to give change to three people. She will bring change next week. I brought mine in 7 x 1,000 won, and didn’t have to fuss with getting change. Use the change machines in the subway stations!

Naver Dictionary appears to be the best online dictionary available. There’s free unsecured wifi for each floor, so the signal’s pretty strong. Sometimes, several floors will share one wifi point, and of course there’s going to be dead spots … none of that problem here!

How I got here

The five words I knew, going into Korea, in terms of familiarity. I only knew them orally – had no idea how to read or write Korean.

Typical stuff that you, too, might know:

  • 안녕하세요 – Hello.
  • 김치 – Kimchi… duh.
  • 불고기 – Bulgogi. I always forgot this word.

And the other two, from my university days in SoCal:

  • 야해 – Erotic/racy/vulgar.
  • 기린 – Giraffe. A tall friend’s nickname.

 

First step was to actually learn how to read Hangul. On the plane to Korea, I referred to the famous “learn to read Korean in 15 minutes” comic.

The first in-the-wild thing I read on my own was a sign I kept seeing on lots of windows in town: 임대  (for rent). In retrospect, it’s kind of funny.

On my phone, this is the only app that ever really helped me with Hangul, and I tried loads of them:

  • PopPopping Korean (Android only. There used to be an iPhone version, but it’s nowhere to be seen now)

When I had my computer all set up, this pronunciation chart helped me actually pronounce instead of just think out the sounds:

  • Learnhangul.com’s Korean alphabet app (dead link)

Edit: That website seems to be dead now. It was an interactive chart where you could click on things like 아 or 어 or 오 or 우 and hear an audio recording of it.

 

As for books, I went to Kyobo Bookstore and spent about an hour or so browsing through their learn-Korean-through-English books, trying to find the best match for my self-studying style. I thought I’d start with Sogang University and Ewha University’s books, because their Korean classes are so well-known. I quickly came to the conclusion that their books were a supplement to the teacher – you NEEDED a teacher, and self-studying would be tricky. I also looked at Hello Korean (with an idol narrating!), and passed over it – it was written in a good way for self-studying, but only went up to Book 2. I would need to find something after that.

The only university textbook series that suited my ‘style’ (if you can call it that) was Seoul National University’s books. Each level has a textbook and also a student workbook, and the workbook is totally worth it for the practice. I used to be the student that would zone out in class and then learn everything from the book (probably still am), and this one was the series for me.