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Korean Alphabet 2 - Consonants

An overdue post on the Korean alphabet with reference to Week 1 of First Step Korean.

When King Sejong created the consonants, there were originally 17 consonants - but 3 have fallen out of use, leaving 14 that are still used today.

Usually, the total number of letters in the Korean alphabet is given as 40, with 19 consonants and 21 vowels.

These extra 5 (19 - 14 = 5) consonants are the 5 tense double consonants (ใ„ฒ ใ„ธ ใ…ƒ ใ…‰ ใ…†).

As for the vowels, there are 11 complex vowelels that are formed by combining the 10 basic vowels.

5 Basic Symbols

Let's look at the 14 basic consonants, ignoring the tense consonants for now.

Even in the 14, you can say that there are really only 5 basic symbols. 14 basic consonants come from manipulations of 5 basic symbols listed first below.

  1. ใ„ฑ, ใ…‹
  2. ใ„ด, ใ„ท, ใ…Œ, ใ„น
  3. ใ…, ใ…‚, ใ…
  4. ใ……, ใ…ˆ, ใ…Š
  5. ใ…‡, ใ…Ž

Where did these 5 symbols come from?

I mentioned this in passing in the previous post about the Korean Alphabets but only mentioned the shape of the tongue in the mouth, which applies to ใ„ฑ and ใ„ด.

They are from the shape of the articulatory organs when making the sound (mouth, tongue, etc.) - how each sound is vocalised.

  1. ใ„ฑ, tongue (side view) - velar sound, e.g. /k/.
  2. ใ„ด, tongue (side view) - alveolar sound, e.g. /t/.
  3. ใ…, closed mouth - labial sound, e.g. /m/.
  4. ใ……, teeth - dental sound. (In this case, this set in IPA usually are considered alveolar or post-alveolar sounds in terms of place of articulation, but are fricatives or affricates, while most of the previous were stops, or nasals. This is why when letters in this group are in the final position, they take the same /t/ sound as those in the second group - more precisely, all coronals collapse to [tฬš].)
  5. ใ…‡, throat - glottal sound. (Here, the ng sound is actually a velar sound, though h is indeed a glottal sound.)

Apparently, each symbol also has an association with a given element, from Eastern philosophy (I threw in the elements' associated day of the week as well, but I don't think there is a link here):

  1. ใ„ฑ, tree/wood (Thursday)
  2. ใ„ด, fire (Tuesday)
  3. ใ…, soil/earth (Saturday)
  4. ใ……, metal/gold (Friday)
  5. ใ…‡, water (Wednesday)

Stroke Addition

ใ„ฑ (giyeok, /g/) โ†’ (add one stroke) โ†’ ใ…‹ (kieuk, /k/)

ใ„ด (nieun, /n/) โ†’ (add one stroke) โ†’ ใ„ท (digeut, /d/) โ†’ (add one more stroke) โ†’ ใ…Œ (tieut, /t/)

ใ… (mieum, /m/) โ†’ (add vertical strokes) โ†’ ใ…‚ (bieup, /b/)
ใ… (mieum, /m/) โ†’ (add horizontal strokes) โ†’ ใ… (pieup, /p/)

ใ…… (siot, /s/) โ†’ (add one stroke) โ†’ ใ…ˆ (jieut, /j/) โ†’ (add one more stroke) โ†’ ใ…Š (chieut, /ch/)

ใ…‡ (ieung, silent in pos. 1) โ†’ (add two strokes) โ†’ ใ…Ž (hieut, /h/)

(The intermediate letter ใ†† is one of those consonants that's no longer in use. Now, according to Wikipedia, there is meaning that goes into the strokes, and it's not an arbitrary adding of lines.)

In the course, it lists 3 exceptions to the above, of which only the first is still in use. The course lists them as such (within the brackets is the name given in this Wikipedia article):

  1. ใ„น (rieul) the palato-alveolar sound ("semi-coronal")
  2. ใ…ฟ, the semi-dental sound ("semi-sibilant")
  3. ใ†, the velar sound (sonorant velar)

The notes from my class actually puts ใ„น together with the ใ„ด group, which this course does as well in the initial grouping of the consonants into 5 groups. So it's kind-of in the group but not really. Rhotic consonants are always pretty... unique.

Consonant Names

Vowels are identified by their sound values, but consonants have names, which I've included above.

The naming of the consonants are such that in the first syllable, the initial position is the consonant, and in the second syllable of the name, the final position is the consonant. They were not named by King Sejong, but Choe Sejin in 1527.

Tense Consonants

It can be challenging to hear the difference because such differentiations between the tense and lax consonants don't exist in English.

Basic Aspirated Tense
ใ„ฑ ใ…‹ ใ„ฒ
ใ„ท ใ…Œ ใ„ธ
ใ…‚ ใ… ใ…ƒ
ใ…… ใ…†
ใ…ˆ ใ…Š ใ…‰

When we were taught these consonants in my class, the teacher said that the tense sounds exist in Mandarin Chinese. This made it easier for me to understand how they were supposed to sound.

However, if you were to give me a minimal pair test, I tend to get some of them wrong still (such as when revising my Anki flashcards).

The sounds are never as clear and as pure as they are supposed to sound normally, so it remains a challenge.

Oh, and ใ…… (siot) and ใ…† (ssang-siot) are the worst. ใ…… simply doesn't exist in the languages I know, so... unless exaggerated, I can't really tell.

(The tense consonants have the name ์Œ - ssang - plus the name of the basic consonant. ์Œ means "double".)

Mindshift Week 3: Learning and Careers

Passion and Work

There is often a kind of tension between what we want to do (our internal desires, what we think of as our passions) and what the world has to offer in terms of opportunities (external circumstances).

We have to be careful not to fall into The Passion Trap, which is where we develop ourselves extensively in one skill (which usually comes out of our passions) without considering its value to the market (and hence whether you can get a job).

This is made worse by friends and teachers who encourage us to "follow our passions". Realise that your friends generally want you to feel happy in the present, and will tell you what you think you want to hear. Teachers also (generally) teach a subject that they are passionate about, and may inadvertently try to steer you towards a career related to their subject even if it's unlikely that you would get a job out there related to that subject.

(As a side note - Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You debunks the "follow your passion" myth.)

Parents generally think more about your success. They will likely consider your internal passions less, but try to steer you towards a career that allows you to make a comfortable living (and in that sense, be as success).

People tend to think of career development as a "T" - you have one skill that you are very good at (the downward stroke of the T), and other areas where you have just a superficial knowledge.

Unfortunately, this tends to result in a lack of opportunities, especially if your one good skill isn't in high demand in the market.

A better way to think about career development is as a ฯ€. You can think of it as being more stable since it has two "legs". This is an approach where you develop deep skills in two areas - second skilling.

This second skill can be one that is very different from your main skill, or it can be something that you are familiar with. If time and money are constraints, it's better to build it out of something that you already are familiar with.

The second skill may be your passion, or it may be something that you take up for more practical reasons: it complements your first skill.

There are times in life when you may have to spend time away from your passion and dive deep into a skill that you originally don't have a passion for. First, realise that you can fall in love with this other skill that wasn't originally your passion, but ends up being something you enjoy.

Second, you don't have to give up on your passion. You can come back to it later. In fact, there are examples of people who became successful at their passion only after they stopped focusing on the passion directly, went to learn another skill, before coming back to their passion. Santiago Ramon y Cajal wanted to be an artist, but his father wanted him to be a doctor. Eventually he realised that he needed to study medicine to make a living. However, he never forgot his passion for art, and brought it into his study of medicine. In the end, it was also instrumental in helping him win the Nobel Prize.

This also ties to the "seemingly unrelated knowledge" portion of Week 1 - your other skill that you were "forced" to learn due to the circumstances may come in handy next time. And of course, the other way is true too; your passion may help you in learning this other skill. (Generally, based on the content, this other skill you are forced to learn is given as more technical, while the example of passion skills are generally more artistic, hence the statement that your passion skills can enhance your creativity.)

There's other ways of looking at careers and skills, beyond the "T" and "ฯ€" shapes.

For example, think about your hobbies - they make you happy, but also keep your brain fresh and agile. They can also offer insights into other areas (again, the "seemingly unrelated knowledge' theme pops up).

In terms of building a skill set, don't necessarily think that you have go deep in just 2 areas. If you have a "talent stack", where you are pretty decent or mediocre at a lot of things, kind of jack-of-all-trades, you also increase opportunities for yourself. One example is Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) - he says that he's not a very great artist, but with reasonable skills in writing, business, marketing, and social media. Together, they contribute to his success as a cartoonist.

These skills that build your talent stack can be from different areas. In fact, having them from different areas can add significant value (provided they are the right skills, of course). Instead of learning just a technical skill, consider soft skills too.

Brian Brookshire also offers an interesting perspective along the same vein. He says that skill development careers are typically logarithmic, and not linear. It takes a very long time to develop deep expertise in a given area. On the other hand, this is good news for second skilling - you can rapidly accelerate to the point of diminishing returns in a fairly short period of time, which tends to be enough for the skill to be useful.

Sometimes, you might be blocked from your ideal career choice due to circumstances. This also provides an excellent opportunity for learning a new skill.

Mindshifting in the Face of Opposition

Depending on where you live, students may be sorted into career paths earlier or later. In some countries, students may be sent for vocational training or continue the academically-oriented path at age 16. Of course, each approach has its owns merits and drawbacks.

Some people's career path are determined by their parents, while others have the freedom of the choice (but this freedom may not be such a great thing, because students lack the real-world experience of the job choice they are making). In some cases, others don't have access to quality education, or even a proper education, which limits their career choices.

Regardless, even if people are on a well-chosen career path, they may want to change. This is good, because any well-thought-out career change is creative fuel for societies (recall that those who switch careers are those who see things in a new way, leading to breakthroughs).

Whenever you consider a change though, make sure that you don't go into debt while learning the skills. (Let me just say in general, don't go into debt, it's not wise at all.)

That aside, when going through a change, there is likely that you will encounter resistance from those around you who want you to stay the same. There are 3 approaches for dealing with this:

  1. Dabble - a slow approach with a less jarring transition. Gradually learn skills in the new area.
  2. Double life - more intense, where you compartmentalise your life and avoid telling people what you are trying to do. This can be more stressful, but it can prevent others from talking you out of it.
  3. Contrarian - when others say you will fail, use that as fuel for your resolve to prove them wrong.

It's important regardless to create achievable interim goals and checkpoints to assess your progress.

Don't forget though, it's not just you - your environment is also important. Try to immerse yourself in the best possible environment and learn by osmosis.

However, remember to keep an open mind and seek for advice for change. When faced with valid criticism, listen, take the feedback, and use it to improve.

General Competence versus Selective Ignorance

What we have discussed previously was about developing skills in different areas - this can lead to general competence.

Selective ignorance is when you choose to ignore something that takes you away from what you are trying to master at that given point in time.

the practice of selectively ignoring distracting, irrelevant, or otherwise unnecessary information received, such as e-mails, news reports, etc.

This is great even at work - if you know how to do everything, you end up being that "go-to" person at the company, which can hinder you from getting your own work done. If you cultivate selective ignorance, you can prevent yourself from getting dragged into things that you have no interest in (but have the skills for).

The Value of Feeling Like an Impostor

The impostor syndrome is that feeling that you're not as good or as talented as the other people around you and that you got to where you are only because of luck, which will run out.

This is a very common feeling, and can make whatever you are trying to accomplish even more difficult. You start to doubt yourself.

But self-doubt is not all bad. It makes you more open and flexible, and it's people who are open to self-doubt that tend to be more successful in the long run. Generally, people tend to fail because of overconfidence, and only listening to wingmen who tell them what they want to hear.

Yes, it's not good to have too much doubt, but it tends to be undervalued. Doubt leaves you more open, and can encourage you to try harder - this is key because as we saw in Week 1, it's not genius, but persistence and flexibility that matters more.

The way to manage it is to realise that these feelings are normal, and re-frame them to your advantage.

Avoiding Career Ruts and Surviving Career Catastrophes

Keep an eye out for the big picture societal trends in relation to your skills - this is true no matter what stage of life you are at, and where you are along your career path. In today's world, engineering is one of the good skills to have.

It's good to balance any technical/analytical skills with soft skills to enhance your talent stack (and vice versa).

Be careful not to fall into a sheeple mentality where you follow your friends, only to find out that the subject you studied and put yourself into debt for was better off as a hobby than a career.

The golden rule of career catastrophes is that it's never as bad as you think it is at the time, and there is always a silver lining.

Be wary of falling into a career rut. Don't become too settled at doing the same job - even if you are doing a variety of activites at your job. Your mind might still fall into the rut, leading you to stagnate.

Even if you think you have the perfect career, things can change in a heartbeat. (How true, especially given the current pandemic...)

Make it a point to change your area of focus sometimes to keep yourself sharp.

Bad Traits as Best Traits

Some of what you thought were your bad traits can actually be some of your best. If you start to hate on your bad traits, try to reframe your thinking.

Remember the discussion about how people with a poor working memory tend to be more creative? While people with a strong working memory have it easier with problem solving and tend to get better grades, research has also shown that there is an inverse correlation between better grades and creativity.

There's also a correlation between disagreeableness and creativity.

For worriers, while too much anxiety is unhealthy, it can also help you to anticipate possibilities by mentally reviewing scenarios, even if they are negative.

The Intelligence of Emotions

Emotions were thought to be unreliable compared with cognition, but in recent years, this has changed.

Emotions are important for social interactions, learning, and decision making.

Paul Ekman, the world's leading expert on facial expression, went to Papua New Guinea to determine if there were universal expressions of emotion in all human societies. He found six:

  1. Happiness
  2. Sadness
  3. Anger
  4. Surprise
  5. Fear
  6. Disgust

Emotions are generally slow in onset and can last for a long time. Groups of neurons on the brain stem called neuromodulatory systems control your level of arousal, motivation, and attention.

In week 2, we discussed the serotonin system, which was important for regulating social interactions. There's another system that makes use of noradrenaline.

There's also a drug that prevents the reuptake of noradrenaline to increase its activity - Edronax. It's similar in function to what Prozac does for serotonin.

What noradrenaline does is increase drive motivation. A related molecule (adrenaline) produced by the adrenal gland will cause your heart to pound faster when it's released into your blood, preparing it for intense physical activity. This parallels the increase in mental activity that noradrenaline triggers in the brain.

All these neural systems are deeply integrated and interact with one another, like different players in an orchestra. This is despite the fact that we talk about systems as though they are isolated systems. This makes it difficult to find effective treatments for mental disorders.

There is another motivational system in the brain which uses another chemical - dopamine. High dopamine levels puts you in a good mood. When you receive an expected rewards, your dopamine levels increase past the baseline levels, but if you don't get the expected reward, it will decrease.

It is your dopamine cells that give you a gut opinion on decisions like what to eat, whether you should marry someone, etc.

Dopamine is also central to reinforcement learning, which is when you associate sensory input with a reward. The classic example is Pavlov's dog. While simple, this form of learning was the basis of AlphaGo, the AI program that defeated the world's Go champion.

The three neuromodulatory systems based on serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine interact strongly with the emotional systems in the brain. They are what allow us to form social bonds, evaluate dangerous situations, and learn new skills. Social interaction, decision making, and learning.

Referring to Older Siblings

I'm on Week 3 of First Step Korean and it's quite interesting because I'm learning new things (I honestly have no idea why I could possibly think otherwise... there's always things to learn, especially in language).

Our textbook has not gone into the family topic yet, so I've learnt a lot of new words related to family.

Also, this course introduced the first 10 native Korean numbers first, for counting the number of siblings that you have. (No Sino-Korean numbers in sight yet.)

There are different words in Korean for referring to an older brother or sister, depending on the gender of the person whose sibling it is.

(These words are not limited to blood siblings only as I've seen it used in some Webtoons... and it's rather common in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture too, to refer to someone like that out of respect for an aunt or uncle... but perhaps in this context... it's more of... trying to be cute?)

A female calls her older brother ์˜ค๋น  while a male uses ํ˜•.

For older sister, the word is ์–ธ๋‹ˆ (female) and ๋ˆ„๋‚˜ (male).

Initially, when this was introduced, I thought, Well, okay, that's what the females call older brothers/sisters, even if they are not their own, and similarly for males.

This "not their own" part was because I was thinking of a female addressing a person directly and calling him/her "brother" or "sister". (This seems to be a common thing in K-dramas, especially for calling a... boyfriend? Even if I don't watch them... well, I have no idea how I learnt this.)

Part of it was because it was phrased this way when it was first introduced:

If you are a female, an older brother is called ์˜ค๋น .


If you are a male, an older brother is called ํ˜•.

I interpreted it wrongly. It's not a case of "female-specific" language or "male-specific language" that some languages do have, where the speaker's gender determines what form they use (off the top of my head, Thai).

If the female is talking to a male and asking about his siblings, she would use the "male" terms.

To refer to his older brother, she would use ํ˜•. It's correct for her to say:

ํ˜•๋„ ์žˆ์–ด์š”? (Do you also have an older brother?)

This is in the context of asking a male friend if he also has a brother.

This was the eye-opening sentence that made me go back and re-watch the first video to figure out what I had missed.

It wasn't quite what I expected (or at least, I hadn't thought through the consequences of this yet).

I had thought the "female" or "male" using a particular form referred to the speaker, but it's actually referring to the person - the person whose siblings you are referring to - is that person male or female, that determines which form to use.

So instead of this:

If you are a female, an older brother is called ์˜ค๋น .

The way to avoid the misunderstanding for me would have been to say:

If you are a female, your older brother is called ์˜ค๋น . (Regardless of whether you are calling him that, or someone else is.)

With this knowledge in mind, the accompanying pictures for each of the vocabulary words now make more sense, as they will depict either a boy or a girl with another older (taller) boy or girl, with an arrow pointing to the older child to indicate what the word refers to.

Since I am writing this after the fact and I pretty much explained how it is supposed to be used, I don't think it's nearly as enlightening as discovering that on your own... but this is a nice record of my learning process, which was one of my purposes for keeping a language blog.

I had to update my Anki flashcards which I made yesterday - I'd put the translations down with "(male speaker)" and "(female speaker)" but I've updated them to "(of a male)" and "(of a female)".

Korean Alphabet 1 - Basic Vowels

This is about the Korean Alphabet, I guess about the history and how the letters were formed and whatever else I find interesting.

The Korean alphabet (Hangeul) was created in 1443 by King Sejong (referred to as King Sejong the Great - he is highly respected).

I've actually found it pretty fascinating ever since I realised that the consonants reflected the shape of the tongue in the mouth (in the case for ใ„ฑ, ใ„ด) when making that consonant sound. I think it's genius, and it also helped me to remember (memorise) the consonants when I was starting out, since I already knew IPA and the tongue positions also made sense.

I started with First Step Korean today mostly out of boredom and it was really fun to learn this.

It was briefly covered in my Korean class, but not in detail since... I guess it's not really critical to learning the language.


10 Basic Vowels

There are 3 basic symbols used to make the vowels, from the 3 elements of the universe in Chinese metaphysics.

  1. Sky (or heaven). This is considered "Yang" (+) - "bright". Symbol: โ€ข (the dot symbolising the sun in the heavens)
  2. Earth - flat ground. This is considered "Yin" (-) - "dark". Symbol: ใ…ก (pronounced /ษฏ/ and romanised as eu) - This is one vowel on its own.
  3. Man - standing up. This is neutral. Symbol:ใ…ฃ (pronounced /i/ and romanised as i). This is a second vowel on its own.

In Chinese philosophy:

  1. Right/Above is "Yang" (+) - "bright"
  2. Left/Below is "Yin" (-) - "dark"


  • Light vowels are those where the "sun" symbol is to the right/above of the man/earth symbols.
  • Dark vowels are those where the "sun" symbol is to the left/below of the man/earth symbols.

(This light/dark vowel association to Yin-Yang is new to me, but it... goes to show how logical this all is.)

The remaining 8 vowels come from attaching the dot "Sky" to the sides of "Earth" and "Man".

The first 4 ("first-derived vowels") are from attaching the dot to the left and right of "Earth" and "Man". They areใ…“ (/สŒ/), ใ…œ (/u/), ใ…— (/o/), ใ… (/a/) - over time the dot has become a short line.

The next 4 ("second-derived vowels") are formed by attaching the two dots to each side. They are ใ…• (/jสŒ/), ใ…  (/ju/), ใ…› (/jo/),ใ…‘ (/ja/).

In terms of pronunciation, they combine ใ…ฃ ("Man") which is /i/ with the respective first-derived vowel, e.g.ใ…ฃ +ใ…= ใ…‘(/i/ and /a/ and you get /ja/).

Remember in the post for Lesson 12 I commented I didn't get why ๋งˆ์‹œ๋‹ค conjugated in the present-polite tense gives ๋งˆ์…”์š”? Why ์‹œ becomes ์…”? It boils down to me not understanding that l + ใ…“ = ใ…•.

That's just the way it combines. The ใ…“ comes from the conjugation form, since it is V-์–ด์š”. I didn't get why the l when added to ใ…“ forms ใ…• and not ใ…”, but if you put it in this context of how the vowels were formed, then it makes sense.

Now, the order of these alphabets. I've not actually bothered to memorise it since it's not been needed so far, and there were just too many.

But let's start with 4. It's light-dark, light-dark, but starting with left/right first, then top/bottom.

  1. ใ…
  2. ใ…“
  3. ใ…—
  4. ใ…œ

If you add in the second-derived vowels, they go after their respective first-derived counterparts:

  1. ใ…
  2. ใ…‘
  3. ใ…“
  4. ใ…•
  5. ใ…—
  6. ใ…›
  7. ใ…œ
  8. ใ… 

And then we just add in the last 2:

  1. ใ…ก
  2. l

For now, that's the order, with 10 vowels. (The rest are slotted inbetween these.)

Mindshift Week 2: A Deeper Look at Effective Learning

The Value of a Poor Memory

We tend to discount certain attributes of ours as "bad". Last week, we saw the racecar vs hiker brain - we tend to value the racecar brain for its speed, but don't realise that it has its disadvantages too.

We also think that having a poor memory is bad. But like how the hiker brain has its advantages (such as not jumping to wrong conclusions too quickly), a poor memory also has a valuable side.

Research has shown (and this was covered in LHTL I believe) that the prefrontal cortex has 4 slots of working memory (not the lucky number 7 that has become pervasive). At any time we can hold up to 4 neural chunks of information.

Neural chunks can be simple (e.g. words or phrases in a foreign language), but they are also be developed with practice into more complex chunks that are like "ribbons", making it easier to pull related information into working memory.

With enough practice, we don't need to use working memory any more, and this frees up the slots for us to focus on other things. (Consider how we can walk without having to focus on it, unlike young children who are first learning how to do it.)

Let's get back to having a poor or good memory. Those with a good memory can be said to have a "steel trap" memory, and they can easily retain things in their working memory. This allows them to solve complicated problems more easily.

Those who have poor memory are more easily distracted, and they tend to lose a train of thought. But when something falls out of working memory, something else falls in, and this is where you have creativity. So, if you have a poor memory, you tend to be more creative.

Additionally, a poor working memory allows you to find simpler ways or shortcuts of doing things (if it's a concept, a simplification of it) - even though you may take more time initially to figure it out.

If you do have a poor working memory, you can use techniques like a memory palace or association to help. For associations, having motion in the visualisations will make it easier.

Regardless of whether you have a good or bad memory, it's useful to have a brain dump - write down things that you need to remember instead of trying to keep it in working memory.

Meditation and Mindfulness

Scientific research on meditation is still in its infancy. However, there are two classes of meditation broadly speaking:

  1. Focused attention
  2. Open monitoring

The focused attention type of meditation (e.g. repeating a mantra) help to enhance focused mode type thinking - that is, learning. This type helps to enhance concentration, and at the same time, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.

The open monitoring type of meditation (e.g. mindfulness) help to enhance diffuse mode type thinking, that is, imaginative and creative abilities. You don't focus on any one thing. In diffuse mode thoughts tend to wander (such as when we daydream), and it might wander to help us plan for the future. But the downside is that diffuse mode is affiliated with anxiety and depression because the brain might start to think about things that can go wrong.

Meditation can have very different effects, depending on the type.

Pomodoro Technique

This was introduced in the last video as a type of "working meditation". It was also mentioned in LHTL as a technique to combat procrastination.

  1. Turn off all distractions
  2. Set the timer for 25 minutes
  3. Focus during the 25 minutes. When distracting thoughts arise, don't push them away, just let them pass.
  4. Reward.

More on the reward portion: Once you are done for the 25 minutes. You can do what you want. Turn your attention off whatever you were focusing on. But it's best not to do related tasks during this break or you aren't really getting a break. (e.g. if you were writing a report, then you don't want to go to social media to post something new, since that's also writing - even if it's on a different topic)

Remember that we need to take our attention off whatever we are doing from time to time, since it's during this time in diffuse mode that we consolidate and make sense of the materail.

The reason for 25 minutes focused time? The pain you experience (thanks to your brain) when you don't want to do something tends to last for around 20 minutes, so the 25 minutes is to push you past that point and get into the flow. And if you really get into the flow, you may want to keep going as long as it feels good.

The breaks can also be longer if you are not in a rush, so 10-20 minutes is also acceptable.

Getting Past Procrastination

While the Pomodoro technique is useful when you are procrastinating, you should also take a look at the big picture when you realise that you are procrastinating.

Piers Steel has done research into why people procrastinate, looking at the motivators and demotivators of procrastination. He wrote a book on this called The Procrastination Equation.

There are three motivators/demotivators discussed.

The first motivator is expectancy. You are motivated if you expect to succeed and get a reward.

The second motivator is value. You are motivated if you believe that the the task is valuable and pleasant.

The third demotivator is impulsiveness. You are unmotivated if you get distracted or lose focus from a task.

Alex Vermeer came up with a helpful flow chart for defeating procrastination based on the ideas from Steel.

The whole chart is very big and there are many possible things that you can do, but they all focus on one of the three areas. But first, you should notice when you procrastinate, and understand why you are doing so - and you should be specific about the reason.

Then, focus on one of the three areas. The chart has actions that you can take and tips for the actions.

For example, to increase expectancy, realise that not doing anything guarantees failure.

To increase value, you can find meaning: take some time to think about your major life goals, and how what you are doing aligns with it.

And for decreasing impulsiveness, you can set goals and create routines and habits. If a 25-minute pomodoro seems too hard, do a 5-minute "dash".

If you are learning something new and difficult, it's a very bad idea to procrastinate. It takes time for your brain learn something. There are only so many new neural synapses that can form in a single day.

However, there is a time for "productive procrastination". This is for tasks that require preparation, and you are synthesising information, such as in writing a book. It's a problem if you try to immediately dive right in without having the right information first.

If it's overwhelming, just remember 2 things:

  1. Focus on one thing
  2. Keep track of what works best

The Value of Procedural Fluency and Deliberate Practice

Conceptual understanding is important, but practice and repetition with some memorisation is just as important in learning.

Despite what most believe today in Western education, conceptual understanding is not the golden key to learning. Practice and repetition are equally important.

In the past, for many thousands of years, it was thought that memorisation was the key to learning. But of course, we know that it isn't everything.

Unfortunately, what has happened in Western education is that things have been taken to the other extreme - overemphasising conceptual understanding and conveniently neglecting that some memorisation and (deliberate) practice on the hardest portions is needed.

Memorisation doesn't just reinforce your learning; it also allows you to gain a deeper and richer understanding. If you were memorising an equation, you will understand it better especially if you are trying to figure out what is going on while memorising.

Some educators like to say that you can always look up the equation and you don't have to memorise it. But consider this: Can you say that someone knows a language, if they had to look up words every time they were needed?

Practice and memorisation helps you to chunk key concepts. When you first learn something, it occupies a lot of your working memory. Your pre-frontal cortex is working very hard. But once you have it chunked (that is, understood and practiced), it becomes like a long, smooth ribbon that you can easily pull into working memory. You free up your other working memory slots to hold other related information, that you can "hook" together to form more advanced thoughts.

Procedural fluency is the term used to describe when you have a concept well-chunked.

Some "test anxiety" is a result of not having studied well enough. Only when the test is in front of you, do you look deeply enough to realise that you don't know the material, and panic as a result.

The Value of Mental Tricks

Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman said:

โ€œNothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.โ€

Unfortunate events happen to everyone, but how you react makes a difference. If you react inappropriately, you put stress on yourself which may impact your health negatively - leading to disease.

The context in which you view something matters. If you see a snake in a cage, no big deal. But if it's outside the cage, that's very different.

Similarly, if you put your brain in a "cage", which is a better frame around stressful thoughts, it can greatly help. These mental tricks are for reframing negative thoughts into more positive ones.

Learning to Reframe

The first trick is to put a label on your feelings when you encounter a setback. Doing so forces you to use words to describe your feelings, which shifts your thinking from the emotional part of the brain to the more rational part. This automatically tones down your emotions.

The field of cognitive therapy has a list of common cognitive distortions (developed by Dr. David Burns in his book The New Mood Therapy). This list is helpful as it provides labels that you can use to describe how you are feeling.

  1. All or nothing thinking - For example, thinking you are a total failure because you failed a test (and despite the fact that you are a success in other areas).
  2. Magnification - Overemphasising the impact of one failure.
  3. Overgeneralisation - Seeing one failure as a part of a series of failures, forgetting the things that you have done well.
  4. Mental filter - Focusing only on what you did badly at and ignoring everything else.
  5. Discounting the positive - Forgetting about all the good things in your life.
  6. Jumping to conclusions - Thinking that one failure will lead to things going badly from now on.
  7. Mind reading - Thinking that others think badly of you, when you don't know what they think.
  8. Emotional reasoning - Thinking that something is negative just because I feel it is negative.
  9. Shouldy thinking - Thinking "I should have..." This only leads to guilt, anger and frustration.
  10. Pejoratives - Calling yourself names like "idiot", "stupid", etc. that only causes you to feel bad about yourself and makes you angry and frustrated.
  11. Personalisation and blame - Blaming ourselves and shouldering responsibility for errors that we didn't make, or blaming others inappropriately.

When you feel bad: Think about what is bothering you, look through these labels and think about how your mind is tricking you. Then develop a rational response.

The other trick is to find positive ways to think about a negative experience.

If you experience a failure in business, think of it as a great learning experience.

If you didn't get a job you wanted, you have the opportunity for a better job next time and it's a signal for you to use this time to upgrade your skills.

If you did badly on a test, think of it as a hint that you need to relook at your study habits.

Reframing isn't just mental trickery - it actually extinguishes the negative emotions from the fight-or-flight center of the amygdala. When you find a way to change the way you interpret your experiences, there's fewer stress-related neurotransmitters released by the amygdala.

The Pitfalls of "Learning Styles"

You should make use of all your senses when learning - visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or whatever else there is out there.

A 2015 research conducted by Beth Rogowsky and her colleagues found that there was no statistically significant difference in the relationship between your ability to comprehend the material when you use your preferred learning style or not.

These learning styles also kind of restrict you by putting you in a box. More accurately, you may put yourself in a box when you subscribe to the view that you are a particular type of learner.

If you think you are an auditory learner, and you start to shun visual material, it means that you get less exposure and less practice with using your eyes to learn. But realise that reading is important today - the majority of tests are written, for example (unless it's a listening test for a language).

Yes, research has shown that everyone receives and processes new information in different ways. But this doesn't extend to "learning styles" (at least, based on the current research). In fact, it seems that we learn best when we integrate and use all of our senses when we learn.

Think of yourself as an all-inclusive type of learner, and you will learn much better because of it.

As a note, realise that there is a whole industry behind this "learning styles" movement that is financially-motivated. There's much money to be earned from creating and administering the tests to determine the type of learner you are, and conducting workshops. Be aware that there is this driving force behind it, even when there is no scientific evidence that these theories about learning styles are true.

Learning Too Much

The experience of Ana Belen Sanchez-Prieto: She started taking a MOOC to learn about how to create her own MOOC. She realised that she had to learn more about effective teaching, so she enrolled in an education MOOC, before deciding to complete the specialisation.

She went on to take every education-related MOOC that she could find. When she realised that she could take MOOCs on subjects of interest that she'd not had the chance to learn before, she started to take them all.

In a nutshell, she got carried away. This led to stress because she still has work - her own classes. Her social life was impacted. But the worst thing is that she realised she wasn't really learning, but rather the goal was to finish the course and to get the certificate.

The takeaway is that there are many interesting things to learn about, but she had to choose.

Taking on too much can suck the joy out of the experience.

I'm adding my own commentary here, because this is starting to resonate. I think this video is especially true now, given that many online education tools have been made freely available in this time of a global pandemic. I've been feeling this thirst for knowledge. I see so many opportunties to learn, and I begin to wonder if I'm loading on more on my plate than I can humanely handle. I started with this MOOC, but I'm already taking another college-level class. I found another interesting MOOC, then yesterday, I discovered that Pluralsight has April free. The day before someone told me about Google Cloud Platform having free training too, and giving away swag for completing 'quests' in Qwiklabs. Before that, I also knew that Unity was offering a few free months...

2019 was a 'bad' year for me, in that I didn't achieve much in terms of my own learning and also at work. I hated myself for that. But I think I landed in the state I was in in 2019 precisely because I was overworking myself in 2017, and by mid-2018 I'd burnt out, and never recovered but it got worse in 2019. It's a cautionary tale in my own life. I have to fully evaluate the options and choose what is a priority, and what is meaningful personally to me.

Ultimately, it's important to have a balance.

Your Social Brain

You behave differently depending on who you are around.

Google's Project Aristotle set out to discover what made teams successful. What they found out was that psychological safety predicted how well teams innovated.

Psychological safety means that members of the team are comfortable with taking risks and sometimes failing. There is interpersonal trust among the members and everyone is comfortable being themselves.

The most successful teams had more empathy.

Now, the drug Ecstasy (yes, the drug people take at parties) enhances empathy. How it does this is that it causes a massive release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurochemical messenger found in the brain of vertebrates. The brain stem consists of neurons that manufacture serotonin. Serotonin is projected widely, meaning that it has an effect on many billions of neurons in the cerebral cortex (the "most highly evolved part of the human brain").

As we all know, you shouldn't take Ecstasy because there's a downside. Ecstasy released just about all of the available serotonin in the brain, depleting the available supply. What this means is that afterward, and for weeks after you take it, you become more withdrawn and less social, until your supply of serotonin is replenished.

Prozac, which is used in treatment of some types of depression, also increases serotonin activity by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin by neurons. Prozac takes a much longer time to have an effect, but its effects also last longer.

The environment plays a role in the amount of serotonin in your brain.

Lack of maternal care in non-human primates have shown to result in reduced levels, greater agression, and more anxiety-like behaviours during adolescence.

The low levels in stressed brains are also a tripwire for extreme and unpredictable violence.

Although the levels of neutromodulators such as serotonin are determined during development, and depend on your experiences when you are young, they can be changed when you move to a new environment.

Work with the right sort of people who will support you positively.

Mindshift Week 1

Notes from the MOOC Mindshift.

I've read the book some time ago. I'd also started the course some time ago but never finished it, but since Coursera is offering free online learning (that is, the certs) for selected courses due to Covid-19, I decided to give this another go.


You can do more and be more than you think.

Aptitude tests (and your internal feelings) only reflect that you are good at at this point in time. But you can change - due to your brain changing (forming new connections) every night when you sleep.

Therefore, you can achieve much more than you think you can, including in subjects that you thought you were bad at.

Slow Learners

There are 2 types of brains, the fast, racecar brain, and the slower hiker brain.

Geniuses typically have this fast racecar brain that allows them to jump ahead to conclusions quickly. The downside of this is that they may not accept the (subsequent) feedback that indicates they are wrong. Consequently, they forge ahead on the wrong path. There is a lack of flexibility - they did not frequently change their minds and were not used to it.

The hiker brain is much slower, but there is also value in being a slow learner.

Santiago Ramรณn y Cajal is a Nobel Prize winner who worked with geniuses with racecar brains, but who himself was not a genius. In his view, it is persistence and flexibility that made him successful in his research, and allowed him to avoid falling into same pitfalls as his genius colleagues.

Active Learning

You learn far more by experiencing and doing things yourself. It sounds self-evident, but we tend to forget this when we learn.

This can be for example in art - watching tutorial videos, but never drawing (practising).

It can be reading with a book in front of you, but not trying to test yourself on what you have read.

Test yourself always, work through problems. Don't fool yourself into thinking you know something because it is in front of you. It is when you don't have the material and try to recall that you know what you don't know.

It is only when you actively engage with the material that you truly learn.

1 hour of studying vs 1 hour of taking a test - you will learn far more by spending that hour taking the test, even if you don't know the answers or get them wrong! At least you will then know what you don't.

Active learning is tiring, so your brain will try to find excuses not to do it.

Talking/interacting with others is one way (perhaps one of the easier ones) of doing active learning. This is because you are also discussing about the material and so you are also working your way through them, I believe.

(I'm taking these notes after each video, based on whatever I've remembered, with some occasional references to the transcript.)

Seemingly Unrelated Knowledge

Thomas Kuhn wanted to learn about how science unfolds. Is it a steady accumulation of knowledge, or is punctuated with breakthroughs here and there?

He found out that it was breakthroughs that punctuated... there were periods of normal science, where knowledge would slowly accumulate using the usual scientific methods in that field.

But then someone comes along, and sees what is there in a new way, and a paradigm shift occurs.

What allows these people to see things in a new way?

  1. Young people who have not yet been indoctrinated in that particular worldview
  2. Older people who made a career switch from another discipline into a new one

So for the second group, it is their knowledge from the other discipline (which may appear unrelated) that allows them to see things in a new way, leading to a breakthrough.

Don't worry about feeling incompetent when you learn something new - those feelings will pass.

The willingness to change, to learn, can be the greatest asset. Your greatest asset.

Mastery Learning

We tend to pick subjects that we are good at to learn, and get more practice, which makes us even better at them. Conversely, we take less of the subjects that we aren't so good at (because it might hurt our grades), which gives us less practice when we need more.

The traditional way of learning is that students in a class are all given the same amount of time to learn, whether they actually understood or not.

Mastery learning is where it's understood that students take different amounts of instruction time and require different amounts of practice with material, but in the end they are still able to master it. So it doesn't matter how long to you take to learn the material - you can still (eventually) grasp it as well.

It turns out that online learning is one of the best ways that support mastery learning - you can watch videos again if you don't undertand. Taking quiz variants until you are comfortable with the material. You can also get exposure to different explanations of the same material.

One pretty-extensive MOOC taker said - it's okay to fail MOOCs, you can watch what interests you. Yes, it is fulfilling to complete a MOOC, but it is not always what you need to do. No one has to know if you drop out or fail. And even if you failed the first time, you can always retake it. Anyway, even if you did fail, you can still learn from the course without passing!

Focused and Diffuse Mode

This topic was covered in LHTL, but here we are introduced to more analogies to help us understand the difference.

The thing about analogies and metaphors is, they serve as a tool for understanding. Once they reach their limit and are no longer useful, it makes sense to throw them away and adopt another analogy/metaphor.

The previous analogy in LHTL for focused vs diffuse mode is that it's like a pinball machine, where your thought is the ball. In focused mode, the pins are very close together, and so you tend to get stuck (like how the ball will get stuck between the tight pins). In diffuse mode, the pins are further apart.

We can also think of it as a network mesh, where in focused mode, the mesh is much closer and the holes are smaller but they are much larger in diffuse mode. In focused mode, a certain part of the network is activated. On top of that, unlike the focused mode, the connections that active in diffuse mode are more expansive (over a wider area), thus allowing for connections between seemingly unrelated things (creating creative insight).

The new analogy is to think of it as an excavator - think of a digging machine. So when you are in focused mode, your brain is collecting this information, receiving information. In diffuse mode, it is placing that information elsewhere in the brain, organing and consolidating it, which also helps you to make sense of it.

You cannot go into diffuse mode by concentrating really hard, but it is the default mode when you aren't thinking about anything in particular. That is why it is important to take breaks when you have studied for a while, so that you can get out of focused mode and consolidate what you have learned, and the brain can be more creative with the new material.

Learning Difficult Things

Drinking coffee/tea (due to caffeine?) diminishes the daydreaming alpha brain waves - which is why it helps you concentrate. It's most effective for an hour, but the effects may last much longer.

It turns out that having a bit of noise can help you learn difficult things, because it causes the diffuse mode to pop up. As we know, we need the diffuse mode to help consolidate the information that we have learnt.

Memorising simple things (straightforward facts using focused mode concentration) doesn't tell you how well you can understand complex systems.

It takes time to understand complex systems (e.g. heart function, causes of WWII). Usually, this involves both the focused and diffuse mode - alternating between the two.

The focused mode is primarily centered near the front of the brain, in the pre-frontal cortex. The diffuse mode on the other hand involves a wider area - it's this extensive nature that allows for the creative insight, as noted above.

Your Environment

Even small changes in your environment can lead to big changes over time.

A cathedral, with its high ceilings and coloured glass, the way your voice echoes in the space, conveys that it is sacred.

The roar of the crowd at a live soccer game makes the difference of why people still go watch the match at the stadium, even when the view is better at home.

Apparently, a place with high ceilings allow people to think more freely and abstractly. In rooms with low ceilings - people focus on the specifics.

Hospitals are the same everywhere (pretty much), and considering what we know about how our environment affects us, it's very terribly designed. If you were worried about your health before entering, be more worried after your enter the hospital.

The lighting is usually dim, and it is outdoor light that promotes arousal.

Plus, the constant dim lighting that is always on - it messes with the cicadian rhythm.

There are generally no windows (especially if you are very sick and in the ICU), and windows to the outdoor promote healing - it is depressing when the window opens to a parking lot.

And the unpredictability - there can be random alarms going on to signal an emergency, and yes, it alerts the nurses and doctors, but it also alarms the patient trying to rest and recover.

There is no privacy. You can get disturbed at any time of day for whatever reason - for them to check your vitals, or draw blood, or some other invasive procedure.

The meals are probably the worst in terms of nutritional value. And we know that you need to have good nutrition to be strong and healthy.

The Changing World

The world changes constantly. You need to take a big picture view of the opportunities that are available today and will come tomorrow - and in today's world for example, technology, math, science is key, the way horsemanship was until recent times when the internal combustion engine was invented and automobiles and other vehicles came into existence.

Match your aspirations with the opportunities that are available today.

Yes, we all have our own interests and passions. But we can also broaden our passions - learning new things that may not be comfortable for us. We should work to broaden our passions.

Mindshift (the course) promises to provide a framework for this change.

Natural Passions and Gender

It turns out that girls and boys have (on average) the same math and science ability. Testosterone has no effect on it; what it affects is verbal ability. So by comparison, boys will likely feel that they are better at math and science, since their verbal ability is weaker. But on the other hand, girls will feel that they are better at the language-oriented subjects because they are better at the verbal ability than math and science.

Because of this, the self image forms that lead boys to think that they are better at math and science, and girls think they aren't as good, and as they continue to develop what they are good at, this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Boys think their passion is in the math and sciences while girls think it is in language-oriented subjects.

The advice of "follow your passion" usually means doing what is easiest for you, but as it turns out, when things are difficult, that's when we learn better than if it was easy.

Our passions develop around what we are good at - but it takes time for us to be good at things.

Lesson 24 (Beginner 1B L8): Native Korean Numbers and Unit Nouns

Today (and probably last week) should be considered as Beginner 2A, as evidenced by the pop quiz that we got today. But more on that surprise test later. (The teacher calls it a test, same as the big test from 2 weeks ago, but these are always only written - in the sense of short questions - and last no more than 15 minutes.)

Erica didn't come, apparently she was busy last week and this week as well. I hope she's all right, and it's not because she's sick. I know that she was sick a couple of weeks ago.

In any case, we found out that our new teacher in 3 weeks' time when the next term starts will be the head teacher, so I'd get to experience the difference, and see if Audrey was right. I wonder if she would rejoin the class (or if she could... being rather... behind).

There were some safe distancing measures in place due to the Coronavirus, so we had to take our temperatures, sign a declaration (that we are not sick and not serving any form of stay-home notice), and also sit a seat apart from one another. The tables and chairs were rearranged to form rows. We also couldn't use the paper flashcards, so we just revised together using Quizlet. The teacher showed the flashcards on the TV screen, and she didn't come near us either. So naturally we didn't get to play with any money like last week (it was a small part at the end), so I'm really glad we had last week's lesson before things got to this state.

Native Korean Numbers, 1-29

We learnt the numbers, basically just 1-10, and then 20. We could form the numbers in that range with what we have learnt. The rest of the native Korean numbers will be covered in Chapter 9 (3 chapters from now).

So, yes, we really are not done with numbers... and probably won't be for a while.

Native Korean Numbers (์ˆซ์ž)
ํ•˜๋‚˜ 1
๋‘˜ 2
์…‹ 3
๋„ท 4
๋‹ค์„ฏ 5
์—ฌ์„ฏ 6
์ผ๊ณฑ 7
์—ฌ๋Ÿ 8
์•„ํ™‰ 9
์—ด 10
์—ดํ•˜๋‚˜ 11
์Šค๋ฌผ 20
์Šค๋ฌผ๋‹ค์„ฏ 25

We learnt these alongside the unit nouns. There is some difference for the numbers 1-4 (and the numbers that end in 1-4) when they are used with the unit nouns, which will be covered later.

Unit Nouns

I realise that I can't really describe these, because I didn't have to learn them recently... when learning a L2 language, that is. They exist in the Chinese language, so I've known about them since I was young.

The more proper term for them is classifiers or measure words (which is what it's called in Chinese - ้‡่ฏ).

English has unit nouns for uncountable things: a glass of water, a slice of bread, a bottle of beer. There's also the animal collective nouns, such as a pride of lions, a flock of birds, a herd of cattle.

In Chinese (Korean, Japanese, and a few other languages I believe), you have these classifiers for just about every noun, even where you would not have them in English.

For example, in English, you call a person... a person.

But in Chinese you have ไธ€ไธชไบบ (yรญ gรจ rรฉn), where ไธช is the classifier. ไธ€ means "one" and ไบบ means "person".

ไธช is actually the most common one, and it's the default when I don't know which one to use too.

The equivalent of ไธช in Korean is ๊ฐœ. (It also means "dog", yes, but the word origin is different.)

This doesn't mean that there is a simple 1-to-1 mapping such that when you use ไธช in Chinese, you use ๊ฐœ in Korean.

The simplest counter example is found in the Korean unit noun (I'll call it as such, as that's what the notes call it) for person. It's not ๊ฐœ, but ๋ช….

Side Note: In that Wiktionary page, it says ๋ช… comes from the Sino-Korean word from ๅ (โ€œname/counter for peopleโ€)... which... well, it's correct that it's used for people, but I believe that it's some formal context that it's used in. (There's also ไฝ which is used to be polite when talking about a person.)

We covered 5 unit nouns in this lesson.

Korean Unit Noun Sino-Korean Word Used for (refers to Korean only)
๊ฐœ ไธช ... most things
๋ช… ๅ people
๋ณ‘ ็” (็“ถ) bottle
์ž” ็›ž (็›) cup
๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ - bowl (food)


Now that the pre-requisites (native Korean numbers + unit nouns) have been covered, let's do the grammar point, which is basically about using the unit nouns.

2. N ๊ฐœ [๋ช…, ๋ณ‘, ์ž”, ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡]

The structure is this: Item + Native Korean Number + Unit Noun

So for example, you have 5 apples: ์‚ฌ๊ณผ ๋‹ค์„ฏ ๊ฐœ

As mentioned above, for 1-4 (and the numbers that end in 1-4, since you form those numbers using them as well), it's different when used with the unit nouns:

  • ํ•œ instead of ํ•˜๋‚˜
  • ๋‘ instead of ๋‘˜
  • ์„ธ instead of ์…‹
  • ๋„ค instead of ๋„ท

20 is also different: ์Šค๋ฌด instead of ์Šค๋ฌผ.

More examples:

  1. ๋ผ๋ฉด ํ•œ ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ (1 bowl of instant noodles)
  2. ์ปคํ”ผ ๋‘ ์ž” (2 cups of coffee)
  3. ์˜ค๋ Œ์ง€ ์„ธ ๊ฐœ (3 oranges)
  4. ์‚ฌ๋žŒ ๋„ค ๋ช… (4 people/persons)
  5. ๋ฌผ ๋‹ค์„ฏ ๋ณ‘ (5 bottles of water)
  6. ํŽœ ์Šค๋ฌด ๊ฐœ (20 pens)


We practised asking questions based on the pictures in the handout and book.

In the handout, there were images of things that we knew the words for without the nouns (the textbook was nice enough to give the nouns) and according to the picture, we had to answer how many items there are.

๊ฐ€: ๊น€์น˜์ฐŒ๊ฐœ ๋ช‡ ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ ์žˆ์–ด์š”?
๋‚˜: ๋‘ ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ ์žˆ์–ด์š”.

Near the end, we also practised with the dialogue on p. 149, but using it for the menu on p. 150. We did this in threes - so we rotated among the 4 students in the class. To make it harder, we also had to total up the prices and the student who is the server has to state the price. One of the diners would pay (giving some amount of invisible money) and the server has to calculate the change to give back too.

There are 4 restaurants there - ๋งŒ๋ฆฌ์žฅ์„  is the Chinese restaurant. Just as we were puzzling over the name, the teacher asked us what the Great Wall of China was called, referring it to it as the famous wall. Someone gave the name in English, then she asked for the Chinese name, which is ไธ‡้‡Œ้•ฟๅŸŽ. This restaurant's name is just that.

Particle Position

The textbook has this sentence: ์˜ค๋Š˜ ์ปคํ”ผ๋ฅผ ์„ธ ์ž” ๋งˆ์…จ์–ด์š”. (Today I drank three cups of coffee.)

Someone asked about the position of the particle.

Accoding to the teacher, it can be attached to either the noun (as in the example) or even to the unit noun. It can be omitted in the spoken language, which we were doing as we practised.

I would think it applies to the subject particle as well.

In the homework for this week, they asked the question with the subject particle (๊ฐ€/์ด) and placed it behind the noun: ๊น€์น˜์ฐŒ๊ฐœ๊ฐ€ ๋ช‡ ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ ์žˆ์–ด์š”?

Usage of ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡

After we had practised for quite a while and struggling to pronounce ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡, the teacher told us that ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡ is not commonly used anymore. Native speakers don't use it.

For one bowl, instead of item + ํ•œ + ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡, it would simply be item + ํ•˜๋‚˜, e.g. ๋ฐฅ ํ•˜๋‚˜ ์ฃผ์„ธ์š”.

For two and beyond, the unit noun used is ๊ฐœ instead of ๊ทธ๋ฆ‡, e.g. ๋ฐฅ ๋‘ ๊ฐœ ์ฃผ์„ธ์š”.

They are teaching this and we are learning this unit noun because it's in the textbook.

The other time I recall that the teacher gave on the book teaching "outdated" things is the noun for coffee shop (cafรฉ). The book uses ์ปคํ”ผ์ˆ, but it's more commonly called ์นดํŽ˜.

Mini Test

Around 15 minutes before the end of class, the teacher said that we were supposed to have a test next lesson (which would be the 3rd lesson of Beginner 2A - I really should try to see if there's a pattern to when we have these mini tests). But because our next lesson is 3 weeks away, and we would likely forget everything by then, she said that would just do the test now.

We were given ~5 minutes to look through anything we needed, including the numbers (prices) from last week.

I knew I had the most problems with the native numbers, so I had to quickly associate them. I'd been practising throughout the last week in Anki, but their names have not been burned into my brain.

I had problems with 3 and 4 since they were close (minimal pairs, in fact): ์…‹ and ๋„ท, though we were mostly using them in the ์„ธ and ๋„ค forms. But by that time I'd remember to associate ์„ธ with ์‚ผ, remembering both 3s start with "s". I realise now that it makes no sense because (Sino-Korean) 4 also starts with s (์‚ฌ), but I've remembered it so it's fine.

2 tricks I used for 7 and 8:

  1. ์ผ๊ณฑ is 7, I used ์ผ to remind me of "day", and by extension, "week". 7 days in a week, so recall that the word for 7 starts with ์ผ.
  2. ์—ฌ๋Ÿ - the spelling was the part that was tricky. I already knew this was ์—ฌ-something (like 6 is ์—ฌ์„ฏ). Since I knew how to pronounce it, the matter was of remembering the 2 consonants below. They are r and b, and I simply remembered it as "ruby" since Ruby uses the .rb extension.

Lucky for me, the prices in this test didn't involve hundred million, as I'd conveniently forgotten the word for it: ์–ต. I knew it was ๅ„„ thanks to my post last week, but could not "reverse-engineer" the word in Hangeul. If a price had been that high, I'd have been lost. Even so, I was getting confused with numbers bigger than 10000.

For this test, probably due to time, but probably also due to the social distancing, the teacher checked our papers instead of us peer marking.

I hope in 3 weeks the situation will improve. Hopefully the new measures will help. I think most things that are closed will remain closed until the end of April (from the current guidelines), so this will be near end April but slightly before...

Lesson 23 (Beginner 1B L7): And I Thought We Were Done with Numbers...

Test Results

We got back the test today, and everyone did very well. We all scored more than 90 out of 100. This is apparently quite high (I guess comparing with their past classes, at least according to the teacher). The teacher commented that when she was marking our tests she didn't believe it because we were saying it was hard and stressing out about it. To my utter surprise, I got full marks for oral. Actually, I got full marks for everything except writing, which I lost 0.5 marks on, so my total score was 99.5.

As a side note, I... actually recall this happening for my French and German classes in uni. That I would do a lot better than I expected. (And usually have people getting envious because I'd tell them about this mistake or that mistake that I made... and then it turns out I did make those mistakes, but those were probably the only ones I'd made. And of course bell-curved grades so my higher score wasn't exactly welcome since it also affected them.) Especially in the later years... I would think that I didn't do as well as I initially thought, but then the score turns out better. French 6 oral, for sure. But generally for the written components too (German 1 and 2 didn't have oral tests). I'm not sure if that means that I hold myself to too high a standard? Or if I have a really bad case of imposter syndrome? Both?!

The thing is, I'm not intentionally lying or trying to be falsely modest when I expressed anxiety about the tests (this one and the ones before it). I really believed that I did badly. Am I a perfectionist? I don't think so. I don't need 100 to find it "acceptable". I don't impose some crazy Asian tiger parenting standards on myself (and neither did my parents impose such things on me). 99.5 in this context is a very good score. If I have any feelings about that score now, it's that I don't deserve it. Now, I can't argue for the listening/reading/grammar components as those are not subjective, but objective. But I would say that definitely I thought I did poorly for oral and that it certainly didn't deserve full marks, and my writing as well should have gotten more than a -0.5 penalty (especially considering the very careless/stupid nature of the mistakes).

But back to this test, I know my friend got around 95 or 96, as did the other girl who usually sits next to me. When you're talking about a 3 marks difference, though, it's really not that much, so I don't know why they make such a big deal out of it (that I got close to full marks)? And she even reminded everyone that I knew 6 languages. >.> (That is the number I'd give, I wouldn't count say Japanese/Greek/Cantonese for various reasons even though I know some of the former two and understand the latter pretty well.)

My reflection on this test experience is that for the writing, I saw some really obvious grammar mistakes that I could have definitely caught and fixed, had I not rushed. I panicked when everyone submitted their papers and left and so opted not to check through. In that sense I was very fortunate that I didn't make any silly mistakes in the reading and grammar portions of the paper.

The listening component is out of 30 marks although there were only 20 questions - some were apparently worth 1.5 marks.

We were not given the main paper back (we could request to see it, but could not keep it - the teacher doesn't seem to have made any markings on my paper at all) - we got only the sheet for writing and a printed report sheet attached behind. The printed reported sheet basically mentions which questions you got wrong and what is the correct answer. (For listening, it seems like you get the transcript as well if you got it wrong.)

Unfortunately, the only real feedback I got was for oral, I did have one thing she noted where I said ์— instead of using ์—์„œ for the place. She didn't comment on the fact that I obviously was saying rubbish or had nothing to say, and also not for the fact that I messed up the interview section being unable to remember the words ๋ถ€๋ชจ(๋‹˜) for parents (it drives me crazy, which is ใ…œ (o) or ใ…— (u), because in Chinese it's ็ˆถๆฏ, fรนmว”, so I'm like... both are u and it takes me a while to sort them out in my head.

So the reason for this is probably because (especially for the listening), they might be reusing the questions. They even have slides prepared for going through the test so that further supports my theory.

We got our Beginner 1 certs today as well. Unfortunately, Erica didn't come today, so she wasn't here for the class and also not for our picture-taking. But that was at the end of the class.

We started on chapter 6 today, naturally starting with vocabulary. In the textbook, we covered p146-147. A lot of the things were in the handout.


Korean English Notes
์Œ์‹ food
๊น€๋ฐฅ [๊น€๋นฑ] seaweed-wrapped roll it looks like sushi if sliced
๊ฐˆ๋น„ํƒ• beef-rib soup ๊ฐˆ๋น„ means "rib". This is traditionally done with beef, so if it's pork, it's specified: ๋ผ์ง€ ๊ฐˆ๋น„ํƒ•. The teacher says it tastes like Bak Kut Teh - but that is made with pork.
๋ƒ‰๋ฉด cold noodles This is also a beef soup, with brown noodles and ice. Eaten during the summer when it's hot.
๊น€์น˜ kimchi
๊น€์น˜์ฐŒ๊ฐœ kimchi stew ์ฐŒ๊ฐœ is a stew. This is thick soup that is not clear. By contrast, ํƒ• is clear. Korea is famous for many types of ์ฐŒ๊ฐœ, such as ๋œ์žฅ์ฐŒ๊ฐœ (miso stew), ์ˆœ๋‘๋ถ€์ฐŒ๊ฐœ (soft tofu stew) and ๋ถ€๋Œ€์ฐŒ๊ฐœ (army stew, literally "army base stew").
๋ถˆ๊ณ ๊ธฐ (sliced and seasoned) barbequed beef ๋ถˆ means fire. This is meat stir-fried on top of a fire. In Korea, this is only purely beef dish. In Singapore there are some variants such as "chicken bulgogi" that doesn't exist in Korea.
๋ผ๋ฉด ramen/instant noodles Normally it refers to instant noodles.
๋ผ๋ฉ˜ ramen ...the real ramen
๋น„๋น”๋ฐฅ [๋น„๋น”๋นฑ] bibimbap (cooked rice with vegetables and meat)
์šฐ๋™ udon
๋นต bread
๋งฅ์ฃผ beer
์†Œ์ฃผ soju
๋ง‰๊ฑธ๋ฆฌ rice wine
๊ณผ์ผ fruits
์‚ฌ๊ณผ apple
๋”ธ๊ธฐ strawberry
์ˆ˜๋ฐ• watermelon
๊ทค mandarin orange In Korea, this is harvested from Jeju Island during the winter. They taste different from the locally available mandarin oranges. According to the teacher, that is. I've been to Jeju before but that was years ago, I barely recall anything much less how the mandarin oranges taste.
๋ฉ”๋‰ด menu
๊ธธ road
๋…ธ๋ž˜ song
๋˜ again
์•„์นจ breakfast You may have to add ๋ฐฅ or ์‹์‚ฌ behind, since apparently it only means "morning" when I looked it up...
์ ์‹ฌ lunch
์ €๋… dinner
์ฃผ๋‹ค to give
๋ช‡ how many
๋ชจ๋‘ all
๊ทธ๋ž˜์š”? Really? / Is that so?
๊ธฐ๋‹ค๋ฆฌ๋‹ค to wait
์‹ธ๋‹ค to be cheap
๋น„์‹ธ๋‹ค to be expensive
๊นจ๋—ํ•˜๋‹ค [๊นจ๋„ํƒ€๋‹ค] to be clean Pronunciation: Syllable-final ใ…… is ใ„ท. ใ„ท + ใ…Ž โ†’ ใ…Œ.
๋ณต์žกํ•˜๋‹ค [๋ณต์งœํŒŒ๋‹ค] to be crowded Pronunciation: ใ…‚+ใ…Ž โ†’ ใ…. Same principle as the one before.
์žฌ๋ฏธ์žˆ๋‹ค to be interesting/fun
์žฌ๋ฏธ์—†๋‹ค to not be interesting/fun
๋ง›์žˆ๋‹ค to be delicious
๋ง›์—†๋‹ค [๋งˆ๋ฅ๋”ฐ] to not be delicious
์ข‹๋‹ค to be good
์ข‹์•„ํ•˜๋‹ค to like
์ž…๋‹ค to wear
์›ƒ๋‹ค to laugh
์–ผ๋งˆ์˜ˆ์š”? How much is it?
๊นŽ์•„ ์ฃผ์„ธ์š”. Please give me a discount.
์ƒˆํ•ด ๋ณต ๋งŽ์ด ๋ฐ›์œผ์„ธ์š”. Happy new year. A new year greeting. Literally, ์ƒˆํ•ด = new year, ๋ณต = good luck, ๋งŽ์ด = a lot of, ๋ฐ›๋‹ค = receive.
๋ฐ›๋‹ค to receive
์ฃผ๋ง ์ž˜ ๋ณด๋‚ด์„ธ์š”. Have a good weekend.
์กฐ์‹ฌํ•˜์„ธ์š”. Be careful.
์–‘๋ง socks
์น˜๋งˆ skirt
๋ฐ”์ง€ pants
๊ตฌ๋‘ shoes

Large Numbers for Prices

This was covered mostly with the handout.

Chapter 6 is called "How much is it?" so it is about buying things and naturally you have to learn how to say how much something costs.

The way that the numbers are read in Korean are 4 digits at a time, basically splitting them into ten thousands, like Chinese (instead of the more familar thousands system for English and the other European languages).

Say you have a number: 239, 871, 231.

In Korean, you will read it 4 digits at a time, basically splitting it like this:
2 | 3987 | 1231

The first line from the right is the "ten thousand" line, which is ๋งŒ (่ฌ).
The second line from the right is the "hundred million" line, which is ์–ต (ๅ„„).

Within each group of four, you have the thousands (์ฒœ), hundreds (๋ฐฑ), and tens (์‹ญ) (and ones... but you don't have a "suffix" for that).

1 2 3 1
์ฒœ ๋ฐฑ ์‹ญ

A number that starts with 1 as above, 1 (์ผ) is not pronounced, so you will have ์ฒœ 2๋ฐฑ 3์‹ญ 1 or written out in full, ์ฒœ์ด๋ฐฑ์‚ผ์‹ญ์ผ.

You basically repeat this for the next group, but you add ๋งŒ.

3 9 8 7 --
์ฒœ ๋ฐฑ ์‹ญ ๋งŒ

The entire number 239, 871, 231 is thus rendered as: 2์–ต 3์ฒœ 9๋ฐฑ 8์‹ญ 7๋งŒ ์ฒœ 2๋ฐฑ 3์‹ญ 1, which is ์ด์–ต ์‚ผ์ฒœ๊ตฌ๋ฐฑํŒ”์‹ญ์น ๋งŒ ์ฒœ์ด๋ฐฑ์‚ผ์‹ญ์ผ.

There are some notes for the proununciation:

  1. 16 - ์‹ญ์œก [์‹ฌ๋‰ต]
  2. 60 000 - ์œก๋งŒ [์œต๋งŒ]
  3. 100 000 - ์‹ญ๋งŒ [์‹ฌ๋งŒ]
  4. 1 million - ๋ฐฑ๋งŒ [๋ฑ…๋งŒ]

The first one we've covered before. For the last three, they're softening the sound when the previous end consonant meets the ใ… (m) of the next syllable.

Once we learnt this, we had an activity where you would practise with a partner. One person asks ์–ผ๋งˆ์˜ˆ์š”? (How much is it?) and the other person replies based on the numbers printed (as digits). Later on we even progressed to using some toy money (that looks like actual Korean notes but smaller in size, complete with coins) and the person who asked for the price would pay. The other person would have to give change (and say the amount of change). At the end we were all brain dead, especially after torturing each other with amounts that were not written down on the paper.

And then next week we will cover the native Korean numbers, so we are really not done with numbers yet.

Maybe I can tweak the app I created for listening practice for Korean dates to work with big numbers too. I definitely will need it.


There are also 4 grammar topic for this chapter. Today we covered the first.

1. V-(์œผ)์„ธ์š”

This is used to politely make requests, suggestions or commands in an informal setting. I thought this is the imperative, but the conjugation table tells me that it's not as simple as that, so until I know for sure I'll not put a label on it first.


  1. When there is NO batchim, or there is batchim but it is ใ„น, then you add -์„ธ์š”.
    • Example 1 (๊ฐ€๋‹ค): ์•ˆ๋…•ํžˆ ๊ฐ€์„ธ์š”.
    • Example 2 (๊ธฐ๋‹ค๋ฆฌ๋‹ค) ๊ธฐ๋‹ค๋ฆฌ์„ธ์š”
  2. When you have batchim, you add -์œผ์„ธ์š”.
    • Example 1 (์ฝ๋‹ค): ์ฑ…์„ ์ฝ์œผ์„ธ์š”

I don't have an example that ends with ใ„น, except ๋งŒ๋“ค๋‹ค, but the form is ๋งŒ๋“œ์„ธ์š”, which (as of now) I am unsure it's an exception or not (that the ใ„น is gone).

There are some special verbs that don't conjugate according to the rules, and they are:

  1. ์ž๋‹ค - You say ์ฃผ๋ฌด์„ธ์š” to wish someone good night, or ์•ˆ๋…•ํžˆ ์ฃผ๋ฌด์„ธ์š” (more polite, for example to your parents)
  2. ๋จน๋‹ค/๋งˆ์‹œ๋‹ค - You say ๋“œ์„ธ์š”, which means "Please eat/help yourself"
  3. ์žˆ๋‹ค - This is ๊ณ„์„ธ์š”

Naturally this isn't an exhaustive list, it's just the ones where we were given examples.

The formal form was given in an example sentence: ์ฑ…์„ ์ฝ์œผ์‹ญ์‹œ์˜ค. According to the teacher, this formal version is used in business settings. You may also hear this form used on airline announcements (if it's not a budget airline... she singled out Scoot as not doing that, so I wonder if she has personal experience). I've been seeing this a lot more because I've been using Duolingo and they use the formal form for their sentences.

In the last part of the class we had an activity with this form, which was to pretend you were the teacher and give instructions that a teacher would say. (This is from the textbook.)

... Wow this turned out to be a long post. I think it took me 3 hours in total to get this down, along with adding some new vocab to Anki (which naturally involved getting audio from Forvo).

New Flashcards, Covid-19...

The cards for chapter 6 were released today.

Since we were on chapter 5 for so long, I forgot the extra effort required to import all the Quizlet cards into Anki.

I do this because I want the spaced repetition for memorising the vocab. The deck (well, the Quizlet term is "set") is private to certain classes, so I first make a copy that is public and then import it using the Anki add-on. Then I delete the public set.

Next, I add my custom tags since eventually I will throw all the notes/cards into a big "All" deck. I leave them as nested when I'm learning.

Finally, I have to make some adjustments to the imported cards. I also use Forvo to download the audio for each word (sentences where I can find them) and add them in one by one, and turn on the "Add Reverse" flag (also one by one, and usually I have to scroll as the cards come with an image that pushed the field below the fold) so that I get tested on the English > Korean direction.

It seems like the newest version of the add-on has changed to prefix the deck name with "Flashcards". (Newest supported by my Anki version, which is 2.1.15 - I had tried to update to 2.1.20 about 2 weeks ago but realised it wasn's compatible with this add-on... or another. That resulted in me downloading the older version again...)

Anyway, we will be learning the native/pure Korean numbers in this chapter. I also saw words for different foods, and some relating to buying things. I guess we'll be learning that tomorrow.

I borrowed a Lonely Planet guide on Korea and another one on their food from the library (eBooks, naturally) but have not gotten around to reading them yet.

I'm not sure how much time will be spent covering the test tomorrow.

The other thing about tomorrow... To be honest, with Covid-19 getting worse worldwide, I'm a little afraid of going for the class tomorrow.

I know how irresponsible some people are. I attended a training course (~20 people in the class) in the last few days. According to the instructor, it's the last in-person training for a while - the next one in 2 weeks will go virtual. The training location was around the CBD, and I definitely ran into more people than I normally would if I'd been going to the office. Especially the first day, the bus was so crowded I almost couldn't get on. (I took a different bus subsequently.) AND there was someone coughing at the event, which the venue hosts (not the same as the company conducting the training) on the third day sent someone to ask if everyone was fine, and of course no one said anything. The instructor was being nice and said it's just to make sure since he sometimes would also cough due to dryness. Later during the break someone said that it's due to his throat being dry, but please. In such a sensitive time, at least wear a mask?

For my Korean class, I have to take public transport and it's about an hour there and back, so there's always the risk of running into someone... The only thing that's great is that the class size is small, so, well. Hopefully everyone who shows up is responsible.

The measures have become stricter... but... I know my friends (the one still in the class and the one who quit, both) went to Malaysia last Sunday. that worries me because of the situation there right now. I really hope they didn't get it. (And if he feels even the slightest bit unwell, he had better not turn up for class tomorrow.)

I wish the stricter stay-home notice measures applied to everyone who travelled during this one-week school holiday. not just those who return after tonight. The schools having a LOA imposed is fine but honestly I would say SHN is probably more effective... but then again I wonder if there's enough manpower to do the checks that they conduct to make sure that you are home when you get the notice.

Personally, it seems really irresponsible to travel at this time, especially if it's to Malaysia, and if it's for no reason other than a vacation or to do things like getting their hair cut at a discount - such as my friends above did. (They normally do that, anyway, but it's beyond me as the cost savings is not worth the extra time that it will take me to cross the border and back.) This is especially after knowing that there was a mass religious gathering at the start of this month that 16,000 people attended, that is a known cluster, and that contributed significantly to the number to the cases in the country. From the local TV news yesterday, 4,000 of the attendees are still being tracked down.


This wasn't meant to be nearly so depressing.

Lesson 22 (Beginner 1B L6): The First Test

The Test

I'll do a rundown of the different sections of the test and how they were carried out, and some of my own notes for how I tackled it, and how to prepare better for a next test (for the sections where I feel this is necessary).

There were essentially 4 parts to the test, if you think about it in that way. The teacher had said it was reading, writing, listening, speaking. All right, it's kind of like that. But I'll split it into five sections.

We were first given the main test paper. This test paper contains the questions for the listening component in the first few pages, followed by grammar and vocabulary, and then finally, reading. We were told to start with the grammar and vocabulary (which was on page 4) because there was one student who had not arrived. When she arrived, we started with the listening test immediately. After the listening test, the teacher called 2 students at a time to do the oral test. You had to hand in the main paper and then get the writing test paper to finish the test.

1. Listening

The listening test has a few sections, but they were all MCQ. There was no part that required you to write down anything (no dictation). We listened to the whole thing through twice. And no, there wasn't anything on dates being tested here in the end.

The first part had 3 questions. They were sentences that were read, with blanks. You had to select the correct word that was missing from the sentence from a list of 4 options.

The next part (Q4-8) was mysterious. It consisted of (printed on the paper) only the question numbers, and 4 options (1-4) without anything written next to them. Only when I heard the third option of the first question in this section did I realise what was going on. Basically, each option was an audio of someone asking a question and a second voice giving an answer. The question asked in each option is always the same. You had to pick the answer that is the correct response (in terms of grammar, and in terms of it making sense) to the question that was asked.

Then there was this "pick the place". I think it was around 3-4 questions. You had a list of places on the paper. The conversation describes what can be found in that place and what someone can do at the place. From there you had to pick the correct place. For example there was one question describing a cafe, so the conversation said that you can find cake and coffee there, and someone (they named a name) was drinking coffee and meeting her friends there.

Another part consisted of pictures with items/places positioned relative to each other. There was a conversation for each question, and you had to pick the picture that correctly represented the position of the objects relative to each other. My memory of this is fuzzy now, but I know there was a question that was about the position of a bag and the umbrella relative to it. Then later there was the position of an embassy relative to a bank.

The next part was more pictures, but this time of people doing things. You had to pick the right picture representing what the person was doing and where they were doing it.

Now the final part consisted of 5 questions, I believe 16-20. Each question had 4 statements, and you had to pick the correct one in the list. The conversations were always between 2 people, an unnamed man and woman. So on the paper they are referred to as man and woman.

How I Tackled It

I wrote down a lot of things in pencil. For the second section, I wrote down the question (or at least, the key question word, such as "where"), and part of the answer. I continued doing that for the pictures as well, writing down the Korean keywords that I heard.

For the last part, I did something that I guess is rather questionable, but hey, I'm used to doing whatever it takes to score for listening. (That was the only option in university, you didn't want to be on the wrong side of the bell curve!) I wrote down what I understood of the conversation in English, then picked through it later after the audio was over. I think I started this on the first listen through for the third or fourth question, but for the second one I wrote them all down. At the end, I erased my English scribblings for this page. (I left the Korean scribblings for the previous few pages.)

The last question, I thought that there were 2 options that were possible. I'm sure the woman was referring to the place as "here" (she was asking "Is this Seoul Park" or something like that), so it should be correct that they are both there. But the man also talked of the location of the park (which is "here") relative to his house. One was behind the other. I wrote it one way first (house is behind the park), then swapped it (park is behind the house). Because of that, although the final way I wrote it matched with one of the options, I chose the other option (that both of them are at the park).

How to Improve

Realise that there may not be time given to read the questions (there wasn't in this case). So I obviously should have read the questions first. Basically, when there was time before the listening test started, I should have read the questions first. Granted, most of the them don't need reading, but the last section definitely needed reading. When I turned the page for the first time and saw that wall of Korean text, I was honestly intimidated because I couldn't read that fast.

2. Grammar and Vocabulary

I don't think there's much to say about this, except that yay it exists. The way it sounded like last week was that it would not be there. But it is, and this part is never a challenge for me compared to everything else.

Plus, this was MCQ (I couldn't believe it), so it was doubly easy.

3. Reading

Pretty much the same as above. It wasn't very hard, there was just one page of this with some questions. They were all pretty straightforward, and nothing that was very long to read. You had to pick the wrong option out of the all those given for 2 questions (or maybe more), but the last question had 3 statements about the (slightly longer) passage and you had to say whether each one was correct or wrong.

4. Oral

The oral test was done in pairs. There are three sections: Reading, roleplay, and interview. There was about 1-2 minutes given for us to read the instructions on the paper, and then it started. We did not have any writing materials, so it's not like we could have written anything to prepare either. And I think the paper is reused by all the students in the class, so even if we did have writing materials we probably would not have been allowed to write on it.

4.1 Reading

There were a list of sentences on the paper. I forgot how many, but maybe like, 10? And all you had to do was read it. The sentences weren't very long. 2 of them had dates in it, and the dates were given as numbers (oh yes, there was a 16 there which I probably messed up now that I think about it - I didn't process it and sprouted something that was in my mind), so you had to be sure of how to pronounce them.

The only thing I can say about this was that it gives an advantage to the person who goes second, because you both read the same thing. So if there was anything that you were unsure about, you might have been able to catch a hint from... I went first, anyway.

4.2 Roleplay

The scenario was given in English. Basically you are on a plane home from Korea. You talk to the person sitting next to you. You are supposed to introduce yourself and talk about what you did in Korea. You talk to your classmate. The teacher says to imagine she isn't there (and she doesn't bother to interrupt or help, you're completely on your own).

What Happened

Basically, this was the worst part for me. It's not so much the self-intro (which also was bad by any standard, I didn't even start to ask the other person's name), but the fact that it was about what you did in Korea. Recall that I have something like 0 cultural knowledge about Korea. I barely know anything about food. I know even less about the places, places you can go, about the things that you can do. So that did not help.

How to Improve

I figure that I should have minimally memorised some places in Korea that were covered in the textbook, and the things that they were famous for.

But to be perfectly honest, although I barely studied for this test (relying mostly on Anki for revision), I doubt I'd have thought to study for this.

Anyway, I probably should find some cultural topics to discuss for future. Sigh.

4.3 Interview

In this part, the teacher asks you questions and you have to answer.

Questions included:

  1. What is the date today? (Asked to my partner)
  2. What day of the week is it today? (me)
  3. What are you doing tomorrow? (Asked to my partner first)
  4. What did you do yesterday? (Asked to me first)

Then I was asked what I was doing tomorrow, and my partner was asked what she did yesterday.

5. Writing

The writing test paper is a single sheet with 2 sides. The first side consisted of reordering sentences. You were given words that were in random order and you had to put them into a sentence. This is very easy, because there was no conjugation required - all the verbs were already correctly conjugated.

The next side is the writing assignment. Basically, you had to do a self-introduction (name, nationality, job, etc.) and then talk about what you did on the weekend/yesterday. You had to write about events in the past, and you had to use the -๊ณ  that links event together. And it was very clear that you had to use verbs that were in the different conjugations groups, the explicit instructions were to use both ์•˜์–ด์š” and ์—ˆ์–ด์š”.

The teacher told us to write more or she can't grade. She did sound a little frustrated (probably also because we were talking when she left to finish the test with the last person).

So anyway, I wrote some stuff. Nothing particularly interesting, I didn't make much stuff up, but what I did on the weekend was definitely a figment of my imagination. There were a lot of vocab words that I lost as well that I'd have liked to include. I have to work on that too.

How to Improve

Actually write some essays before the test, like I intended, but never got around to.

(And also prepare for the test realising that you can't refer to the main test paper for inspiration. I think this wasn't done only to prevent us from referring to the sentences, but also so that the teacher could begin marking the test. :/)


We also got the invoice for the next term today. Next term will begin after a 3-week break, and it will be with another teacher. I wonder if they are compressing the classes? There is a Wednesday class that is 2 weeks behind... hmm. The cost is $200 instead of $240, $10 is because of the Google review event and there is another $30 because... I don't know, it simply says complimentary lesson.

Whether there is a break between terms... I wonder if it's more likely between levels, e.g. Foundation and Beginner 1, and Beginner 1 and Beginner 2, simply because there's a chance that the teacher changes. I know the break between Foundation and Beginner 1A was because the teacher was going back to Korea for a while.


Plus here's some vocab I forgot to add from chapter 2, when we were discussing items in our rooms. I saw it while flipping through the textbook on the way to class, not that it helped.

I knew they were not in my Anki deck when they looked so unfamiliar.

Korean English
์„ ํ’๊ธฐ fan (machine)
์—์–ด์ปจ air conditioner
๊ฑฐ์šธ mirror
์˜ท์žฅ wardrobe
์ฑ…์žฅ bookshelf
์ธํ˜• doll
๋“œ๋ก  drone

Learning from Talk to Me in Korean

While browsing the Language Learners forum, someone posted something that led me to this site - Talk to Me in Korean.

I didn't listen to any of their Soundcloud lessons, but I've started to read through the content and it's a good grammar revision for my upcoming test.

I learnt that ์ด, ๊ทธ, ์ € can be attached before any noun to say "this [noun]"/"that [noun]", so for example ์ด ์ปคํ”ผ means "this coffee".

Plus, I learnt a new expression for expressing desires: -๊ณ  ์‹ถ์–ด์š”. (I want to...)

You remove the ๋‹ค from the verb's dictionary form and attach it to the ๊ณ , much like the construct for expressing events that happen in a sequence.

So to say that you want to watch (๋ณด๋‹ค) televsion: ํ…”๋ ˆ๋น„์ „์„ ๋ณด๊ณ  ์‹ถ์–ด์š”.

I was wondering when we'd learn modal verbs in Korean... well, who know when that's in the book.

I've noticed that the site taught the particles much later on (and only the subject/topic particles, though they do explain the differences in emphasis), so their example sentences all didn't have the object particle. The sentence was given as ํ…”๋ ˆ๋น„์ „ ๋ณด๊ณ  ์‹ถ์–ด์š”.

I find the romanisation for everything (every Korean word or sentence) super distracting, but I guess if it's targeted at beginners and this is Level 1 and they don't apparently teach the alphabet... then that's probably why.

Listening Practice for Korean Dates

I had this idea the day before (after my lesson) to randomly generate a date, and then have some TTS software to speak it, and then test myself on how how well I can hear the dates from that.

I found out about the Web Speech API, and got something working yesterday, done in React. I started with React JS but converted it to TypeScript because I'm more comfortable with that. I used Create React App, which is definitely overkill. I really don't need all those extra dependencies...

What I made had three buttons: Play, Show Answer, Next. It was a lot of work trying to figure out which button was the one I intended to press.

Today, I improved it so that there's a state, like the "front" and "back" of a card, and there's only either a "Show Answer" or "Next" button, but not both.

I drew some simple wireframes in Sketch but ended up not going with what I drew. Still, I added Bootstrap today so that the buttons and layout can be beautified a little without having to do any custom CSS since I don't want to spend too much time on this.

There's still more to iron out, but this is pretty good and I can work with it. I added controls for changing the pitch and speed as well, inspired by this demo.

The only downside is that Firefox doesn't seem to have any Korean voices. Either that or because of my custom privacy tweaks. Either way, it means using Chrome, which I'd rather avoid in most scenarios. Chrome has 2 Korean voices. Not a lot but, it's workable.

I probably have to also add the -์ด์—์š” to complete the sentence to the spoken audio. That will be something for tomorrow.

Lesson 21 (Beginner 1B L5): Revision

Today was a revision lesson. We did not use the textbook. There was a new 4-page handout, where the vocab for the 5 chapters was on the first page, the grammar on the second, and the last 2 pages are for this week's homework.

Again, the test is reading, writing, pronunciation and listening. I guess pronunciation is better than oral, or maybe it will be both. I don't know. But there will be dates involved, we will have to read dates out. The writing component sounds like it's an essay, so not a written test where you are filling in blanks or answering questions but actually producing something. The teacher said it is similar to the other writing assignments we have done (like the journal last week).

We used paper "flashcards" (they are really slips of paper, printed on both sides, with the English on one and Korean on the other), starting at chapter 1 until chapter 5. Words, then sentences. Though maybe for chapter 3 or 4 there was no sentence cards as I distinctly recall skipping one set of sentences and doing 2 word sets in a row.

We did this in pairs/group of three. (There are 5 students in our class.) We would do the Korean side first, and translate it to English, then do the more difficult recall in the opposite direction, which is given the English, translate into Korean.

Most of these are the same words that are in the Quizlet sets that the school gave us, though I think there were a few others that I've not seen before, especially for the sentences. Hopefully it's not because I suspended them and forgot to unsuspend them in Anki afterward. (I'd import the cards as soon as they are released, which is when we start a chapter. But I would suspend the sentences until I'd learnt the grammar in class. Anki is good for remembering things, but it's bad for learning things for the first time. This is an idea I want to explore... perhaps in another post.)

There were some things that I (re-)learnt that are worth mentioning.

  1. ์ด/๊ฐ€ is the particle for -์žˆ์–ด์š”(-์—†์–ด์š”) sentences.
  2. X ์ฃผ์„ธ์š” (Give me X) - we learnt it without the particle in chapter 2 (the reason, I suspect, is because this is usually spoken and not written). But the particle, if you add one, is the object particle ๋ฅผ/์„, so for example ์ฃผ์Šค๋ฅผ ์ฃผ์„ธ์š”. But ์ฃผ์Šค ์ฃผ์„ธ์š” is also valid. (The object particle was taught in chapter 3)
  3. The word for cat is ๊ณ ์–‘์ด.
  4. -์•„๋‹ˆ์—์š” is how you negate a ์ด์—์š”/์—ฌ์š” sentence. This was never covered before in class; only the negation for ํ•˜์‹ญ์‹œ์˜ค์ฒด. I had searched it up on my own before. But we had some example sentences that had the negation in the casual/informal polite language (ํ•ด์š”์ฒด).

And this is completely random but I realised I've been spelling the past tense of "learn" as "learned" instead of "learnt", which is inconsistent with how I've been spelling other words (British spelling). So from now on - learnt. I've also gone back to fix all the past posts. Which I had to find from the web because there was no in-post search feature in Standard Notes, and I forgot that I could just use the search and it would have surfaced out all the posts... never mind.

And and With, Formal and Informal

1. And, With

When do you use ๊ฐ™์ด (together), and how do you use it in a sentence? I was looking for example sentences on Tatoeba.

I know that to indicate doing something "with a friend" is ์นœ๊ตฌํ•˜๊ณ  .

Example: ์นœ๊ตฌํ•˜๊ณ  ๋จน์—ˆ์–ด์š”. (I ate with a friend.)

But we first learnt that ํ•˜๊ณ  means "and" for connecting nouns. And the formal version of ํ•˜๊ณ  is ์™€/๊ณผ (depending on whether there is a Batchim; this is the one with the "inverse" rule).

I looked at Tatoeba and on the first page of results saw this sentence: ์นœ๊ตฌ์™€ ๊ฐ™์ด ํ…”๋ ˆ๋น„์ „์—์„œ ์ถ•๊ตฌ์‹œํ•ฉ์„ ๋ด…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

Translation: I watch a football match on television with my friend. (together with my friend?)

So the question in my mind was: Does it also mean that the formal "์™€/๊ณผ" for "and" also means "with", but the formal form?

2. Formal, Informal

Being more studious now (after that wake-up call last lesson), I have been reading up more on my own.

According to How to Study Korean, this is what it says about the first person singular pronoun:

์ € = I, me (formal)
๋‚˜ = I, me (informal)

I've not learnt ๋‚˜ in class yet. But reading the textbook while trying to do my homework, I realise it was used in one sample journal entry.

Is it weird that for our sentences they start with formal ์ €(๋Š”), but then have a verb that ends with the polite casual/informal -์š”? (The tense is called ํ•ด์š”์ฒด according to Wiktionary.)

I had this question before when we learnt about ํ•˜๊ณ  and ์™€/๊ณผ with the meaning "and".

I found it weird that sentences using the formal ์™€/๊ณผ would end with -์š” instead of the formal polite tense (ํ•˜์‹ญ์‹œ์˜ค์ฒด), that ends with -แ†ธ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (at least in the imperative, according to Wiktionary again).

Does this notion of formal/informal not have to be consistent between the nouns/conjunctions and the verbs? Are they a different dimension of formality? Or is it because this system is complex that they don't burden beginners with it?


It occurred to me today that the Korean textbook doesn't have a map (of Korea)... or that we didn't cover it in class.

I did a quick look at the book and there's no map at the front or end of the textbook. It is possible it is hidden somewhere...

I know the French textbook that I had definitely had a world map because it was showing France and the French territories, basically la francophonie. (This is the textbook I can check, because I still have the very first textbook as I've never managed to sell it.)

I think the German textbook had a map of Germany at least, if not also of Switzerland and Austria.

The Italian textbook definitely had the regions of Italy, as I recall the teacher go through them in class. It was a very colourful map, and including a drawing of what is famous in that region if my memory does not fail me (it has been 5 years).

In fact, it is the memory of this Italian map that prompted me to think of the (lack of) a Korea map. Really, I was thinking about it initially in the context of the regions that are affected by the Coronavirus (!) in Italy. A news report I read yesterday listed a few regions and I was mentally thinking about where they were in Italy.

Korea is also badly hit by the virus, and I realise that I've not actually learnt the locations of the major cities.