Archive for the ‘studying’ Category

Words Words Words

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Japan, my time in Seoul, and the TOPIK exam (the Test of Proficiency in Korean). The most difficult thing about the TOPIK is the sheer amount of vocabulary I’m expected to know. The listening section is alright, and I actually do okay with the grammar, but many times I’ll read a sentence and understand it, only to be told that I should substitute in a synonym for an underlined word and realize that I don’t know what any of the options mean! At that point the only thing I can do is guess.

I’ve been thinking a lot about language. In July I’ll be heading back to America (for good?) and I’m scared that I’ll lose all the Korean that I’ve gained. Though I’ve been studying for over two years, sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I’ve been reading a lot about language acquisition, and I’ve been observing my students struggle with English, and part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to “fluency,” however you define that. I read an interesting article written by Antonio Graceffo about fluency, and how many words it takes to read a newspaper, and started thinking about my own vocab level. How many words do I know?

I wasn’t always, but these days I try to be methodical when studying vocabulary. It’s too easy to “think” that you’re actually learning and retaining a word, and then realize that you can only recognize it, and not produce it. Halfway through last year I started using an awesome website called Memrise to study vocabulary, and my rate of retention skyrocketed. It’s the only program I know of where in order to get the flashcard “right” you have to actually type out the word, which is great because then I’m being tested on spelling and there’s no cheating. If I can remember the spelling, then I’ll know how to pronounce it correctly.  When you get a word right the “plant” associated with each word is “watered.” With every successful watering, you have to water that plant less, so words I get wrong are frequently shown to me, whereas very simple and easy vocabulary is brought up once every few months or so in order to refresh my memory. I highly suggest Memrise to anyone who struggles with vocabulary (be my mempal – Memrise friend- I’m AnnPotski!).

Anyway, in the article Graceffo takes eight different articles from the New York Times online and through what seemed to be a painstakingly painful process counted all of the unique words (counting conjugated forms as separate words, so word would be counted once, and words would be counted separately). Apparently to read the New York Times you should have a vocabulary of approximately 4,000 words. Holy mackerel. After reading that, I headed over to Memrise to see how I was doing.

memrise

 

Considering that not all of the words I know are actually on Memrise, I have a vocab of at least 1,000, probably closer to 2,000. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Time to go water some plants.

But on a much more positive note…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Yesterday my classes weren’t all that great, but a lot of great stuff happened outside of class. Here’s all that good stuff, in random order.

I met with the two girls who wanted to have lunchtime conversation practice, and it went much better than anticipated. I’m always a bit wary of small group conversations because many times students are pressured into doing it by their parents or other teachers and don’t actually want to be there, and thus aren’t motivated to speak, so you end up asking a lot of leading questions to fill the awkward silence which gets really tiresome. These girls came prepared with not only a topic that they had obviously thought about (Korean versus American schools) but also lemonade and so we chatted for twenty minutes about their and my high school experiences while sipping our beverages. I had so much fun talking to them that I was surprised when the bell rang. Later in the day they came and gave me a tomato, because one of the girls’ father is a tomato farmer in Damyang.

As I was leaving school I ran into multiple groups of three or four first grade boys who were carrying large paintings across school grounds and across the street. Immediately upon seeing me they start screaming “PODOSKYYYYYY PODOSKYYYY HELP ME THIS IS HEAVY” to which I of course reply “Sorry. Going home. Have fun. You are strong.” If the second grade boys like to call me “Emily Photo-ski” then I think my new nickname given to me from the first grade boys is “Podoski,” because they think that my name sounds like Podolski, who is a famous soccer player.

Boys are weird.

After school I went to a coffee shop called Te Amo and worked on Korean for about two hours. I’ve grown kind of disillusioned with textbooks because all textbooks have such varied curricula that I end up learning grammar forms that are considered beginner/intermediate by one book’s standard, but not learning grammar forms  that are considered super basic by another book but hasn’t been introduced in my book yet. Also I’m so sick of hearing about Linda Taylor, and Michael, and Natasha, and Tien, and all the stupid characters that they insist on introducing to you in the books. “Natasha is married to a Korean man and likes to cook Kimchijjigae-” GUESS WHAT EWHA KOREAN LANGUAGE PROGRAM –  NATASHA IS NOT REAL AND NO ONE CARES ABOUT HER COOKING PREFERENCES.

/rant

So instead I borrowed a book from Changpyeong’s library called 국경 없는 마을 (The village without borders) which is a book written in 1st person narrative from the perspective of South East Asian workers and their children who live in Korea. Not only is it much more interesting than a textbook, but I’m introduced to a lot of new vocabulary and grammar and I can actually see how it’s used in a real sentence, rather than in a “dumbed-down-for-foreigners-learning-Korean” sentence. This isn’t to say that all textbooks are bad, or that simplifying sentences for second-language learners is a bad way to go, it’s just that I feel that I’ve hit a rut with my Korean reading and writing skills so it might be time to try a different approach. This book is especially interesting because as I live in a rural area, there are quite a few immigrants in my town, and in Damyang-eup (about thirty minutes away) there’s an immigrant center just like the one I’m reading about. It’s doubly interesting when you consider that this book is written in Korean and there’s no English translation, so by translating this myself, I get to access a resource that would have been completely inaccessible to me a year and a half ago.

I’ve also been writing in my Korean diary, and today I’m going to meet my language partner and she’ll hopefully check it. It’s always so humbling trying to write down your thoughts in another language. My most recent entry goes something like this:

“Usually I write with a pencil because I write many wrong things but today while going to Gwangju I forgot all of my pens at school so I must write with a red pen. I do not like writing with a red pen. When I write with a red pen, I feel like a bad student. Also now while I am studying at a coffee shop my cell phone battery ran out so I cannot use the dictionary. It is very difficult. In Korea if you write a person’s name in red it is bad, right? In America, any color is okay however I still don’t like red pens.”

I feel like I’m back in elementary school. Ah well, as long as you work a little everyday, right?

However I’ve saved the best for last – so to preface this story, I should explain that in Korean schools there are no janitors. All of the students are assigned a location and a job (for example, second grade building staircase – sweeper) and they have to clean that area during a designated cleaning time, which at our school is for twenty minutes after 6th period everyday. I don’t like to leave school until after cleaning time, so I’m normally awkwardly sitting at my desk alone (all the other teachers are supervising cleaning crews) when the teachers’ office cleaning crew comes by to sweep and mop under my desk. The current mopper is scared of me, perhaps, because she refuses to talk to me, but the sweeper is an adorably sprightly second grade girl who everyday skips over to my desk (she literally skips) and asks if I can move so she can sweep under it.

This girl, MW, asked for my email address last week so that she could practice her English, but then the next day told me that she’d have to wait until the weekend to email me because she lives in the school dormitory. I told her that if she wanted she could do that, or she could hand-write me notes and I would correct them and write them back. The next day she gave me TWO pieces of paper – the original note (with drawings and multiple colors) and a photocopied one that I could edit and give back to her. The entire note was just charming, but this one section just put it over the top:

“I like to talk with others, but this school makes me study hard.  so I have to study every time.
In meanwhile, I had a dream. It is math teacher in middle school :) . Although math is often hard it makes me happy.
Do you want to know reason?
Umm, math’s range is very wide. So I’m happy when I learn new things.
also, I like teaching my friends. So, I have a hope. I grow up like you, because teacher’s class is very fun! (thanks teacher)”

Thank you MW. I hope you don’t think my similes and metaphors lesson this week is too boring.

I Feared This Day Would Come

Monday, June 7th, 2010

So the internet I have been stealing in my apartment for the past four months is finally password protected. I think this will actually have a negative impact on my studying. But it will be good for my sleep schedule. We’ll see how that balances out. I am sad and it’s really inconvenient but I think I will survive.

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Argentine time schedule before.  Everyone is late, including my professors. So class starts like 15-2o minutes after it is supposed to start which is usually kind of nice. Even though I still leave my apartment to get there on time. And of all the times I have been late somewhere in Argentina, I’ve never actually been late.

But when your professor decides not to come to class, and not tell anyone, you then have to make it up on a Friday when clearly you have better things to do. And then waste thirty minutes with the Academic Coordinator because everyone is so confused and trying to figure out what the assignment for the final is. It’s this week and we still don’t know what’s going on but it involves a paper and a presentation. I guess we’ll have one night to do it. Wonderful.

I am already prematurely re-organizing in preparation to pack. I don’t know how I’ve accumulated this much and I hope it all fits. I cannot believe I am already thinking about packing. But I am so ready to come back! But then I made a list of things I wanted to do before I left, and it is long. But that’s alright, I can’t do everything. I’ll save it for next time :)

Sunday I went to a Thai restaurant in Chinatown and it was delicious! I was given quite a warning before ordering the spiciest meal, but it was not too spicy at all. And I can’t handle very much. Argentines do not like spicy food. Not even a little bit.

Finally, Happy Belated 14th Birthday to my baby Lizzie! I found a little Golden Retriever puppy on the street in San Telmo yesterday and played with her. (Her owner and mom were watching, don’t worry. Otherwise I would have taken her home with me. I don’t think my host parents would have liked that.) She was very cute (obviously) but she was quite the biter. A sweet, awful teething puppy. Definitely reminded me of a very young Lizzie!

I better actually get to work noww.

I Feared This Day Would Come

Monday, June 7th, 2010

So the internet I have been stealing in my apartment for the past four months is finally password protected. I think this will actually have a negative impact on my studying. But it will be good for my sleep schedule. We’ll see how that balances out. I am sad and it’s really inconvenient but I think I will survive.

I can’t believe I’ve never written about the Argentine time schedule before.  Everyone is late, including my professors. So class starts like 15-2o minutes after it is supposed to start which is usually kind of nice. Even though I still leave my apartment to get there on time. And of all the times I have been late somewhere in Argentina, I’ve never actually been late.

But when your professor decides not to come to class, and not tell anyone, you then have to make it up on a Friday when clearly you have better things to do. And then waste thirty minutes with the Academic Coordinator because everyone is so confused and trying to figure out what the assignment for the final is. It’s this week and we still don’t know what’s going on but it involves a paper and a presentation. I guess we’ll have one night to do it. Wonderful.

I am already prematurely re-organizing in preparation to pack. I don’t know how I’ve accumulated this much and I hope it all fits. I cannot believe I am already thinking about packing. But I am so ready to come back! But then I made a list of things I wanted to do before I left, and it is long. But that’s alright, I can’t do everything. I’ll save it for next time :)

Sunday I went to a Thai restaurant in Chinatown and it was delicious! I was given quite a warning before ordering the spiciest meal, but it was not too spicy at all. And I can’t handle very much. Argentines do not like spicy food. Not even a little bit.

Finally, Happy Belated 14th Birthday to my baby Lizzie! I found a little Golden Retriever puppy on the street in San Telmo yesterday and played with her. (Her owner and mom were watching, don’t worry. Otherwise I would have taken her home with me. I don’t think my host parents would have liked that.) She was very cute (obviously) but she was quite the biter. A sweet, awful teething puppy. Definitely reminded me of a very young Lizzie!

I better actually get to work noww.

My Computer Is Back!

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Hola a todos! It’s been awhile, huh? I wrote an entry on my iPod the other day but was unfortunately not properly saved. Ah well it would have been outdated by now anyway.

So I’m finally back on my computer after almost 5 weeks! Sure is nice. The tecnico, Ernesto, and I are now best friends. He ended up coming to my apartment to fix my computer 3 times. Maria and I had a whole discussion about how we thought he would definitely speak English, but he didn’t. Anyway, I love (and greatly miss) excellent customer service so much I extended my warranty with Dell for two more years.

Back to Buenos Aires- I spent the weekend spending my food money shopping in the city (whoops). Friday I stayed closed to home, Saturday spent the afternoon in Palermo, Sunday in San Telmo (of course). It just starting hailing and it’s VERY loud. Speaking of the weather, it’s starting to get a little cold here, which means all of the porteños wear warm jackets, boots and scarves while I’m fine in jeans and a t-shirt.

Since I have been so delayed in updating my trips, I think I will write one separate entry for each Iguazu Falls, Punta del Este and Mendoza within the next couple of days. Maybe even tonight!! But don’t get your hopes up, I have to “study” for my two midterms Wednesday…