Archive for the ‘language’ Category

TOPIK Update

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Most of my energy outside of school has been put into figuring out my future (finding promising looking jobs to apply for, updating my resume, cleaning my apartment) or studying Korean. I have my proficiency test this Sunday, and I’m hoping to pass the intermediate level test. The intermediate level is much more difficult than the beginner, so while I’m miles above the beginner there is a fair chance I wont’ pass the intermediate. This would be unfortunate because then the only level documentation I have (other than my certificates of completion for various Korean classes) would state that I was at a beginning level.

Furthermore, this test is only offered once every three months, and the next time it’s offered in Korea will be after my contract ends and I will probably have already left the country. I CAN take it in America, but it’d be much better if I could just pass the intermediate this time around.

Wish me luck!

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.



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.


Saturday, September 8th, 2012

“I am from a very small town. Smaller than this one. I am the youngest person in my town. My parents are the youngest adults. When I was in middle school, you could see fireflies. These days they are gone. However, I believe that in the mountains there are still fireflies.”

This was part of a stunning conversation I had walking through town at night with a student I met by happenstance on the bus. Sometimes EFL speakers, who are self-professedly ”bad” at English, say the most poetic things. It has been over two hours since that conversation, and I’m still thinking about it.


Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Language is a tricky thing. Every time I write these blog entries I’m struck by how long it takes me to pick out the exact right word, or create the perfect phrase. There are so many nuances you must be aware of and take advantage of, both in grammar and vocabulary, that it’s a wonder we’re able to communicate our thoughts at all. Now, imagine doing this in a second language.

Everyday as I keep my Korean language journal, I become very frustrated with my elementary, maybe even pre-school level ability. While I don’t think I’m the next Dickens, I can certainly put together a sentence in English, and it’s frustrating when I can’t in Korean.

As an English as a foreign language teacher, something I struggle with is how to give my students the tools and confidence to express themselves. You see, they’re smart, quirky, opinionated, driven, cute, and a whole lot of them are scared of English. There seems to be this mentality where the grammar is the most important aspect, so if a person can’t say the sentence correctly, he or she won’t say it at all, or will revert to an easier and less personal statement (all you EFL  teachers out there know what I’m talking about – “I’mfinethankyouandyou” is the bane of my existence). As easy as it is to dismiss this type of attitude as perfectionist or juvenile, when trying to speak Korean I do it as well.

This conundrum inspired a fellow ETA to create a project similar to iSpeakChina called Korean Students Speak. ETAs from F*bright schools all over Korea introduced the project, gave their students pieces of paper and pens, and asked them what they wanted to tell the world – without worrying about grammar, vocabulary, etc. The pictures were then compiled and and anonymously put on tumblr. Approximately ten F*bright schools have participated so far, and there are still more photos to come. I am so proud of the students that have chosen to participate – both from Changpyeong and from Sapgyo. I tell you all the time what my students say in my classroom, or yell at me in the hallways. Visit the website to see what they want to say to you.

Random Thoughts

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

To my surprise, something strange has been happening to me here: people ask me for directions. Relatively often. I don’t know what it is about me that makes people think I know what I am doing, but there must be something. Twice today on the walk home from school!

I also get stopped (or yelled at) a lot for having my shoelaces untied. It is pretty bizarre. I don’t know if I have my shoelaces untied here more or what but people seem to care about it a lot. I will be tripping on these sidewalks anyway, but thank you.

I read online somewhere that the Spanish language has about half the vocabulary as the English language. It feels true. There are a number of words I’ve tried and failed to translate properly. Of course it isn’t actually prohibiting in terms of expression, you just have to get around it. For example, there aren’t words for creepy or silly, and the one of the most frustrating: cute.

And, I have a house in Fredericksburg today!!!


Monday, May 17th, 2010

It was a very busy Monday morning! My professor thought it would be perfectly acceptable to assign us a three page single-spaced paper on a book none of us had actually read. Over the weekend. Seriously that’s like 2,400 words. No way. I don’t even know 1,000 words Spanish.

Although perhaps fortunately because it was in Spanish (I can’t believe I actually am saying that) I feel I had some leeway with my less than insightful commentary. I stayed up really late and was unable to function the rest of the day.

And I just realized I forgot to drop off my laundry and don’t have clean clothes to wear tomorrow.

The exciting news is I just bought my ticket for the Argentina vs. Canada fútbol game!

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…

Things To Do and Iguazu In Brief

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Yay I am finally writing this! I am sitting here at the computer lab at my university…yes, my computer is temporarily broken. I suppose I better make this a long one because it may not be until later in the week or next week until I am able to write again.

My dead computer has several complications: no picture updates YET, and I have to figure out a way to regrister for classes at Mary Wash tomorrow morning. Oh and tomorrow is a national holiday here in Argentina. So I won´t be able to use this computer lab or visit an internet/computer cafe. Thankfully our wonderful Study Abroad Office offered to do it for us, so I just e-mailed them although I will be very very lucky if they are able to do it on time.

I hope this is making sense, I am trying to do a lot at once! I am looking up places in the city that will fix computers (that would be an experience) and also my warranty from Dell which expires on July 14th. But it´s only for the US. I know they have international ones but I will have to look into the details. I also need to find an Apple store to buy a charger for my iPod. Yes, I can get wifi on it, but I can only charge it through my computer! Of course.

Sorry this has turned into my to do list…Enough of the boring stuff. I just had a great weekend at Iguazu Falls!!

[Actually let me again complain again for a second to be done with it. I had this weird itchy rash on my legs last week, my stomach still always hurts when traveling for a long distance and I caught a cold on the 13 hour bus ride there. I am finally feeling a lot better today though!]

So we woke up on the bus in the morning and went to old Jesuit mission ruins. We then had an asado at an estancia a half hour away. There was a pool, hammocks, and areas to play futbol and volleyball. Our hotel was still 3 hours away, but due to an accident and a protest it took us much longer to arrive…We had a late dinner (maybe even for Argentine standards) and I went to bed sick and exhausted.

It rained a lot in the morning when we got there, a lot of my pictures are of me in a lovely poncho. I just almost wrote pancho which means hot dog.

Eventually the rain stopped, and we got soaking wet on our boat ride under the waterfalls anyway. AMAZING. My pictures don´t do it justice and my words definitely won´t either. Here is where I would insert the pictures if I could…but you´ll just have to wait!

Before we left for the airport, we visited a Guaraní villiage. I really wish I could write more about it but it´s getting dark and I better go home.


Lazy Friday

Friday, March 12th, 2010

I got my schedule fixed! It’s 14 hours a week over 4 days. My schedule is on the “about” page.

Yesterday afternoon I went and saw Shutter Island. It was good but I didn’t really like it…way too heavy.

I haven’t done too much today but I sure do love not having class on Friday. Last night Maria was saying how I can sleep in and Tolo said that he was going to wake me up by playing music. He didn’t.

I just taught Maria how to say “raisin.” It’s a hard word. They just left for their niece’s house and left me food in case they don’t get back in time for dinner.