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If you’re reading this, then you likely:
- Studied for the TOPIK
- Currently are studying for the TOPIK
- Are thinking of studying for the TOPIK
I’m here to ask you to be honest with yourself and write down the top 3 to 5 reasons why you are studying Korean for the TOPIK. Once you do that, ask yourself if the TOPIK will help you achieve those goals that you just wrote.
For those of you who don’t know what the TOPIK is, it’s the Test of Proficiency In Korean. The test is designed and administered by the NIIED (National Institute for International Education) and given 4 times a year. It is used as a gauge of how well you know Korean, and is often required to work at a Korean company or to attend a university in Korea.
Often times, people choose to study Korean for the TOPIK exam to have a goal to shoot for while studying Korean. It’s a good goal because it will help you develop your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. Also the certification can be a benefit if you have a use for it.
However, other times people just choose to study Korean for the TOPIK as an arbitrary goal. Studying for the TOPIK can be detrimental to your Korean study since it can be demotivating to not be moving toward your goal. For example, your goal might be to be able to hold a conversation with a Koreans for at least 10 minutes. If that’s the case, then the TOPIK is not going to match up with that goal. There is no speaking component in the TOPIK, so you won’t get any speaking practice. On top of that, you’ve invested a significant amount of effort into writing, which you may not use.
There is also a great deal of vocabulary and grammar that you likely won’t use in the 10-minute conversation scenario. Instead of investing additional resources into learning those essential items for the test, you can use that time more wisely. Maybe you’ll want to extend to a 20-minute conversation, learn some Korean slang, or start up on another language.
No matter what point you are at in your TOPIK Korean study, now’s a good time to take a breather and decide if this is the route you want to be taking. Maybe it’ll help reinforce your reasons for why you are studying, and give you additional motivation. Or on the flipside, you may decide that it’s time to stop studying Korean for the TOPIK. There are other programs out there to help you achieve your language goals, so take a look and evaluate them. You may find that your goal is closer than you think!
What are your reasons for studying for the TOPIK? Feel free to leave a comment below, we’d love to hear from you!
Photo Credit: Yum9me
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I am no longer a resident is Suwon. It’s a sad day, I suppose, but one myself and Herself talked about for a while. It may be a new idea to you but it’s one thing we’ve known about for some time.
Over the past week boxes were filled, as we’re plenty of those 100 litre rubbish bags. The bags went to the dumpster down below, the boxes to the post office. Thankfully there’s surface post from Korea to Ireland.
*This piece may have appeared on the web once or twice before, but we’re publishing it again here because we likes it, yes we do.
by Mr. Motgol
In the Old World, people went to the New World to start anew. Once America became settled, folks would head “out West” to shake away their demons, with destinations such as California and Alaska luring folks with promises of riches and rebirth. These were places where no one cared about your history or imperfect past. You were given a clean slate, and only as good as your current effort.
These days, such second chances are harder to come by. Technology and computer data bases have made it much more difficult to shake the specter of previous fuckups. I am told that back home, many shitty, wage-slave jobs now require credit checks, for God’s sake. Big Brother has indeed taken over, which leaves only one choice for the Spectacular Failures of the Western World: Asia.
I was a big fat loser in America. I admit it. There’s really no other way to spin the story. I aimed high and fell lower. Mea culpa.
I came to Korea because pretty much no one else would have me. I was bruised and bleeding–the textbook portrait of a failure–but Korea didn’t seem to care. Her permed hair’d visage looked upon me with kind brown eyes and during my darkest hour, picked me up with her calloused, ajumma hands, and embraced me.
Since arriving on her rocky shores those many years back, I’ve flourished, and despite her many, prickly imperfections, I’m happy to call Asia home. I am grateful every day for the second chance afforded me here, and despite a few major hiccups along the way, I try my best not to screw it up.
However… some of my fellow expats have it the other way around. They come to Asia, and THEN implode. Whether they blow all their cash, burn their bridges, or just piss the wrong people off, I’ve seen more than my share of expats unravel here. With their tail quivering between their legs they grab what they can, stuff it into their bags, and crawl onto that first plane home. The rest of us shake our heads and wonder how can this happen in Asia, where–at least for us pampered, spoon-fed Westerners–things are just so damned easy. How is it possible to ASS OUT in a land where Westerners are generally given a berth fit for a cruise ship?
This phenomenon has come to be known as The Asia Fail. Here’s a list of the main types, in no particular order:
1. THE ALCOHOL FAIL
East Asia–with Korea stumbling along at the head of the drunken pack– is a boozehound’s paradise. You can get hammered around the clock for pennies on the dollar. Many countries have NO LAST CALL at the bars. You can booze all night, show up to work bleary-eyed and reeking of drink, and your boss will congratulate you.
If your friend is already an alcoholic and says he’s moving to Asia, don’t let him. There’s simply just too much product on hand. After all, would you let your cokehead buddy go work in the rebel-held jungles of Colombia?
A friend of mine was such an alkie that he couldn’t even hold down a job in Korea, where a huge drinking habit is almost a hiring requirement. It is so ingrained in the culture that companies often make pissup sessions mandatory for employees. He carried around soju in a water bottle and would puke every time he went up stairs. For the greater part of a year he lived in a bar. Yes, such a thing is possible in Asia.
When things got bad enough we finally passed the hat, contacted his family, bought his ticket and practically pushed him onto the plane. He’s lucky, because I’ve known of a couple other guys who have died from liver failure here. And they were both kindergarten teachers.
Before attempting a move home from here, writer Ross Gardiner summed it perfectly: “I’m the only person in history who is moving back to Scotland to AVOID being an alcoholic.”
2. THE IRATE WOMAN FAIL
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a pretty good maxim to live by. Add Asian to the equation and this “fury” has the potential to morph into a Category 5 Typhoon.
The warning signs are usually there: Ripped up photos of ex-girlfiends, rivers of threatening text messages, smashed furniture, slaughtered pets…
One friend of mine was smart enough to take his Korean wife–who had serious anger management issues–back to Canada before things got bad here. How do I know? One day I saw him at work, with a seven inch scabby gash on his face.
“What happened?” I asked.
“My wife scratched me,” he replied, as if it was an every day occurrence, like walking the dog or laundry.
“Yeah…. she got drunk and scratched me.” He continued drinking his coffee and making fantasy football trades on his computer.
“Any particular reason?”
“Nah, not really.”
Another guy I know was deported after his notoriously unbalanced ex-girlfriend ratted him out to immigration for some illegal tutoring he was doing. That’s right, she called the teaching cops him. And sure enough, when he showed up to the lesson, two immigration officials were there, lying in wait. They grabbed him and that was that. He’s since moved on to greener pastures, but let the lesson be learned.
3. THE DRUG BUST FAIL
No country in Asia takes either possession of distribution of any substance deemed illegal lightly. Your arguments for decriminalization may hold sway ears in Canada, America, or Europe, but Asians generally have no time for such things. All drugs are thought bad and that’s that. Get caught and pay the price. Like the strength of currencies in this region, this “price” varies greatly from country to country. Get busted smuggling hash in Japan or Korea and you WILL do time in a spartan prison, but you’ll likely count the years on one hand and you’re unlikely to be brutalized or raped. Do the same in Thailand or the Philippines and you may just spend a decade or two living in your own shit and fending off knife attacks from transvestites in prisons not fit for animals. Try it in Malaysia or Singapore and you may not even spend too long in prison before you find a rope around your neck.
Every year or so there’s a drug bust among the expats in Korea, which I don’t understand. I mean, do you guys really need your weed THAT much? Go home and move to Seattle or Denver and smoke away, though you may have to go back to work at Walmart or the valet parking lot you toiled away at before moving here.
There are so many books written about Thai prisons that they practically have their own aisle the the few remaining books stores left on earth. Warren Fellow’s “The Damage Done” is particularly horrifying.
For a clear and sympathetic account of serving time in a Korea prison for drugs, try “Brother One Cell”. He’s proven that the Asia Fail can go the other way around: It can sometimes actually provide opportunities for you back at home. I’ve often thought of purposely getting arrested for drugs in Asia, and serving my time solely in hopes of landing a big book deal. Expat prison memoirs are hot hot hot.
4. THE HATER FAIL
This one usually manifests itself as the midnight runner (suddenly leaving without notice). Many would argue that this doesn’t qualify as an Asia Fail because by leaving the country with no notice, you are taking matters into your own hands. Fair enough, but to get to the point where you are willing to grab your shit and ditch out on your job without so much a phone call implies a basic lack of preparation for the bumps and knocks of life in Asia.
But even more fail-ific are the people who move to Asia, hate it with their very skin, yet insist on sticking around, grinding it out, and making it awful for the rest of us. There’s currently one sad sack on Facebook who teaches up ino Seoul and shrieks about it every day. His entire posting catalog is a road map of ESL misery. He moans and whines and talks about how is life here is a “living hell”; he talks of how the school he works at could be destroyed by a bomb with everyone–staff and children include–killed and how he wouldn’t. even. care. (sic) In desperation for a online hug, he splays his painful, bleeding vagina for all to see; he longs to return to the loving womb of America, but refuses to take that one clear step to accomplish the goal: Actually leaving.
Isn’t such perpetuation of easily-cured pain a kind of fail in itself?
Things are different here. There are cultural barriers that sometimes suck, yes, and in an effort to maintain social harmony, many bosses do have a–how do you say–elastic relationship with the truth. And the men spit in elevators and the old ladies elbow you in the subway and just maybe they all do hate us.
And did I mention how expensive cheese is here? Can you believe it? Oh noes. The horror.
5. THE TRYING TO BE FUNNY BUT ONLY ENRAGING THE LOCALS FAIL
This one occurs with cultural insensitivity meets misinterpretation, and one that I was guilty of in 2006. I was arrested and questioned over my role in Babopalooza, an expat sketch-comedy show I helped write and produce. The show made fun of both Westerners and Koreans and nearly got everyone involved deported. One of the sketched lampooned the Korean Immigration Service, which was an idiotic thing to do, since 1: The ridiculing of authorities is frowned-upon in Confucian Korea, and 2. The people we were skewering were also the people who have all the power over our lives: They interpret and enforce the rules that let us stay in the country. Don’t bite the hand that issues the visa. We eventually got off with a firm “talking to” by the actual police, but “Wonderful Busan, Beautiful Immigration” continued to make our lives hell for years later, every time any of us switched jobs.
There are other examples aside from Babopalooza, most notably Michael Breen’s Samsung Christmas satire, and the forever-instructive “Fancy a bum?” incident, which whipped up the Korean netizens into such an angry, pitchfork and torch mob, that the offending dude (a Busan resident) was literally run out of the country.
6. THE PARANOIA FAIL
No, this isn’t the west, and some of the governments in Asia are downright nasty. This is especially true for the communist ones, who don’t really bother with such pesky things as free speech, habeus corpus, and a right to a fair trial. They’ve also been known to harass and spy on undesirable foreign elements from time to time.
However, most expats–especially lowly English teachers–are barely on their radar and to think otherwise is to only flatter yourself. That doesn’t stop some folks from convincing themselves that the Secret Police are out to get ‘em, however. A friend of mine was recently living in a Southeast Asian country and posted a sort of real time Facebook meltdown. He claimed he was being watched and followed every step of the way; he told of having his apartment broken into and his computer hacked and tracked. He ended up bolting the country with no cash and barely getting out, subsequently relying on friends chipping in on PayPal to buy his ticket back home.
Who knows? Maybe he was being followed. Though, having been a dabbler myself years back, I suspect overindulgence in certain substances played a much greater role in pushing him over the precipice than any spooks or security apparatchiks. And is it any coincidence that that this sort of neurosis usually occurs in countries where such substances are widespread and easily obtained? After all, nothing makes gangs of government agents put cameras in your refrigerator like a three-week yabba binge.
7. THE SHITTY TEACHER FAIL
Let’s face it: Teaching English in Asia is a piece of piss. Could there be anything easier than just talking to people in your native tongue and getting paid for it? Sure, you need a “four-year degree”, and that does succeed in weeding out some of the mouthbreathers, but knuckleheads still abound. Anyone who thinks that a college education alone somehow equals intelligence hasn’t surveyed the Asian ESL crowd.
But let’s face it: Teaching English isn’t for everyone. To do it well in Asia requires a modicum of charm and basic social skills, or at least the ability to shuck and jive and entertain the troops. And if the troops aren’t entertained, they’ll complain, and your ass will be shown the door.
Some folks just aren’t cut out for this gig, yet bounce around from job to job to job, never quite taking the hint that, somewhere along the way, they’ve made a serious vocational error. But the truth is, if you are over thirty and teaching in Asia, you’ve ALREADY made a serious vocational error.
8. THE TEACHING IN KOREA AND THEN GETTING CAUGHT HAVING SEX WITH CHILDREN IN THAILAND FAIL
This is the worst one, because not only is it morally reprehensible: It just makes living and working here all the more difficult for the rest of us.
Thanks, Swirly Faced Man.
Again class progresses. The activity involved asking you friends and recording their answers, so once again this kid comes to me.
"언니~ How long does it take to walk to school?"
"It takes about 15 minutes."
He wrote down my answer and '언니 as my name.
"Okay...Noona! How long does it take to..."
Again, I answered and he wrote a different name. He proceeded to ask me three more times, once as hyung (older brother), once as teacher, and once as mom.
Needless to say, I was really confused about my identity by the end of the class.
Follow a Korean Lawyer
Today, Sweden is the highlight of the hour!
If you haven’t learned a lot in history class, which I didn’t, all you have to know is Sweden is neutral, and they are organized. I’m not one to generalize, but when I came across the 50 year Diplomatic Relations between South Korea and Sweden, it was surprising that everything was documented from their first encounter with us in the 1720.
1720?! Jezzus ! Who is the historian in charge of this ? Who does that ?!
Some think Korea always looked like this beautiful.
When Sweden decided to help Korea, our infrastructure was in terrible condition, and there were more peasants than you can count. Just look at our markets back then.
Unlike the Korean-Russian or German history, we were in need of help and Sweden came to us.
I mean, look at this ! THIS is where kpop started !
So, the beginning of our official recognition that we even existed to the rest of the world was made possible by of a fellow name John Phillip von Stralenberg in 1730. Back when maps were drawn by hand, people had to travel around to see what the world looked liked and because Johnny visited Korea for a short period, he literally put us on the map.
Wilhelm Andersson Grebst brought light to our civilization outside of Korea in 1904. He wrote a book detailing Korea’s landscape, civilization, etc. Before this, Europe had no knowledge of Korea because our borders were closed off to other countries. The book titled “I Korea” was just translated in Korean in 2005.
Slowly but surely, through Sweden’s efforts, people started to gain insight into Korea. However, Japan’s constant efforts were to invalidate Koreans by means of wars and social suppression. Korea fought a long chronic battle, and is still fighting, in order to gain its’ own identity solidified.
To give an example, Sven Hedin was a geographer and explorer who was asked to speak in Korea but when he got there, it was filled with Japanese participants. Where were the Koreans ? Waiting outside (probably in a squat position).
Well, Sven didn’t agree with this type of behaviour and refused to start his lecture until we were led into the room. It was a pivotal event because Sven’s adamant request was documented in the historic Korean record books known as an Ilsungrok (일성록) on 21 December 1908.
Ilsungrok is an official record book that Koreans use for documentation.
Continuing on, Sweden didn’t take advantage of an underdeveloped nation, they just wanted to catch bugs, and chase butterflies in our country for their zoological research.
The Swedish Crown Prince, King Gustaf VI Adolf, visited Korea and helped with excavating wonderful treasures. Why? Because he liked archaeology.
During one of his excavations in Korea, the Shilla crown (57B.C – 935A.D) was discovered. I remember seeing this crown at my aunt’s house, and wondering what it was all these years.
Anyway, during the Korean War is when Sweden really revealed their true colours.
There was a lot of bloodshed between the South and North, and so, a hospital was setup by Sweden in the 1950s. Wounded soldiers, UN forces, and civilians were treated here.
To add, they were the FIRST people to offer aid when the war began. A country that really gave us more than we were able to give them.
To push on, the diaspora of Koreans in Sweden was through adoption. One of the main reasons being was The Swedish National Social Welfare Board was responsible for adoptions until the 1979.
As of now, there are over 8,000 Koreans in Sweden, and several have found themselves back in Korea. To keep cultural ties in place, since 1969, Korean studies were available for anyone at Stockholm University. Thus far, six PhD degrees in Korean studies have been awarded.
To end on a high note, to say that Swedish has influenced Korea in a positive way is really an understatement. Personally, its truly wondrous that a country would help to the degree in that the changes are still seen today.
Oh, and does this look familiar?
Sweden was responsible for this stylish and environmentally conscious design.
your Kyopo friend,
Learn more about the Sweden-Korean Diplomatic relationship.
Have you ever felt like you are spreading yourself just a little too thin?? Like maybe you should have said no to at least one of the things you are currently juggling? Welcome to my month, or months I should say!! Not only am I trying to keep this blog up and running so my friends and family can see what is going on in my life, I recently enrolled in a professional photography program back home to fine tune my eye and give me the technical know-how to feel confident in the field! I also found out that I would have my first solo photography exhibition in my home city! I was selected to have four pieces displayed in a central Starbucks location for the month of February and then would be transferred to an even more central location for the month of March!
I was so stoked to be selected and couldn’t believe how lucky I was!! The only thing is trying to organize a show while living overseas is a bit tricky! I am amazingly lucky to have a wonderful retired mother who has the time and patience to help me out, but the perfectionist I that I am made it painful not to be able to control every last detail! Many of my recent nights have been spent emailing explicit, patronizing and slightly apologetic emails to my mother, uploading, deleting, and uploading again photo upon photo to various developing sights in order to get the perfect print created. Sizing photos, well getting Graham to size photos cause I’ve no idea how to do technical stuff like that and then transferring from one USB to another only to find it wasn’t sized properly or named correctly and the photo site wouldn’t accept it so we had to start all over again. I really thought it would be much easier, but when it came down to it there were so many tedious little things that had to be done! There were times I’d just slam my computer shut and head to the corner store to find the cheapest bottle of wine possible!
For some reason during all of this I decided to sign up with National Geographic’s One Shot site and start to enter assignments in order to get my pictures out there more. I was beyond happy to find that the current assignment was “The Moment” where you had to submit a photograph which depicted a certain moment in time. My immediate thought was of this shot:
Which then led me to dive into my picture files and before I knew it an entire day had passed and I had so many pictures I wanted to choose I didn’t know where to begin! Only three photos were allowed to be submitted and after consulting with Graham I finally narrowed it down to my original choice as well as:
I was up until the wee small hours of the morning when I turned to look at the clock and realized SH#*!!! I still have a day job that I have to be alert for!!! Not only do I have to be alive and energetic for the kindergarten and elementary school kids I teach, I also have to stay awake and ‘on’ for about 10 hours a day. I love to teach and take all my jobs seriously, therefore preparation and organization are essential to my days!! Where I find time to make worksheets and plan lessons I’ve no idea! I guess it helps that I’ve started doing it in my sleep!!
Did I forget to mention I also enjoy having a social life?? Between school, teaching, contests, exhibitions, editing and studying I try my best to get out and see some of the great people I’ve met over here! Which sometimes throws a wrench in my plans because soju and mekju are usually thrown into the mix and thanks to my old age I am usually hung for a good day or 2 after… and when hung, nothing gets done!! Not even phone calls to all my wonderful people back home who I would love to keep in touch with more often, but thanks to the insane time difference I am usually sleeping before I get a chance to call them!!
In the midst of all that we also headed to Tokyo for a whirlwind 4 day vacation?!? It was lunar New Year and Japan was a must see destination, but of course nothing got done while we were gone, well other than having fun and touring around that is!! I would love to put some pics up, but I haven’t even finished editing my Beijing shots from Christmas yet!! One of these days I swear!!
Aaaaahhhhhhh!!!! I don’t even want to listen to myself anymore!! So many plates in the air and I don’t want a single one to drop!! Wish me luck as I continue on this jam packed journey please!!! Though, I wouldn’t change any of it!!!