Sunday, January 10, 2010

Intensive Korean Study: Week 1

And so ends my first week of intensive Korean study! Sort of. I only started Wednesday, and the whole process is taking a lot longer than I expected. Also, I just got the textbook’s accompanying workbook in the mail Thursday or Friday, so I haven’t gotten a good look at it yet.

Before I start my review of this week's progress, though, I should probably describe my previous experience with Korean. As a kid I was taken to Korean school to learn the basics of the language. To be honest, the only information I really retained was the reading and writing aspect which, if you know anything about Korean, is not that difficult in the first place. Basically, a dedicated person can learn Han’gul in a week. The rest of Korean that I know is thanks to the Korean I heard as a kid. Even though I don’t understand a lot of it or the actual grammar, it doesn’t sound unfamiliar to me, and I already understand sentence structure.

Anyway, this is what I've been up to...

Integrated Korean: Beginning 1 Textbook

Okay, so first for the textbook. My objective was to get through the first two chapters by the end of the week, since I assumed that I wouldn’t have too much trouble with the basics. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the long introduction chapter into account when I was scheduling everything, and each chapter is pretty dense as it is. Aaand I admit it’s been hard getting focused.

So yeah. Only got through the first chapter by the end of this week. I skipped a lot of the introduction chapter, which involves learning Han’gul, pronunciation, and reading rules, so I only picked and chose what was useful to me. However! I feel pretty accomplished right now. It’s nice to finally actively know how to formulate a sentence instead of just trying to feel my way through. Ask me how to say “Yumi Kim is Korean. Steve Wilson is not Korean.” Go on, ask!!

The only real problem I’m finding with this textbook (and workbook) is the lack of an answer
How I really spend my time.
key. Some of the exercises that involve talking to a partner make it obvious that it’s meant to be used in a classroom context with, I guess, the professor having to check everything. However, if I were to use this in a Korean class, I’d want to be able to study on my own without the instructor, which isn't as easy without an answer key.

Anyways, the lack of one requires diligent checking back to the information in the textbook. While that might be all right for the basics, I wonder how well that works with more complicated lessons.

Overall, though, I’m liking the textbook so far. It uses pretty straightforward language and is uncomplicated, and it has cute little pictures to go along with the lessons. There are short passages on Korean culture, too, so that seems useful. Finally, all of the textbook audio files are online. For me they’re only useful to check my pronunciation, and more so in understanding the natural pauses and breaks someone makes while speaking.

And as a side note, I've also download the ProVoc vocabulary software. There's one particular file made for the Integrated Korean textbook (albeit the first edition), so that'll save me some index cards for vocab review.

Let’s Speak Korean

So I went on a slight Korean learning binge and started looking up other places to learn or practice. I stumbled upon a mini show on the Internet that airs on Arirang TV (I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s apparently an international English-language channel dedicated to Korean-based programming) called Let’s Speak Korean. It's currently hosted by Lisa Kelley and Young Kim. I think. There are a lot of different seasons of the show and two versions of it (basically two formats), and it's a little confusing as to what's the current season. Regardless, I've lately been watching episodes on Youtube of the newer version.

Let's Speak Korean is a show that is meant to supplement one's Korean studies; it assumes that you know Han'gul and the basics. Each episode is only about ten minutes long, and seems to focus on a few key phrases or sentences. From what I can tell, for each season they try to have a new little gimmick, including "K-drama" segments, a "student" who's more like a co-host, and a game show (the current theme). While it's a pretty informal series and not particularly helpful in learning real grammar, it's still enjoyable to watch and an easy way to expose yourself to a little more Korean in the day.

Lisa Kelley has been in every little episode I've seen so far, and she's peppy (more so in recent seasons) and usually fun to watch. Young Kim, the current co-host and also the co-host of season three with Lisa, is also congenial on camera.

There have been two other co-hosts with Lisa I've seen, the first being Kim Young-chul. I think he was only on season four, and he's a little less serious than Lisa or Young and more there for comic relief. The other is Stephen Revere, who co-hosts with Lisa on the first season. He's pretty loud and obnoxious, and sometimes uncomfortable to watch. He sort of resembles a car salesman in his approach.

But since I personally like to watch bad co-hosting, here's an episode when Stephen was still on!

But since I also like happy endings (for the most part, at least), here's a better version of the show with the mellower Young Kim.

Of course I'm being overly harsh, and I probably need to see a few more episodes with Kim Young-chul and Stephen Revere as co-hosts to really form a solid opinion.

NOW Manhwa

Cute girl! Big sword! Innuendo!
Now to tie in some of Manga Meditation's purpose into this post! I found the NOW series, written by Park Sung-Woo, when I was in my early teens, I think, and picked it up mainly because 1) It was a manhwa, something I had very limited exposure to, and 2) the art looked interesting. Beyond that, the story isn't particularly remarkable.

It's a typical boy's comic about some mysterious power that a bunch of people are trying to get, and there's a troubled boy and a cute girl and a cat girl. It's interesting enough when one wants something mindless, but otherwise it's not really emotionally gripping. The art, however, is pretty cool. I particularly admire the way Park draws action sequences; they're very fluid, and he has a really good eye for page layout.

Anyways, I got through the first four or five translated volumes when I noticed that none of the following ones showed up in the bookstore. I looked it up and found out that NOW's American publisher had gone out of business! I still wanted to know what happened and was kind of bummed.

So that summer some of my relatives were off to Korea. I usually don't have any gift requests, but I was hoping that they would be able to find the series while they were there; I knew it might not happen since Korean publishers often only publish a manhwa series for a few years before completely stopping production. Anyways, if they were able to get it I told myself that I would just suck it up and wade through the Korean.

It was found! And it was a lot longer than I expected; 25 volumes, actually. But that plan to practice my Korean? Never happened. The books have literally collected dust over these many years, and they're sitting in a brown paper bag right now. So with the recent Korean studying I'm doing now, I figure this will be a good time to actually pull these volumes out of their shrink wrap and find out what happens to Bi-Ryu and Ah-Rin! I'll try and track my progress (i.e. how much Korean I understand) in these weekly posts. By the end, I might even know enough to write a review.

While NOW was picked up by another publisher, it looks like they've fallen through too, so you won't be able to find this manhwa anywhere but online.


Phew. I wonder if all my weekly posts will be this long. I'm always so verbose! Anyways, this week could have been a little more productive, but I think I've at least started building the foundation for my studies for the rest of the month.


PS: Thanks to UH Press again for the workbook image (which looks a lot more yellow on the computer than in real life) and Wikipedia for the NOW cover image.


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