4 Months into Learning Korean – Taking Stock

This is a check-in.  I want to ramble on about what I am doing for study.  I promised the good, the bad, and the ugly of my learning journey would be reported here, so I am taking stock.

It is a long post that will not be of general interest, but die hard Korean learners might nod in sympathy or laugh in shared understanding having experienced similar frustrations and missteps themselves.  I talk about Korean Digital Academy, LingQ, KPop to KTalk, Flashcards, Textbooks, Audio, Talk to Me In Korean, Mango, Duolingo, Mindpasta, KaokoTalk, Skype, Phone calls, Word of the Day, Facebook, Twitter, and Food.

Korean Digital Academy

I have had my 7th class now of this course which includes video lessons, a workbook, quizzes, audio, and an hour a week of online speaking and listening with a native Korean teacher.  I recommend KDA to everyone.  The class size is small, only 3 students at this point, so we have a lot of chance to practice speaking.  The material is well organized.  The teachers are available to answer questions.  All around, I am pleased and the course material gets top priority in my studying.

I am not spending enough time outside of class studying the KDA material.  I am starting to worry I am falling behind.  I believe 3 hours speaking practice, 1 hour studying, 1 hour testing outside of class is a good guide.  I need a study circle.

Rewatching the full hour video lesson repeatedly is not the most efficient way when I am trying to memorize the material.  Each lesson is split into sections including a review of the previous class, vocabulary, reading practice, lesson, and questions.

I find I like to rewatch the review session at the start of the next class, usually 5 – 8 minutes, using that to practice my pronunciation.  The vocabulary I watch several time during the week to reinforce.  However, I prefer to do the reading practice from the worksheets and only rewatch the video if I take the quiz and see I have forgotten things.

My intention is to make a deck of flashcards with the KDA vocabulary I absolutely MUST remember.  (This is a subset from all the Korean words I let sort of wash over me from various sources without really trying to commit them to memory.)

I also want to make some private lessons on LingQ for each of the readings, so I can review more easily.  This unfortunately means my voice doing the recordings, because the audio provided with the KDA class is lots of short snippets instead of one long audio.  That doesn’t work to get me to listen to native Korean and improve my speaking.

KPop to KTalk

Without a doubt, I love KPop to KTalk.  This great website is introducing me to vocabulary and grammar.  My goal isn’t to fully master the song each week, but to at least read my way through it so that I have been introduced to the concepts.  I am getting a look at how sentences are put together.  I am seeing how particles are used.  I am learning how to take the literal translation of a sentence and convert it to how it would be said in English.

I’ve done three songs so far.  I will continue to revisit the songs as LingQ lessons.  Some day, I should be able to sing along fast enough to match the song and understand what they are saying.  For now, I am stealing phrases here and there to share with Mindpasta and Korean pen pals as I learn things I want to remember and repeat.  🙂


Every time I do a Mango lesson, I feel like some light bulb goes off. It is magical how this system makes me think about building blocks and how to put sentences together. I credit Mango with the fact that I now am writing sentences, although I still have a long way to go. I should do more Mango lessons. I have spent too much time on less fruitful ventures. I always feel joyful and accomplished after a Mango lesson. I should do this every day, for fun, because it makes me feel good.


Duolingo, the great seducer. I love this software. I REALLY wish they had Korean. I almost got sucked into a black hole of learning Spanish. The day I started recalling Spanish words quicker than my Korean words was a wake-up call. With extreme difficulty, I am resisting the pull of Duolingo. I stopped at day 8.


Mindpasta is great. It is fun. I learn. I get the support and encouragement I need. I can teach things to others. Did I mention how addicting it is? Still, if I were to put it on a scale of which activities I do that I learn the most, Mindpasta is not as instructive as KDA or KPOPtoKTalk. I could easily go there to goof off. I think I am socializing a bit too much, given that I am falling behind in my KDA studies.

Transparent Languages – Word of the Day

I get one email a day from Transparent Languages. It has a word and a sentence. I read them. If I really like the word, I copy it in my notebook or go use it with Korean friends or Mindpasta to reinforce.

Fresh Korean – Phrase of the Day

My first introduction to letting Korean into my life as a word-of-the-day in Facebook. Still a favorite. Great site! Love the free resources. Wish I was in Seoul so I could take classes with Fresh Korean.


I have fiddled with which pages I want to follow in Facebook. Mostly, I follow Fresh Korean, Talk To Me In Korean, KPop to KTalk, LovingKorean, and KoreanNotebook. Other pages I liked but wasn’t learning Korean vocabulary, so eliminated to make more time for studying. Facebook Messenger is a primary way I contact Korean pen pals.


The other way I chat with Korean pen pals is Kaokotalk. I don’t have long conversations. I usually will send a photo or “sticker” and a brief hello. I try to use some Korean. We do mini conversations about the weather or work, say good morning or good night, or I ask simple questions about Korean. I fear I am starting to neglect some of these people as studying has gotten busier. I know they support my efforts, and that alone means a lot.

Email and Interpals

When I first started in February, all I did was hang out at Interpals and hunt down Koreans. I was all passionate to learn and eager with absolutely no ability to write Korean. It didn’t stop me. A few souls I caught and have made friends with, and they have all moved off of Interpals to chat with me in emails, Facebook, and Kaokotalk. Chulmoon remains the most faithful, having written me almost every day since the first day I joined Interpals. How I burden him with long English letters when he is not comfortable writing in English. At the peak, he was answering 4 letters a day! To write me means he has to walk 20 minutes to the library to use their computers. A lot harder than just sending a quick text message from your phone.

Overall, I write less letters than I did. I also would devote a lot of time to translating the letters and poems sent to me in the early months, but now there just doesn’t seem to be enough time.

Language Exchange

I joined Interpals with the vague idea of language exchange. I had no idea what that meant. One man took me on for daily Skype sessions at a set time. I couldn’t type in Korean, but thankful he has excellent English skills. He answered many grammar questions, always taught me some new concept about Korea, shared vocabulary, encouraged me, and was a real boost to getting me started learning. He is responsible for a lot of the interesting content on this blog. He is reading bilingual novels (really hard ones!) to improve his English. He is very smart. I often worry that I am taking too much of his time. What can I offer in return besides friendship? Eventually, his busy work schedule and my increased time spent studying made the daily Skype calls end. We still stay in touch. I tell him about what I am studying. I see him as my Korean mentor.

Another Korean man I did intense English tutoring. He taught me about what a language exchange session can consist of. He pushed me to install software, learn new tools, use things like Google+ Hangouts for phone conversations where we would read a new article together and focus on pronunciation. He showed me many websites. He was studying hard for an English proficiency test at work, and so I got to see what kind of essay and oral exam questions they asked. I corrected his writing. I transcribed as we talked. We met every day, often more than once a day, and it seemed like there was little time for anything else for months. Recently, his push to learn English has let up since the exam has passed. It frees me up to do more of my own Korean studies.

Phone Calls

Calling Korea has been a learning experience. It has not always gone smoothly. Only one person did I call regularly. Chulmoon got one phone call, and I think we both almost died from the fear that induced as we do not share enough common language yet to carry on a conversation. Google, Skype, and Kaokotalk have been the most often used. 7000 miles is a long way to do VoIP, and often it was simply not possible. Robot voice where I hear beeps and blurps instead of the person is a common experience. Still, it is nice to hear a person’s voice. I feel closer to those Koreans I have shared a phone call with.


In my quest to expose myself to as much Korean as possible, I follow some people on Twitter like Talk To Me In Korean and others for 140 character nibbles of Korean.

Naver Wordbook

My daily start up page is the Naver wordbook. It is a mini-conversation. Because of the 13 hour time difference, I end up seeing two conversations. Each conversation seen 2 days. I read. I absorb only a little. I share words I like with Mindpasta.

Internet searching & Youtube

I still surf the web whenever some new topic comes my way. I seem addicted to reading about polyglots and watching TED talks. The topic of how to learn a language is still something I am researching.

Talk To Me In Korean

What a great website TTMIK is. I have chosen it as my studying to fill the gaps of time after I have done my Korean Digital Academy, KPop to KTalk, and flashcards. So each week I get to watch at least a few things TTMIK sends to my Facebook page like photo vocabulary, how do you say that, catch the wave, etc. I SHOULD study TTMIK’s grammar lessons. I just haven’t found the time yet.


I remain committed to my first 2 textbooks, which I refer to often. They are back up for whatever I am studying in KDA and help me in writing Korean to pen pals and on Mindpasta. I am also reading a bit of other books from time to time.

Listening to Audio

This is something glaringly missing. I need to listen and speak. It might mean Pimsleur, or returning to Teach Me Korean children’s songs, or something else. I am sadly lacking in this area.


I still haven’t gotten the hang of using a particular flashcard system. I’ve been struggling with LingQ, which gives me words I don’t particularly care to learn even if they are words I don’t know.

I’ve started using Anki, Memrise, and Quizlet. Memrise is the one I am enjoying the most. The Quizlet flash cards for Active Korean seem pretty tempting too. I plan to create a deck of Memrise words to accompany the KDA class.



What follows will be an honest, if somewhat unflattering description of my current experience with LingQ.  Since I am still using the system, maybe I should just keep my opinions to myself.  However, with my mere 20 page views a day readership of this blog, it is like sharing just with my close friends over coffee.  I hope my opinion of LingQ will improve.  I hope the challenges I have encountered will be overcome.

I just plain don’t like how flashcards work in LingQ.  Odd, because a “lingQ” is an unknown word you are trying to learn, so the whole basis of LingQ is to increase vocabulary, you would think their LingQ’s as spaced repetition flashcards would be the best part.

I have struggled with technical issues with LingQ.  I lost lessons.  I became discouraged.  I wasted time.  I lost momentum.  I was trying to put KDA lessons on LingQ, and after losing several, I haven’t yet faced redoing the work.  I am sure once one becomes an expert at creating lessons, the overhead will lessen, but right now, it is a slow, painful process.  Even the first pass through the reading is longer because I usually have to manually enter most of the word definitions and sentences, which means finding appropriate sentences for my basic level.    I probably learn something in that arduous process, but it just feels like work.

I still get too many emails from LingQ.  I don’t mind once-a-day list of LingQ’s, but I guess I befriended too many folks on LingQ, wrote on too many discussion threads, and voluntarily offer to help people with English writing corrections.  It means LingQ is distracting me all day long with my phone beeping to tell me another email has arrived.

The discussion forums are my favorite part of LingQ.  I have learned so much.  I am also very fond of helping with critiquing people’s English writing.  However, I could spend all my time doing that and never get around to studying Korean.  Can I put blinders on and go to LingQ just for the lessons without socializing?  I struggle with this.

I also intend to write up a “crash course” on LingQ, as I have done for many other software applications I use as I am learning.  However, LingQ remains somewhat of a mystery to me.  I can’t make the connection of how to use it.  I have spent 2 days putting together screen shots, yet hesitate to write the blog post, because I might be totally off base.  I think I shall simply write a “first impressions” post to make use of those screen shots, but reserve judgement on what LingQ is all about.

For a service I am paying for, both in money and time devoted to earning points, I would like to say it is helping me learn.  Now, I can clearly say the time I spend is NOT worth the amount I learn.  Yet, to really follow the LingQ system, I should be devoting a lot MORE time to reading & listening & doing flashcards & quizzes & creating lessons.   Frustrating too is that LingQ doesn’t capture a lot of the time I do study.  I have to manually tell it how many times I read an article, how many times I listened to the audio.  The hours studying grossly under report what I do, and their way of counting word is grossly overestimates the number of words I know.  Quantifiable data is only worthwhile if it is measured correctly and is measuring the right things.

I’m told that the LingQ system of interesting content read & listened to daily over months does work.  I’m not yet doing that, even though I do visit LingQ every day.  It is a matter of time.  I’m not going to spend 1 hour a day of serious study just for LingQ on the hope that months from now it will produce results.  KDA takes higher precedence.

I’ve been using LingQ for 10 weeks now, and I still don’t feel I am comfortable with it and “get it”.  That means it is a poorly designed system.  The learning curve has been steep, the system periodically unreliable or slow to respond, and the support staff only somewhat helpful.  One LingQ member, when I expressed frustration, told me I could use part of the system, so just be satisfied with that and stop trying to grasp everything to get the big picture.  Admittedly, there are two issues here:  me trying to learn how to be a self-learner and me trying to figure out which LingQ tools I can use.  Some of my spinning wheels is just my inexperience.

I wouldn’t recommend LingQ to novice learners, but I am sticking it out. Perhaps in time I will have become adept enough at creating lessons and have created a following of learners that I bring to LingQ.  It is the ability to create my own lessons that keeps me at LingQ.  If I could just get the KDA material available so my fellow classmates could study using it, I would feel satisfied.  That is what I hope to keep chipping away at.

I thought it very telling that Steve said in a recent video that Korean was the only language that he was not able to find enough content that was interesting to him.  Steve abandoned his 90 day Korean challenge.  He is off to another language.  I find the offering in the Korean library slim pickings.  Most of what I do for lessons is stuff I have imported myself. There are few Korean natives and Korean learners to rub elbows with.  (I feel like I am in the wilderness, building my own cabin, hauling water, chopping wood, gathering berries.  I am glad to have my own place to do what I want, but if I came here for company, I have only the trees to talk to.)


I am beginning to suspect to that I need to include protein and eat in regular intervals.  I eat very little protein.  Doctors always say eat a balanced diet, a good theory we all mean to do, but as I ask my brain to work hard learning, it is asking me for fuel.  When I was sick last week, it brought home the importance of my health.  Kind Koreans are worrying about me and frustrated an ocean divides us and there isn’t anything they could do.  So I must take better care of myself as part of my learning routine.

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6 Responses to 4 Months into Learning Korean – Taking Stock

  1. arielmaeve says:

    I really appreciate your ongoing analysis of what you’re doing and what’s working. I think it is true that we have to learn to be self-learners, as well as actually learn Korean! A lot of experimentation and reassessing seems to come with this. I liked the idea of reading with audio in LingQ so signed up and messed around a bit, but I’m not sure it’s design is best suited to a language like Korean which uses endings. Because it doesn’t recognize the difference between a word/base and the particles or case/tense endings, I felt like it ended up creating extra work. I admit this has discouraged me from returning much as I have a rather limited amount of time to give to Korean. But I am interested to hear how other Korean learners have found it. It seems most ideal for a language like English which communicates syntax by position rather than by changing the word.


    • jreidy17 says:

      I totally agree. Korean & LingQ aren’t an easy fit.

      I think it is true we find our own path to learning. It is also true that what we do changes over time. Therefore, I wanted to take a snapshot, so I could remember what I was doing now.

      Thanks for reading.


  2. catchan1980 says:

    Thank you for such a detailed post on your language journey! I recently joined Lingq as a free member. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am maximizing its use because I am quite confused at how it works, to be honest 😀 So I mainly use it for reading input. I like that many of the reading materials have audio files so I know how to pronounce words as well as read them. I also joined the Lingq 90-day challenge to improve my French and Japanese 🙂


  3. Maria J. says:

    I have recently enrolled to KDA and am very excited to start!! thanks for all the other resources you listed, I’ll try them all 😀

    Liked by 2 people

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