Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea

Words Words Words

January18

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.

posted under Korean Language
3 Comments to

“Words Words Words”

  1. Avatar January 20th, 2013 at 8:16 am Elisa Says:

    Yeah, this is a really interesting language issue. There are so many words (even phrases/constructions) in Spanish that I recognize and understand in context, but probably couldn’t define out of context or produce on my own. But I think reading articles & books – even if I don’t know every word in them – helps me improve. Oh, and I’ve heard of Memrise before but didn’t know much about it … sounds useful!


  2. Avatar February 8th, 2013 at 10:11 am epotosky Says:

    Memrise is amazing, you should definitely try it. Elisa, how do you motivate yourself to continue studying Spanish even when you’re not in school, taking classes, or in a primarily Spanish speaking country?


  3. Avatar February 11th, 2013 at 8:53 am Elisa Says:

    I haven’t been speaking Spanish very much at all since graduation, to be honest. I occasionally read a novel or short story in Spanish. Otherwise, not very much. But I know there are lots of Spanish conversation groups around, and I keep meaning to try one ….


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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.



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