The Legend of The Missing Subtitle

Ok, so there’s really no legend. I just can’t think of a better title for the post. XD.

Anyway I was happily marathoning a Korean drama. I just finished an episode and the next one automatically played… 1 minute… 2 minutes… 3 minutes… 4 minutes… then the character said a sentence that I’ve come across My Name Is Kim Sam Soon novel I am currently reading and translating. I know what the sentence mean but it doesn’t sound very natural when I translated it literally to English. “Wait! What’s the best way to say it in English?” So, curious as to how it was subbed, I paused my video player and pressed the rewind button so I can “read again” the subtitles carefully. I will probably have to edit my translation to phrase it better in English…

The video played.

Subtitles didn’t appear!

Apparently I have been watching without subtitles for a whole 4-minute. I forgot to rename the subtitle file for the next episode so my video player didn’t pick it up automatically.

This is not really the first time it happened to me. Usually because of not renaming my subtitles properly subs won’t appear on the next episode. I would only notice it once I had that ‘wait-what-did-she-say-again’ moment on the first few moments. But this time I was really surprised when no subtitles appeared after I played the video again. I have been understanding everything completely I really thought I had my subtitles on. It makes me wonder, if I didn’t rewind it, how far I can go watching without subtitles?

I actually noticed that on this latest drama that I’m watching, I’m listening more than reading the English subtitles. I’m glad I’m also improving on my listening skills (even if I’m not working hard on it lately – I’m reading more these days while trying to get my mouth do its job). But I’m still far from letting my subtitles go. Not yet. I’m still very much dependent on them. But I can’t wait to finally let them go.

It feels like when I was first learning how to ride a bicycle. Riding a bike is difficult and scary. Just like most kids learning how to bike for the first time, I needed my grandfather’s help so he used to hold the rear of the bike for me while I try to pedal. Aware that someone’s holding it for me, I kept pedaling. But there are moments I didn’t know he already let go minutes ago. However the moment I found out he is no longer holding my bike, I panicked and wobbled and fell down. Even if I managed to bike on my own a few minutes ago, I wouldn’t start until I know somebody’s holding it for me. Eventually, after lots of efforts, I learned how to bike – racing after boys, standing on it and sometimes I don’t hold the bike handles for fun!

Just like in watching my dramas, I still need help from subtitles. I can survive a few minutes without it especially when I’m aware that I don’t have them. But the moment I realize they are not on, I panic and put them on again. But I believe, eventually I’ll let go of them. Soon! 🙂

My Lowest Point in My Korean Learning

As I’ve said in a previous post, my “lows” over my Korean skills lack of Korean skills often happen after a good “high”. A few days ago I managed to finish reading an entire manhwa (all 52 chapters) and though I didn’t understand 100% of it, I understood enough for me to laugh, for me to cry brawl, for my skin to crawl… I even covered my eyes twice or thrice and had to suffer withdrawal syndrome after. So overwhelmed with the manhwa, I even wrote a little review (or should I say ‘reaction’) about it. The longest serious and non-prattle text I’ve ever written in Korean by myself. Yes it’s still too child-sounding and have errors here and there, but I’m quite satisfied and happy with what I’ve written. If I’m more comfortable using more grammar and vocabulary I could’ve expressed myself better but nonetheless I guess I was able to somehow convey my thoughts pretty well. Satisfactory enough for me and my level in writing.

I am happy with my recent reads (a manhwa, a novel, and a new textbook). I learn a lot each day. And the more I read, the easier it gets. I was foolishly skipping in my own little cloud nine when I was whacked in the head by my deteriorating speaking skills. And I fell flat on the ground.

Speaking has been my weakest point. I think a part of it was because I didn’t begin my study “properly”. Not thinking that I would, someday, speak in Korean I focused more on words, grammar, anything, everything but proper pronunciation. Since then and until now I usually study with my eyes and brain. Reading, thinking, writing in Korean – quietly. I seldom open my mouth and speak. And because I know I am not good, my confidence in speaking is not that great either, making speaking a lot more difficult for me.

In a place where I do volunteering, there are a number of Filipino employees who can speak Korean well. And when I said well, I mean they can carry continuous and spontaneous conversation with the other Korean employees/volunteers. I also have classmates that went on exchange in Korea who are very good in conversation. The funny thing is, they would often ask me what is X in Korean or how do you spell Y in Korean and what does Korean sentence/phrase Z (especially when they are reading/writing something). I wonder how they can speak so comfortably despite not knowing a bunch of fairly easy words/grammar.

I honestly feel bad that my speaking skills are not at par with other Filipinos I know that speaks Korean. I used to calm fool myself with the excuse that they all have studied in Korea and I haven’t. I don’t actually believe that one needs to be in Korea just to be able to speak Korean well. I believe that one can speak Korean well even if they haven’t stepped in Korea (same goes for other languages). But after I became an exchange student, even if it’s just for a month, I can no longer fool myself and use the same old excuse.

I want to believe that different people have different learning curves. That I can also improve if I will exert enough efforts. So I am patiently trying. But my patience ran out last Saturday.

Last Saturday I met a good Japanese friend who is good in Korean. Since my Japanese skills is almost non-existent and she “claims” she’s not good in English and refused to speak to me in English (She’s been like that since the first time we’ve met, but I know she can speak and understand English because she speaks to others in English. But she never speak a single English word to me. Not a single one! And I love her all the more for that!) we talked in Korean. I showed them around Manila – mostly on historical places. Lacking knowledge on historical terms in Korean, it was difficult to explain the different places and different events that occurred in our country in Korean. But it’s not only that that I was frustrated about. I can’t even fully express myself even if we were just talking about random things. There were so many things I wanted to tell her, ask her, things I want to talk about. She asked me lots of things and I want to tell her exactly what’s in my 마음속. But I failed. I just can’t. I can’t find the right words and the right sentence ending that can convey my feelings well. I didn’t know where my -더라, -더니, -듯, -바람에, -수록, -도록 went. All I know they all left me and only the -이에요s, -죠s, -잖아s, -는데s, -아/어서s, 갓같아s that stayed! 개다가 has visited me once along with my favorite -자마자. And as always all the -가다 and -오다 verb combination confused me to hell! I was both tongue-tied and mind-tied. Most of the time I can’t even finish my sentences. The moment she shows understanding of what I was about to say I stop without  finishing my sentences. My word choices were not that great either! And don’t ask me about my pronunciation either.

I was frustrated and very tired as I try to rack my brains. But she said one two things that snapped my patience with myself. She saw my My Name Is Kim Sam Soon novel and I told her I am reading it now. She said she gave up reading it a long time ago because it was so difficult and there were so many words she doesn’t know. She also asked me to tell her the story of the manhwa we were both reading because she still can’t finish it because it’s difficult so she just quickly scan through it and look at the picture.



She’s so fluent in Korean. She can talk to our Korean friends without any trouble. She can perfectly blend in as if a native speaker. Just like my co-workers. Just like my classmates who went on exchange. Comfortably.

What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I speak like them? I can read a novel. I can finish a manhwa. I can pour my heart on writing. But why does my stupid mouth won’t open properly. Why do words just won’t come out of my mouth. Why do I feel so 긴장하다 and my thoughts turn into a bowl of 비빔밥 whenever I need to speak up.

And for the first time I cried over my Korean skills.

I must be doing something wrong. Why am I the only one like this? I should do something about this. But until now I don’t know what to do.

I tried convincing myself that I’ve improved a lot already. 2 and a half years ago, when I first met her, my Japanese friend, we barely talk. A few words. A few short sentences. Some signs. And a lot of smiles. And now we were able to finally talk. I should be grateful. I should be happy. Well I am. But that was 2 and a half years ago! Yes I’m glad I made an improvement. But if that was 2 years ago, I should’ve been way better than how I was last Saturday!

I felt so sad sending my friend away. I’ll miss her. And I also hated myself because there were really lots and lots and lots of things I wanted to tell her. We talked about many things and I discovered that we have similar opinions on several issues we are both facing. I want to tell her my experiences and my feelings. I really wanted to open my heart to her the way she did to me. But I wasn’t able to. I wanted to hit my stupid mouth!

But no, not giving up of course! Darn, no! After crying last Saturday on my way home, I promised myself that the next time I’ll see my friend, I’ll be able to express myself well! Although I don’t know yet how I can improve my speaking skills, I’ll find a way. Maybe I should start listening to radios? Korean podcasts? Start an audio blog? Get a language partner?

아는 방법을 알려주세요~

Failing TOPIK 중급 ^_^

429477_10151172385626818_731242903_nThis post has been sitting on my drafts for quite some time now. 😄

So. There. 불합격.

But who cares? ^_^

Of course I wanted to do well, but I know right from the start 중급 is still beyond my level (especially after the exam! OTL). I’m actually surprised (and happy!) with my score, especially on the 어휘및문법 part (I passed Level 3 and maybe if I got 2 or 3 more correct answers my 어휘및문법 would be at Level 4! 신기하다!). And at least now I know how weak I still am on 읽기, 듣기 and 쓰기. I’m actually proud of my 쓰기 score even if it’s a failing score (I was expecting it to be lower). And my 읽기 score is exactly how I expected it to be. OTL.

It’s so obvious that I only reviewed 어휘및문법 and didn’t practice the rest. ㅋㅋㅋ

At first I wanted to try again for April. Aim for a Level 3 perhaps, then a Level 4 on October. But I don’t want to push it. Got loads of stuff on my hand for the next 3 months and I don’t want to lose focus. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop reviewing/preparing for it for the meantime. I just don’t want to add more pressure on myself when I’m already this stressed. So I will take the October one instead and aim for a level 4!

[드라마] Faith: Princess 노국

I have no plans of watching Faith but a very good friend keeps telling me about it (the same friend who influenced me into watching Arang and the Magistrate too). I actually just fell in love with one of the soundtracks first, 그대니까, and eventually got curious about the drama.

At first I have confused Faith with Time Slip Dr. Jin. Gah! Why so many time-warps dramas? And later realized it was a different drama. And I’m loving the story so much.

Last night I was watching Episode 4 and I’m simple amazed with Princess Noh Gook and her fluency to Goryeo Language (Korean). Princess Noh Gook is a Yuan Princess, thus speaks Chinese (Yuan language? I don’t know). However she is very fluent in Korean (then Goryeo) that the King himself initially thought she is a Korean (from Goryeo country). Warrior Choi Young asked her when did she learn Korean since she only married their King for 2 years and she is already very fluent.

최영: 먼저 한 가지 여쭤도 되겠습니까? 고려말은 언제 배우셨습니까?
노국공주: 8년이다. 8년 전 한 사람을 보았다. 고려사람이었다. 그에게 말을 건네보려고 말을 배우기 시작했다.

Choi Young: But first, can I ask you something? When did you learn Goryeo language.

Princess Noh Gook: It’s been 8 years. 8 years ago I met someone. Someone from Goryeo. I started learning the language in order to communicate with him.

Awww, that was sweet! Learning a language to be able to communicate with someone she likes/loves. Although technically I started learning Korean just to be able to register to Kim Sun Ah’s fancafe, I continued learning because I also want to communicate with people – my Sunaforever family (including Kim Sun Ah herself). And as years go by, I met more and more Korean (not just Koreans) people that I want to communicate well in Korean.

8 years! So I still have 2-3 more years to, hopefully, reach Princess Noh Gook’s fluency? Hahaha.

My Highs and Lows in Learning Korean

There are times when I feel so happy and “fulfilled” with my Korean. Like when I was able to successfully organize an event using only Korean. Or when I managed to have a decent, spontaneous and continuous conversation with Korean friends. Or when I can translate the things I read. Or when I can understand big chunks of my dramas or movies without realizing that my subtitles were turned off. Or even the simple things like recognizing a word I recently learned from something I read or heard. Just like a few days ago. I was watching a Korean movie in a cinema (during the Korean Film Fest) and I picked up 자세한 from the dialogue. 자세하다! 자세! I know that word! I just learned that from the TOPIK paper I was answering. I want to shout out loud that I know that freakin’ word!

But there are also times when I feel so frustrated it feels like (1) my efforts are going nowhere OR (2) that I will never ever improve OR (3) BOTH! And it’s usually something that will surface after a good “high”. Like last summer, just when I thought I was improving big time, I sat down in a drinking session with Korean friends and I ended up not understanding a thing they were saying. I barely talked that evening and just munched on the 안주 and drink all night but I was so tired afterwards because of my failed attempts of understanding the conversation. When will I be able to understand such kind of “free-conversation”?

And today, I am at my lowest perhaps. I spent hours each day for the past couple of weeks untangling TOPIK papers – learning new words and grammar points every day. Yet when I sat on our TOPIK review class today I barely understood anything from the 26th TOPIK paper! I highlighted words that I do not know and underlined all grammar points that are not familiar with me. Unknown words appeared one after the other until I almost highlighted the entire paragraph. As expected, I can’t understand anything. Our professor explains to us difficult words and grammar points but the thing is there are more words and grammar points on the material that I do not know so I still end up not understanding anything. I am also overwhelmed with the so many words I don’t know yet that even if words I have learned already appears, I can’t recognize them any longer. The fact that most of the members of the review class were really good since most of them have studied and stayed in Korea for at least a year doesn’t make it any better. It makes me feel all the more frustrated because they can understand more than what I can and they can express their thoughts verbally. I feel exasperated looking at my TOPIK papers. Will I’ll be able to learn all these things?

Times like this, I’d like to remind myself that a few years ago I can’t even read Hangeul; that a couple of years ago I can’t even introduce myself properly; that  last year I can’t even get more than 50 points in the vocabulary & grammar section of TOPIK.

Nonetheless, being lost in our review class and seeing my TOPIK papers almost covered in pink highlights makes me frustrated. I know I must work hard. Harder. But first, I need to get myself out of this 한국어 depression.


Yesterday, Kim Sun Ah posted a little teaser for her upcoming drama I Do, I Do on her Facebook account. She wrote a short message with the photo that she uploaded. The message is short and, in fact, have some English sentences. I usually translate her or her management’s facebook messages for other fans IF I CAN. This time, I attempted to translate it right away since it’s short, but I encounter some difficult words/slangs (as expected from Kim Sun Ah’s message) so I gave up. Anyway, the post is basically a teaser, not an announcement or something that is really really important (or cute).

However a friend, Taiwanese, asked me about the meaning of some words. Apparently she’s trying to translate it in Chinese too. I told her I don’t know, but because of her I got curious and did some research (read: google).

Since I’ve research about it, I decided to try translating. Anyway, again, it’s just a teaser post with no crucial or very important information, so I went ahead and left a comment with my quick translation.

AND LO AND BEHOLD! Last night, Kim Sun Ah edited her message and appended my translation at the bottom of her original message – along with the Chinese and Japanese translations by other fans (my friends) – and spelled my name incorrectly along the way (LOL).

But the thing is… I realized my translation is WRONG!

Not really wrong WRONG, but still WRONG! uykshfvilwhf9!@#**$^@#%^UKGHFLDSKHGDSILR#*Y4t9urghedkawuer!!!!!! (*keyboard slam*)

창피해서 죽겠다! I always mess up my Korean in front (literal or virtually) of Kim Sun Ah. Okay, it only means one thing: I have to work harder! 🙂 I’m also thankful because I learned a lot by just translating a very short message. 🙂

My English Learning Journey

Whenever me and my tutees talk about language learning during free conversation lessons (I often initiate the topic because I’m interested to know their opinions about it, at the same time I’m quite comfortable about the topic XD), they often asked me how I learned English. It’s quite difficult to answer because I have never really given it a thought. But I’ll try to recall my English learning journey. I hope that it could also help me in learning Korean.

English is not my native language. And I still don’t consider myself fluent. I still make mistakes – lots of them! But I can read novels and academic books, watch movies, write essays and academic papers, talk to native English speakers, pass job interviews and yes, even teach English (!) without the aid of a dictionary.

My parents never talked to me in English when I was a kid (unlike some kids these days that I can’t even talk to in Filipino because they are not allowed to). I preferred the local version of Sesame Street (Batibot) and I never liked cartoons. I learned reading through local comics. I loved watching television and there’s no such thing as cable tv then. My world revolved around local variety shows, dramas, old movie re-runs and commercials. And these shows where mostly in Filipino (except for the commercials wherein a big percentage is in English). And though I listen to English nursery rhymes, I prefer the local ones.

But I love reading. After I learned how to read, I remember I read everything that I saw. Be it labels of boxes or pineapple juice cans. I also love coloring, thus I read all the English labels on my crayons and my coloring books are all in English.

The thing is, I can’t remember much from my kindergarten days anymore. But I know I have an English textbook and my Math and Science books are all in English too. English nursery rhymes and some posters are plastered all over the walls. And once in a while we have loads of English words in our blackboard and we were called one by one to read all of them. I don’t really know how we were taught, but I remember my teacher often corrects us with our pronunciation. I also remembered joining a spelling bee contest in English. And that my teacher reads us short stories in English, thus I prodded my mom to buy me a similar book.

I guess it was my fondness for reading that helped me a lot. When I started elementary school, my mom bought all the books I needed in advanced and I read all of them, Filipino and English, before school even started (and I did that every summer before school starts until the 6th grade). I discovered the heaven called library on 1st grade and I was so overwhelmed with the number of books inside. They have in glossy papers with pretty illustrations. I was more overwhelmed by the fact that I can bring them home. I don’t remember seeing my classmates in the library. Most of them prefers playing while I face the dilemma of choosing which book to borrow first. Most of the books that are appealing to kids were the imported books, and of course they are all in English. They were all either nursery rhymes and very short stories with big illustrations. I remember we have grammar lessons on the first grade, but I don’t remember how it was taught (I wish I still have my notebooks) and I also don’t remember having problems with it. We also have spellings all the time.

Then on my second grade, our school librarian prohibited me from borrowing the children’s book. She said I’m “too old” for that. She introduced me to young adult fiction. I was reluctant at first, especially when I opened the books and there were no more colored illustrations inside. No, there were no illustrations at all except for the cover. And I’m lucky to come across some books with illustrations every 50 pages or so. But I would always be thankful to our school librarian for pushing me into reading more difficult books. Before I know it I was hooked. I also worked hard on reading fast because I want to read more. And I guess that’s when I became really comfortable in English.

Before I started 3rd grade, my aunt noticed that my English pronunciation sucks (when I read bucket as [ba:ket]), so she had me attend a summer speech workshop. I learned intonation, stress and gliding. So on the third grade, my English teacher often asked me to read in front of the class. We continued grammar lessons during elementary. We have lots of reading and writing exercises. I also joined and won some spelling bee and declamation contests.

It was not until High School when I started getting interested in watching English tv series and movies. I hate it because it’s difficult to understand. But I discovered the series E.R. and 7th Heaven. I enjoyed watching both of them and our television can detect closed captions for both shows. CC made watching easier for me, then eventually I don’t read the caption anymore and got comfortable listening to fact dialogues (especially in E.R.).

I already have a strong grasp of English when I entered the university. But we have a bilingual policy in our university wherein students can choose their communication classes to either be in English or Filipino. And we are free to choose either English or Filipino in answering essays and writing papers. The lazy me often prefers everything in Filipino. I thought, why bother with the spelling and grammar of English when the subject is already difficult? Thus I gained more fluency in writing formally in Filipino and since I never get to practice English aside for leisure and some academic readings, I didn’t improve… or I may even have gotten worse.

Then I started working as a call center agent for an American company. I was very nervous when I was applying for the job because I’m not confident in English speaking skills. I brushed up on my English by reading a lot and watching lots of TV. I have a tendency to mimic things, so it did help me and I got the job. Basically we answer calls (aka complains) from Americans for 8 hours a day. We had a few weeks worth of English training. Just very few grammar review for things that we often had mistakes on. Most of the time was spent in free conversation and exercises that allows us to talk and express our opinions. We were taught to think in English, not to transliterate, and avoid fillers.

The first time I picked the phone up, I was very nervous. I could barely understood the American guy calling me. He glided everything together as if his sentences were just one complete word on its own. But as day passed by, after hours and hours and hours of talking and listening to English, I gained my confidence and can even talk to a native English speaker in my sleep (literally! because I’ve fallen asleep on the job a number of times!)

I guessed fangirling also helped me. I’ve been a resident of soompi for a long time and we all know that they have an “English Only Policy” there. I also met a lot of new friends (fellow Kim Sun Ah fans) from different countries and we have no other option but to talk in English with each other (though these days Korean is starting to be our lingua franca).

When I quit my job, I stopped practicing English again and as I study Korean further I sometimes feel my English is going down the drain (especially when I switch from Korean to English suddenly). But it’s not difficult for me to get back on track in English. Just a new book or a new movie and I’m comfortable with it again. Also, tutoring in English is a good practice too since I need to exert efforts in speaking well. And of course blogging in English is also a good practice.

Looking back, I think I never really exerted effort in learning English. I never voluntarily picked up an English grammar book since I stepped into college. I’m in such a comfortable level of fluency, thus I never thought of learning more. Thus I’m never improving and I keep making the same mistakes.

Now, where do I want to be with my Korean? I admit translations interest me so much and it’s nice to dream about being a translator. But I know being a translator is damn difficult. And given my English proficiency level now, I don’t even think I’m in any way close to becoming a Filipino-English-Filipino translator. So, for now I don’t want to pressure myself just because I want to be a translator or something. My subconcious will only keep nagging that I can never be one. So for now, my goal is to be fluent in Korean as fluent as I am in English. Where I could watch movies and dramas without subs, enjoy a novel, speak to native speakers with ease, write my thoughts, and think in Korean. I guess that’s not a bad goal after all. 🙂