fail or pass charm

Making Progress with Advanced Grammar and Topik 34th Results

So it has been a 10 day mini vacation in between getting burned out from advanced grammar to finally re-opening the book up again. Thankfully I was able to make it through about 6 or 7 grammar points yesterday with very relative ease. I feel like it definitely added a little bit more motivation to get finished before the end of June. So far I’ve made it through about 32 of the 83(?) grammar points of the book. I wanted to make it to the 40th grammar point in the book yesterday but I felt my brain getting a bit bored and preoccupied so I decided to just be happy with what I did yesterday.

Today is Sunday and I have to work on my essay writing video as well as go to work for a few hours so while I am hoping to get in a few hours of advanced Korean tonight, it may not be in the cards. I’ve been so busy working on things and teaching that I keep on forgetting that the days until the Topik results are announced are numbered. It’s Sunday today, and the exam grades will be announced on Friday of this week.

How crazy is that?

I was looking online at past exam grade announcements and noticed that all the past exams were announced within a 3 week period but this exam was announced in a 5 week period. I am going to go out on a limb and say it is because they had much higher numbers of people taking this exam compared to the past ones because it would be the last one before the format change? I was talking with my boss about my grade and were both certain I did well. I want to get crazy and say I did *really* well, but nothing would be a bigger shot to the ego than to click enter on the Topik site only to discover that I failed it.

If you read my Topik experience post you will know that I finished early and found the test overall quite easy. A breeze even. Now I’m kicking myself for being so confident. Anything could happen, right? Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “worse case scenario” preparer to the fullest degree so I’m sure Friday morning I will be wearing my “prepare yourself for failure” cap. I will be winching at the screen with my eyes nearly closed as I peak at the score. All I really care about is seeing level 4 합격! in the corner of the screen. Then after throwing some cold water on my face, I’ll likely re-open the tab to see the breakdown of my score.

I’d like to get an 85% overall with nothing lower than a 75-80% in every section. I worked ridiculously hard for that grade so I think my expectations are definitely reasonable. Despite having the 34th test in my Topik One app, I’ve not ventured one wink at it. To me, doing so is a curse. I know that a few people have already checked and ball parked their score, but I know I will give myself like 90% right (even if I got some wrong) and it’s already to late to check anyway. So now the true waiting game begins.




Advanced Korean and a whole lot of nope

Remember when I was so excited to start my new advanced grammar book?

That high did not last that long. Ever since I started the Darakwon series, I could blow through several grammar points in a few hours and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of my studying. I think I finished the first grammar book in like 25 days or something. The intermediate book took me about 3 months because I took a 4 week break from all things Korean. When I fist started this book I thought it wasn’t that bad. Many of the grammar points are just the advanced versions of ones I’d previously learned.


Then I got to 길래….


The first time I’d ever seen this grammar point was in the 150 Essential Topik Grammar book. According to that book 길래 is yet another version of ‘so’ in Korean. “That’s easy to remember”, I thought. I was wrong. Oh, so very wrong. This grammar point is akin to ‘so’ in Korean but it also has like 10 different rules for it. I had been on a roll until I stumbled upon 길래. Turning the page and seeing all of those grammar rules made me want to stop. Nope. Nope. Nope. This is probably how people feel when learning English. Even at the basic level it has a ton of grammar rules. Up until 길래, I felt so lucky learning Korean because it has so few exclusions and rules with grammar. Everything is (or was) so straight forward.


It should be expected for grammar to have a lot of rules at the advanced level but I didn’t take to well to it. So, I quit. Well took a break for a few days. I felt like my mind just needed to rest. Ideally I’d like to finish the grammar book by the end of May, but I’m now thinking I need to be more realistic and push that back to the end of June. It’s only 83 or so grammar points, and I’ve finished about 30 (I think) so 6 weeks to finish the remaining ones doesn’t seem like too much work considering I can make it through a few chapters in one sitting. Only on days that I’m feeling really lucky, though.




P.S. I should have the other part of my website up and running this weekend. I went to Seoul yesterday and despite spending a lot of money I still have a couple things that I need. Odds and ends type stuff which is annoying. However, I will be adding to my video collection (does 2 vids qualify as a collection? lol) by next weekend. I’m really excited to be doing things with Korean the way I want to!

Good explanation for particles 은/는, 이/가 and 을/를

I understand the use of the object marker 을/를 but since I first started studying Korean, I could never understand the difference between 은/는 and 이/가. I stumbled across this explanation of it on Lang-8 while milling around.This is the best explanation so far that I’ve seen for it. While I’m still a little fuzzy on using them in the same sentence, this definitely helps me understand them separately. It was written by audioslave on Lang-8. You can find the original here.

을/를 are object markers. They go after the object of the sentence 
피자를 먹었어요. I ate pizza. 
In this sentence, the noun “pizza” is the object of the verb, so we use the object marker 를. 

은/는 are topic markers. They go after the topic of the sentence. 
나는 행복해요. I am happy. 
In this sentence, “I” am the /topic of the sentence, so we use the topic marker 는. 

이/가 are subject markers. They go after the subject of the sentence. 
사과가 너무 비싸요. Apples are very expensive. 

This is where it becomes a little tricky. You may have noticed that 이/가 & 은/는 are similar in usage. This is true. Context is important to knowing which one to use (for sentences with no context, like, on an exam or something, ask your teacher what they prefer. my professor told us to use 은/는 on exams when there’s no context, but others may want something else). The best way I can describe the difference between the two is to compare it to English. 

If I am telling a story in English, I introduce something to the story by using “a/an.” This is similar to 이/가. After I’ve introduced the subject, I can continue to talk about it using “the” (it becomes the topic of conversation). This is similar to 은/는. If I want to change the topic, I introduce something new using “a/an” again. For example: 

“There was [a] woman.” (woman = subject.) 
“[The] woman had long hair.” (woman = topic.) 
“[The] woman had [a] best friend.” (woman = topic, best friend = new subject; its possible to have multiple subjects and topics within one sentence) 
“[The] best friend… (best friend = subject) 

A good way to check if you’ve used the particles correctly is to remember that nouns followed by 을/를 always have an ACTION VERB at the end of the sentence. The nouns followed by 은/는 (or 이/가) will have an ADJECTIVE (or 이다/아니다 & 있다/없다) at the end of the sentence. 

Hope this helps! <3


If you understand the use of ‘a/an’ versus ‘the’ in English, this could definitely help you in understanding the use of these four particles. I’m hope it benefits you as much as it did me.





My Korean Notebooks

To date, I have 4 notebooks for Korean. I started my notebook collection 1.5 years ago when I decided to really start studying Korean. I keep notebooks with all the information in it because I like to have things in one place rather than spread across many books.


My main notebook is my Korean grammar notebook. It is by far the largest notebook that I have. It has 400 pages in it. This notebook includes all of the grammar I have learned from the beginning to end. When you open it up to the first page, it starts with 은/는 and ends currently at (느)ㄴ 답시고. So right now I have about 255 grammar points in one place so that I can review at any time. I write down the grammar point, highlight it, then the explanation and all of its conjugation form. Then I write down all the practice problems and answers. Despite having several Korean books, I’ve never written in any of them as I remember more when I write it all down. Here are so more photos from inside my grammar book:

My notebook index. Its handwritten. It goes for 400 pages so I can easily find stuff. 

This is an inside page of my notebook.

Notice my handwritten numbers and highlighted grammar and practice problems. I probably could have saved so time had I just written stuff in the Darakwon books, but I like it this way.



Next up is my vocabulary book…..



This is my second favorite book for Korean. I’ve written nearly 4000 or so words in this book. Many people seem to discourage writing words down in a list and memorizing them that way because many people think that reading them in context is better. I agree, it’s easier to recall them in context, however, there are many words I’ve been able to learn long before ever reading them in context anywhere. A while ago I bought a vocabulary book with 3500 words in it and learned all of the parts of the body (inside and out) which wouldn’t come up in reading until the advanced level. Also, I can just carry this around if I want to review words rather than all the readings that include them. Here is a shot from my vocabulary book:

This a a page from the beginning part of my vocabulary book. 

I usually write down all of the words in groups. I number them to keep track of how many words or in a group and how many I study a day. I used to memorize about 50 or so a day when I was studying for the intermediate Topik.

20140430_102227Next in line there is my writing notebook…



Many people struggle with Korean writing and before the test I decided it was a good idea to start practicing writing. I put all of my writings in one notebook so that I could review them at anytime or look up sentence patterns and grammar I’d previously written but couldn’t remember well. I think that anyone studying Korean seriously should have a writing-only notebook. I love being able too look back on the things I’ve written and to see how far my writing abilities have come. Here is the inside:

This is a previous essay I’ve written. 

I usually write the essay in English. Then, I translate it into Korean. Then I have my tutor look at it and correct it. I re-write the entire essay and include all of the corrections in read so I can visually see what I did wrong and how many mistakes there were.



My final notebook is my Korean grammar practice book.



I started this book a long time ago. When I first started reviewing the beginner’s Darakwon book, I wanted to make sure I knew how to use all of the grammar points in that book correctly. So I started a new notebook in which I would just make practice sentences for every type of grammar conjugation. This helped me to practice grammar which helped me to remember them.


So those are my 4 notebooks. I like to keep everything Korean related in its own separate place so that I can focus on each part at one time. If I did combine them, I think it would be very hard to find stuff without leafing through half of the notebook. Also, if I want to practice writing and I need to look up the correct form of a grammar point I can do it easily with another book rather than trying to do it within the same. To some people, 4 notebooks might seem like a lot, but it sure beats the 6 books that I found all of this information in.

How do you keep track of your Korean studying?





My flame for Korean has been reignited

If you read my last few posts before the Topik exam, then you will know that I was running on gas fumes. On the days leading up to the Topik intermediate, my brain just couldn’t handle looking at Korean anymore let alone studying it. I felt like once the test was done, I would take a month break from anything Korean-related. Well, that just didn’t work out.

It hasn’t been 4 days since the test and the flame has been reignited. What caused this, you ask? Time. Plain and simple. Korean is probably the only “hobby” I’ve ever managed to stick to. Once I called myself developing poetry as a hobby. I bought fancy books and pens and stuff and quit shortly after. Last year I decided I was going to learn to knit. I did learn to knit. I knitted myself a cowl. I knitted one for my dog as well. Never made it past the knit stitch and the purl. I have about 10 rolls of unused yarn and 3 scarfs in the process…..a year later.

When I first started studying Korean 5 years ago, I never thought I wanted to become fluent. I studied (half-assed, I admit) for over 2 years and then didn’t do anything with Korean for another 1.5 years. In the past year, I have been able to make more strides in Korean than all the time I spent studying in college combined. So now that the test is finished, a break just doesn’t seem to be in the cards. If I had been passively studying it, then maybe. However, I’ve been aggressively studying it. So now that I’ve achieved my Topik goal (of taking it anyway) I have nothing but time on my hands.

I could use this time to do something else, but I feel like I’d be forcing myself to do it. The only thing I could be doing with that extra time that wouldn’t feel forced, is studying Korean. And boy does that purple advanced grammar book look good from across the room. So, I’ve officially decided to not take a “break” from Korean. For, what? It’s the only thing I can truly say I love doing. It’s the only thing I’ve every stuck to long-term. It’s the only thing I’ve made large strides with in my entire life. It’s the only thing I’ve every felt like I accomplished.

Some people climb mountain, build businesses, travel the world and look back and say “I did it.” That’s what Korean does for me. It’s my Mount Everest, my fortune 500 company and backpack trip across Europe. So from tomorrow, I’m going to start again. Since preparing for the 34th kept that flame lit under my butt, I’m going to aim for the Topik advanced 39th or 40th next year. 화이팅!




P.S. I mentioned I was planning on adding a new part to my website and I am. However, despite all of my planning, I hit a snag and it won’t be ready until the end of the first week of May at the earliest. I really hate it when stuff doesn’t go according to schedule, but my hands are completely tied and I have to just wait. If you’re interested to see what that is, stay tuned. 

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