We are deep in the heat of summer, and the Couch to Korean challenge rolls on. This week we will seek shelter from one of the regular summer thunderstorms and take a little break for a second water stop. It is time to summarize the progress since the first water stop and to plan out the training for the next stage of the challenge.
It has been 5 months since I kicked off the Couch to Korean Challenge with the goal of learning as much Korean as possible within one calendar year. In the first 50 hours of study leading to the first water stop, I focused primarily on locating and evaluating Korean language resources and mastering the language basics. Leading up to the second water stop, I focused on grammar and vocabulary in order to establish a solid base. I continue to track my Couch to Korean Challenge “training runs” in 15 minute intervals with my trusty Timex stopwatch. I try to schedule study sessions of 30-60 minutes every day, and in the 70 days since the first water stop I succeeded on 58 days, logging a total of 55.25 hours of Korean study. Below I give the breakdown by category where I have spent the study time so far, with the current status of each category.
- Language basics and resources: The history of the Korean language and its language family, including the culture and history of Korea. The writing system and the mapping from written characters to spoken sounds. Phoneme inventory and phonology. Available resources for learning Korean.
- Grammar: Studying syntax, morphology, and other grammar details
- Time: 20.75 hours (38.5 hours total to date)
- Status: I have been working my way through 3 Korean grammar resources to learn and practice grammar essentials. I worked through the grammar sections of all 15 chapters of Elementary Korean and will next be starting on the second book in the series, Continuing Korean. I also worked through the first 12 lessons on the Korean From Zero site and the first 8 lessons on the How to Study Korean site. On the go, I have found the short targeted grammar items in the Learn Korean TOPIK app to be very helpful. At this point, I have a solid grammar base, having learned and practiced the essential Korean particles, sentence syntax, and verb endings. For the most part, I am able to read the sample sentences in the grammar lessons, with the primary barrier still being vocabulary.
- Vocabulary: Studying word lists and flashcards to learn new words
- Time: 25.25 hours (32 hours total to date)
- Status: I devoted a good chunk of energy during this period to expanding my Korean vocabulary, but I still have a long way to go. I had a 28-day streak on the Memrise app, learning and practicing many of the essential words. In the process I “mastered” the full set of 500 most common Korean words (according to the TOPIK guide) plus the 336 words from the first 8 lessons on the How to Study Korean site. Memrise currently shows my “Words learned” count at 847, but there is significant overlap between the two sets of words I have worked on. I also found that in Memrise it is easy to “master” a word but not actual learn it, so I stopped using Memrise and reverted to studying directly from various word lists. I would estimate my current active Korean vocabulary at 400-500 words.
- Listening comprehension: Listening to instructional recordings, news, and other Korean audio sources to build aural comprehension
- Time: 2.25 hours (10.75 hours total to date)
- Status: I didn’t spend time listening to actual Korean audio during this period. However, the Memrise app integrates audio for each vocabulary item, so I did log a small amount of listening to individual words as I studied them in Memrise.
- Reading comprehension: Reading Korean texts to solidify grammar and vocabulary
- Time to date: 0 hours
- Status: Beyond reading sample sentences in the grammar lessons, I have not attempted to read any real Korean texts.
- Conversation: talking with native Korean speakers to practice speaking and listening
- Time to date: 0 hours
- Status: nonexistent
My plan for the next phase of the Couch to Korean Challenge is to continue working through intermediate-level Korean grammar items and to learn more of the essential vocabulary. Given the solid foundation, I will also be able to start to read real Korean texts. I have already scouted out some bilingual Korean-English children’s books at the library; bilingual children’s books are always a good source for reinforcing grammar and vocabulary. I will plan a round of evaluating dictionary options and will add my findings to the Korean Resources page. I will also continue to work on writing up reviews of the resources that I have used extensively so far during the Couch to Korean Challenge: