New Korean Story Part 1; Love Potion

New Story 새로운 이야기
Title 제목: 사랑의 묘약 (love potion)

옛날 옛적에, 한 친절한 마법시가 살았어요.
a long time ago there lived an kind wizard.
a) 그마멉사는 두명의 친구가 있었어요. 한명은 공주이고 또 다른 한명은 왕자였어요.
a) This wizard had two friends. One was a princess and the other was a prince.
b) 그 마법사는 한명의 공주친구와 한명의 왕자친구가 있었어요.
b) The wizard had a princess friend and a prince friend.
공주와 왕자는 서로를 몰랐어요.
The princess and the prince didn’t know each other.
그래서 마법사는 그들을 서로 소개시겨줬어요.
And so, the wizard introduced them to each other.
왕자는 못생긴 공주를 보고 싫어했어요.
The prince saw the ugly princess and hated her.
하지만 공주는 왕자를 보고 첫눈에 반했어요.
But, the princess had a crush on the prince at first sight.
그래서 공주는 울었어요.
And so, the princess cried.
마법사는 공주를 걱정했어요.
The wizard worried about the princess.
(공주가 걱졍이 된) 마법사는 마약을 만들기 시적했어요.
So the wizard started to make a potion for the princess he so worried about.
그 마약은 사랑의 묘약이었어요.
This potion was a love potion.
마법사는 공주에게 그약을 주었어요.
The wizard gave the potion to the princess.
그리고 말했어요.
And then he said something.
“공주야. 이 약을 왕자에게 몰래 먹여.
Princess, let the prince unknowingly drink this potion.
그리면 왕자는 너를 좋아하게 될거야.”
And if he does, the prince will fall for you.

Here’s a new story from my tutoring session. Feel free to use this to study Korean or English. Enjoy!

Learning Japanese with Stories

Sushi Bowl I am absolutely convinced the best way to learn a language is through stories.

And best of all, you can do this with anyone at a language exchange. Rather than just spouting off the usual tourist phrases 100 times. Even as a beginner, you can still make simple stories. I started with barely any Mandarin and then my awesome tutor started making simple stories with me.

As for Japanese, my level is a bit deeper. I’ve been able to read simple stories without a dictionary thanks to the help of graded readers and children’s books. I have read Curious George in Japanese. It was awesome! But it was hard. Children’s books in Japanese have very little Kanji and different words and phrases for children.

Okay so here’s story one. My in person tutor and I started it. I posted the beginning of the story from last time for your convenience:


And the rough Translation:

“A long long time ago, there was a boy who was not fast but liked to run. One day, his mother said to the boy “I want to eat duck, so go catch it and bring it back.” But, there is a problem. The duck is a faster runner than the boy. But, the boy went with the duck’s rival, the cat. “

So, my Skype tutor and I took this and finished up the story. This is all from the Skype chatbox with my rough translations underneath:

Why does the boy like running?
He likes to feel the wind
That is why he likes it.
That day the cat and the boy walked out toward the duck.
After that, there was a problem. Because of the tall grown grass
Growing grass
The boy picked the grass but couldn’t find the duck.
Because of that, the rival cat lit the grass on fire.
He lit it with a match.
And then, the duck surprisingly tried to fly.
But, The duck couldn’t fly.
Trying to fly.
Unfortunately, the duck’s wings caught fire.
But, even though most of the duck’s feathers were burned he got away so fast.
The escaping duck disturbed by burning wings, when the cat suddenly chased after it he could not get close.
Atop a far away tree the mother was watching the scene.
The mother who was so worried about her sun accidentally burning ran towards her son.
Mother was worried about her son burning.
The mother who ran and came
The mother who ran and came saw abruptly shouted “Stop! It’s dangerous!”
The mother and the young lad held each other.
And then, mother spoke.
It’s too dangerous, so let’s give up on catching the duck.
At that time, the cat found the duck.
And, he flew and caught the bird and sadly caught fire.
Mother drew water from the lake and used it on the cat.
And, with the cat’s fire out, catching the duck was a success. Everybody ate Peking duck for dinner.
And everyone lived happily every after.

Boy that was a long story. There were lots of little nuggets of complex grammar in there too, although the story is simple. Mostly, the vocabulary is simple.

Again, if you are in the intermediate, or even the beginning stages, you can make stories with a language exchange to learn much better than your average “Free-talking.” Not that Free talking is bad, it just needs some structure in order to be more effective in the short time you have with a native speaker.

I hope this story helps people. Please feel free to use it. You can use the sentences or the full story for flashcards, or whatever you want. Enjoy!

Korean TPRS Lessons: Part 2 Of A 3 Part Story.

Let me say this, I am so lucky to have such a great tutor!

She is planning to hold classes for those who want to learn Korean at the end of March. If you are in the Ulsan area and are interested in learning Korean, send me a message or comment.

Today I really noticed how well the repetition works. She knows how to repeat in different ways to make me think and understand what’s being said. She also uses “pop-up” grammar very well. It’s little things like this:

가서 = 가다 + 그레서
가고 = 가다 + 그레고

What she writes up on the board to help me along with the langauge. It’s simple and painless. She doesn’t go on for an hour practicing how to make it work with a hundred verbs. That would be boring and pointless.

Here’s the board from last week. Last week we started part 2:

Story 1 Part 2 Chalkboard

Here’s the second part of our story:

그런데 그녀는 가진 것이 없었어요.
그래서 그녀는 과일가게로 갔어요.
하지만 그 과일가게도 가진 것이 없었어요.
그녀는 야채가게로 갔어요.
야채가게에서 야채 10개를 샀어요.
야채로 음식을 만들지 않고
배트맨과 스파이터맨은 그 야채를 서로에게 5개씩 나눠줬어요.
그런데 배트맨과 스파이터맨은 그 야채를 서로에게 턴졌어요.

So this took about an hour to go through. Now keep in mind we created this together and she circled around these grammar points and words many times. That way, I’ve internalized the patterns more than if I just read this.

Here’s a rough translation:

Well, the girl had nothing.
And so, she went to the fruit store.
But the fruit store also had nothing.
The girl went to the veggie store.
At the veggie store she bought 10 veggies.
The veggies weren’t for making food, she gave 5 veggies each to Spiderman and Batman.
And then Batman and Spiderman threw the veggies at each other.
The girl became sad again.

And that was the 2nd part.

Stay tuned for the third part of the story.

My 6th and 7th Mandarin Chinese TPRS lesson

(spoiler: They both went very well.)

Doing TPRS is AMAZING! It is not without effort, mind you. Let me be clear: There is no magic pill to langauge acquisition. You need to focus and try to understand.

Some things can kill your ability to focus and understand the langauge. Dr. Krashen calls this the affective filter. That is, if you are under a lot of stress, haven’t eaten, or are just really sleepy, you will have a harder time acquiring the langauge than someone without these affective filters.

But of course! It’s so simple! If we are more relaxed we’ll have an easier time processing what’s going on in the langauge.

Processing the Puzzle; My 6th Chinese Lesson

On my 6th lesson, I noticed something very interesting. My tutor said a sentence to me. In my mind, I was trying to understand the meaning. I understood the meaning of all of the individual words. But then, I noticed I could not hold all of the words in my mind at the same time and I could not understand the meaning as a whole.

This is very telling of why studying only vocabulary is not the answer. Of course we must learn vocabulary, but without the proper acquired patterns, we cannot fully understand what is being said. It costs too much processing time and energy for your mind.

I told my tutor this. I also said that it was so much easier reading because while reading I had time to figure out all of the pieces and put them together. But when only listening you need to store it all in short term memory to work with.

My mind was processing the words one at a time. As a native English speaker, in English I process whole phrases and even whole paragraphs at a time. This is why friends can sometimes finish each other’s sentences. Our brains are used to each other’s speech patterns. Our brain is trying to figure out the pieces of the puzzle before we see all of the pieces.

If we have never seen these pieces or similar puzzles, we’ll take longer to put them together in our head.

It’s just like how they say a chess-master will see a win in 7 moves while a novice is still trying to figure out his next move. I am a master of English, but a novice in Chinese.

Why is this knowledge useful? It’s useful because it gives me understanding of how we acquire spoken and written langauge. We need to hear those patterns over and over again before we can connect patterns and form longer sentences. It’s the same with reading, but usually you have more time to read as the book has all the patience in the world where a speaker’s patience is limited. <– long sentence

My 7th Chinese Lesson

My next lesson was quite awesome. We started to include time a little more in this one. Also we added some new words to continue on with our story.

Each time I get more familiar with words that are used. For example, I am very familiar with the possessive particle. (Maybe it’s not really a possessive particle, but it functions like the Japanese の)

At the end of our lesson she gave me English sentences and I had to interpret them. I noticed I made pronunciation mistakes, because I was using what she had written down and read from that. I don’t think I had fully acquired the words that I read such as the word for home. The pronunciation mistakes only stuck out like a sore thumb to me because everything else was pretty good. Although, it was slow.

But again, it’s because I was still acquiring them. It takes time for the patterns to be fully internalized. And also, interpreting is hard! It’s a very different skill altogether. What goes on when I interpret?

First, I have to hear the English and hold all of it in my mind. That’s the easy part. But then while holding that, I have to figure out the vocabulary and how the patterns go. I remember her voice when I search for the patterns in my head. When I looked for the word for home/house in my head, instead of trying to remember, I quickly picked it off of the screen-shared whiteboard. Again, this was because I haven’t fully acquired that word yet.

A Quick Read After the Lesson

After our lesson she asked me some questions about me learning characters. I said “Yes, I would love to get into characters! Can you write the story for me in both pinyin and Chinese characters?”

And she responded “Oh no no no no~ Here check this out.” And she pulled up a book written especially for me. There were only a few words here and there that we hadn’t gone over in the book.

She started reading slowly while moving the cursor. And at that very moment an amazing thing happened. Because I had two pieces to the puzzle, my mind was only focused on the last piece. That is, because I knew the meaning and the reading, I could easily focus on recognizing the Chinese characters.

This is sort of the reverse of how I learned Kanji. Instead I used Heisig’s RTK1 to learn to recognize the meaning and how the character is drawn. I picked up how to read the kanji by friends reading to me, and reading shonen manga (manga with furigana) among other things.

I think it did help a bit that I studied Japanese Kanji but, I didn’t easily get confused. My mind was like, “This is Chinese, man.” I didn’t even think of it as Japanese. Just like how Latin is written with the same characters as English. In high school Latin class, I never got confused.

So she read the Chinese to me and after a while, my mind picked up the pattern and I was reading along with her. Just like how as a kid, my mom and dad would read to me. At that age, I slowly started to pick up on the patterns and before I knew it, I was off and reading on my own!

How simple is that? You learn to read by having somebody read to you, and then they read with you. It’s not magic. No need to complicate things.

I love TPRS because it just feels so organic. Like it’s the way languages were meant to be taught.

Later the next day, my Chinese friend called me on Skype. I told him one of the stories in Chinese. I was much more comfortable speaking at this point about the story. I was still a little shaky on a few words (mostly due to self doubt) but it came out. He was amazed I knew what to say in the right order/right way.

And most importantly, it was all good fun! 😀

The first Japanese TPRS lesson with my tutor

I remember when I was first learning about TPRS, it took me a while to wrap my head around all of it. I’ll admit, it ain’t easy. You just kinda gotta get your feet wet and do it. Teaching someone else to teach with TPRS is a different animal all together.
Strawberry Cake in Japan
Much to my tutor’s credit, she did lots of personalized questions when we started our lesson. We greeted each other and got right into it (since I was running a little late.) It was mostly for grammar practice. It was definitely one of those communicative approach ways and my attention was weaving in and out. So after she was done with that, she asked me what we should do. And then I told her about story making.

When I tried to explain it to my tutor it took her a while to pick up on it. It was hard for her to think up of things off the top of her head and was a bit unnatural to circle for her, because she wanted to just go onto the next statement.

It’s just so different from sitting down and teaching out of a textbook with exercises. That’s the easy way! Not checking for comprehension is easy. Story telling is a skill. Story asking is a greater skill, because you don’t know what’s gonna come next.

So eventually I said. “I’m sorry, let’s just start out with some words and make a story around that.” My tutor is awesome for having a lot of patience. This is so different for her. Most of her students are Koreans who are studying to take the JLPT and some just for fun touristy interest. I’m the American coming to her with all of these unconventional ideas.

Here’s the wordlist that we came up with to use for our story:

はしる — to run
あそうぶ – to play
たびる - to eat
つかまえる to catch (an animal)

おとこのこ – boy
おかあさん – mother
ねこ – cat
アヒル – duck
はさみ – scissors
ライバル -rival

The bold words are the ones I wasn’t familiar with before.

I started out telling the story with the words. My tutor would correct me or find better ways to say the sentence. I know, it’s not as perfect as her asking the story, but I still got comprehensible input, none the less. We were also rushing for time at the end, since it took so long to explain.

Here’s the story she wrote down for me at the end:


Gaaah, that bold word that she wrote at the end I didn’t know. But she didn’t know that. How could she know that? I didn’t have time to read through it before we left.

Here’s my rough translation of the story:

“A long long time ago, there was a boy who was not fast but liked to run. One day, his mother said to the boy “I want to eat duck, so go catch it and bring it back.” But, there is a problem. The duck is a faster runner than the boy. But, the boy went with the duck’s rival, the cat. “

Anyways I think for a first time, it worked out pretty well.

I can tell that my extensive reading really helped me in making this story. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve done any reading in Japanese. I gotta make extensive reading a daily thing.

I could turn this into an extensive reading blog/ TPRS lesson blog. But it’s my blog, so let’s just keep this post in it’s own category.

Next time we’ll add details to the story and see how it ends. That’s why I love this teaching approach. Once you build the initial story, it’s easy to add details and learn more grammar and vocabulary at the same time.

My JLPT Vocabulary Study

Okay, so I am planning to take the JLPT pretty soon.

Since I haven’t had any formal study of Japanese, it will be difficult for me to fill in the gaps of vocabulary that I have. I didn’t learn vocabulary that they teach in Japanese classes. I did use a few textbooks while studying on my own, but the vocabulary I acquired from them isn’t enough. So where did my half-baked Japanese come from?

I learned from:

A: Reading beginner textbooks
B: Reading tourist conversation books
C: Speaking with Japanese friends in person
D: Chatting with Japanese friends on Skype.
E: Manga
F: Movies and TV Shows
G: Funny youtube videos
H: Translating phrases and putting them on computer flashcards (SRS)
I: Vocabulary through associations (Ah ha!)
J: Translating song lyrics
K: Going to Japanese events (earthquake fundraiser, ohanami, etc.)
L: Making syntactical errors and getting corrected.
M: Practicing a monologue and recording it.
N: Conversational tutoring
O: Observation of Japanese body langauge
P: Translating pages of books
R: Reviewing dry vocabulary with flashcards
S: Practicing reading the translated pages of books with a tutor
T: Extensive reading of picture books
U: Intensive reading of books
V: Where Are Your Keys? (WAYK)
W: Watching Anime with English subs with friends.
X: Taking a break and not stressing about it all.
Y: Going to Tokyo and holding a real conversation with a friend for 2 hours over Shabu Shabu.
Z: Falling asleep while listening to anime and music.
AA: Pimsleur Audio CD’s

sushi yummy!As you can see, I’ve been multi-modal. Perhaps, unconventional? I have never taken a formal class. Much of the vocabulary I have acquired is not classroom formal, or JLPT formal.

And honestly, in order for these learning activities to work, I need to strongly comprehend the input. Some of these activities are slower and less effective than others.

The most effective activities for vocabulary acquisition for me in order are:

A: Extensive reading
B: Vocabulary through association
C: Translating song lyrics
D: Practicing reading the translated pages of books with a tutor (Intensive reading, but practicing with a tutor afterwards)

So now what do I do?

Since I need specific vocabulary, translating native material will not help as much as I would like. I’ll have to study from vocabulary lists.

I can do this easily with word association. However, I’ll need to keep up with my reading (It’s been a few weeks since I’ve picked up a Japanese book.)

How do word associations work?

It’s just like Heisig’s Remembering The Kanji. You make a strange and vivid story to help you remember. Here’s an example:

氷 (こおり) Koori = Ice.

The story is: When I saw my friend Cory in a block of ice, I yelled his name “KOORI!” so loud it shattered the ice.

Japanese is a langauge that you can do associations easily with. Japanese is very easy to pronounce. English has all of the sounds that are in Japanese.

As for Korean, I had a hard time coming up with word associations because the pronunciation is so different from English. In Korean, there are many different sounds that English doesn’t have.

Here’s another example:

歯 (は) ha = tooth. Haaaaaa stop drilling my haaaaaa tooth. It haaaaaaa hurts!

医者 (いしゃ) isha = Doctor. The wealthiest doctor in the world is a big fat old lady named Isha. Infact, she’s so fat she isha hospital.

Since we now know these two words, the word for Dentist is pretty easy.

歯医者 (はいしゃ) haisha = Dentist. “Ha” is tooth, and “isha” is used for doctor. Put them together and boom! You get dentist. The tooth doctor.

歯科衛生士 (しかえいせいし) shikaeiseishi = Dental hygienist. OMG, how do I come up with an association for this?!?

Now it’s time to get creative. When I say “Shikaeiseishi” what do I think of? I think of the phrase “This guy say she…” So in a very numbed up mouth sort of way I say “Shikaeiseishi a dentist, but I know she just a hygensist.”

Incidentally, the other word for Dentist is 歯科衛 (しかい) Shikai. This guy dentist. Again because of the novocaine “Shikai dentist.”

What do I do with the associations I just made?

So now It’s time to go through some JLPT vocab lists I can find on the net and then delete the words I’m very familiar with. With the words I’m not very familiar with, I will make a word association and put them into my computer flashcard system. (Spaced Repetition System)

My Chinese tutor also suggested I record the vocabulary and put it on my ipod. I will do this with the associations. Then I can put them into a playlist and hit shuffle.

And in order to get a bigger grasp on the vocab and how it’s used, I will create stories with my Japanese tutor a la TPRS.

Wow, so much writing today. But I needed to get my thoughts out to organize them properly.

My Fifth Mandarin TPRS Lesson

Five TPRS lessons and I feel at ease with Chinese.

When I was in eighth grade, I remember telling my friend who sat behind me on the bus. “Hey! Chinese must be really easy to learn! It’s all just a bunch of short sounds.” And then he replied as “No! Each word is a fricken symbol.”

Honestly after learning Chinese characters from Remembering the Kanji, I feel at ease with Chinese characters. My tutor and I still haven’t gone into the characters yet, but that’s fine by me. I know eventually I’ll get it easily. And besides that, I still haven’t fully learned all of the pinyin.
Naturally beautiful colors to relax the mind.
And why not? I’ll tell you this; I have not explicitly studied pinyin at all. Therefore, I only know how to pronounce what my tutor has told me. And low and behold, I have no trouble with pinyin. I’m not making loads of pronunciation mistakes by trying to read first. Read that sentence again.

After she uses a new word in the story, my tutor gives me words in the chat-box with a quick translation like this:

huAxue — ski
manG — busy
DiDi — younger brother
GAOXing — happy

And she uses them to ask the story. She asks and doesn’t tell the story because we create the story together.

How does this happen? From my previous story, I already know words. So she says a few things that I know. And then I hear and see new words with their translation/interpretation that are added to the story. She repeats things in different ways and asks questions, so the language is always running through my head, and I see the story in my mind. She also gives me clues by gesturing (which also helps with tones) as well as word associations.

All of these things are running through my head to develop an understanding of the story. They say spoken language is nothing but sounds with meaning. The story, the written words, the quick translation, the pop-up grammar, the questions, the statements, and the constant repetition with variation all work together to create the necessary comprehension(meaning for me) of the input(sound).

At the end of our Skype session, this time she asked me to retell the story. And I did! There was a lot going on in the story, so I had to remember exactly what happened. I remembered little details and I was able to describe things in the story on my own spontaneously. I didn’t memorize anything. It came out naturally.

This is not to say i was perfect. I was still a bit slow, because I got too excited about knowing what I’m going to say and then I doubted myself. Also, sometimes I did take a second to search for the word in my head. And, I made a few grammatical errors, but I soon realized after I said them (and they were tiny errors) that her word order was different.

Also, I was sleepy during the lesson. So even though i was exhausted, I was able to suck up all of that language. And why shouldn’t I have? Parents tell their children stories before they go to bed that helps them acquire language. Why should it be any different for a foreign langauge story?

It’s after all of this that she sends me the written story that we made together. I actually first listen to the recording of the story first to refresh my memory. And then after, I go read it.

And now, onto the next interesting lesson. We will build more details about our story and I will acquire more Mandarin!