TPRS lessons for Korean, Chinese, and Japanese

So, I’ve had three lessons already with Mandarin. I think I will take about 10 of these lessons in total. I really want to continue with Japanese as this is my strongest language, but learning Chinese in this way is really eye opening! And I’ve made so many wonderful Chinese friends. I really want to be able to connect with them just a little bit in their native tongue once in a while. It’s very important to me.

Korean Lessons

Of course, I’m in Korea now and I’ve taught my Korean tutor how to do TPRS! It feels a little different than my Mandarin Chinese tutor who is wicked experienced in teaching with TPRS. But, my Korean lessons are working wonderfully nonetheless.

I am a little worried that we go a bit too fast. I partially blame this on myself, because I have so much energy and interest in learning the language that it gives my tutor a false sense that I always comprehend everything right after she says it. So I’ve trained myself to make sure I ask when I don’t quite understand something.

Also, in Korean, I am answering the story questions in full sentences. This is how it was when I taught her how to teach with “Where Are Your Keys” (WAYK). Although this is great for practice, my Chinese tutor tells me to answer simply because it’s more natural and she’s providing the input so I don’t have to worry too much about output. (And her method works wonders as the Chinese flows out naturally! )

The thing is, Korean grammar is quite different and therefore complex for a native English speaker. Although Korean is very similar to Japanese grammatically, there are still many differences. However through the simple stories we created, we used very complex grammar. I would get lots of repetition and practice with this grammar, although I wish I heard it from the native speaker more often. She does help pull me through it with gestures and by mouthing the words.

How did it go today? Swimmingly! Here’s the chalkboard:

Korean TPRS Chalkboard

Here is the Chalkboard after my Korean TPRS lesson

As you can see, we separated the words on the chalkboard. We first listed a few nouns, some verbs, and then a few adjectives. After, we added a few adverbs and conjunctions to expand the questions and story.

Here is the story we made together:

예전에 스파이더맨과 여자가 있었어요.
그들은 서로 좋아했었어요.
그런데 어느날 배트맨이 나타났어요.
배트맨은 완벽한 여자를 보고 첫눈에 반했어요.
그래서 배트맨과 스파이더맨은 서로 싸우게됐어요.
그녀는 슬퍼졌어요.
그래서 그녀는 그녀자신을 (저기자신을) 위해서 음식을 만들기 시작했어요.

And here is my own translation of the story:

Once upon a time, there was spiderman and a woman.
They liked each other.
And then one day Batman appeared.
Batman had a hard crush on that perfect woman at first sight.
And so Batman and Spiderman began to fight with each other.
She became sad.
And so she started to make food for herself.

Pretty cool eh? Next week I think we’ll expand on this story. My tutor said she was worried the story was too short, but honestly It is a lot of new vocabulary and grammar for me.

Japanese study plans

I’ve decided to study for one of the JLPT exams. My Japanese tutor told me that I need to study lots of vocabulary, and she is totally right. I know lots of different vocabulary, but I can’t always remember them off the top of my head. I don’t know it all explicitly either. So, I’ll be doing a few things to remedy this. I will be building flashcards with memory hooks for the vocab using vocab lists for the JLPT. I will start with 5 then work my way up to 4 and then 3. I think I’ll stop at 3 because I know my level of Japanese still isn’t quite there. So I’ll aim to take the N3 in July. I’ll go over vocabulary by making stories with my tutor in much the same way as TPRS.

Although I know lots of Japanese, it just doesn’t flow off the tongue as quickly as I would like at times. This is where the TPRS comes in. It makes the language effortless because we are focused deeply on a few things, rather than trying to rush through a bunch of unrelated words and phrases. The story unites the words and phrases in it’s own world that my mind can easily store. That’s why TPRS is so beautiful.

TPRS isn’t the end all be all. But it is a very powerful approach to teaching and learning. This approach has a lot of science and research backing it up. I wish more language teachers were aware of this method and could experience the results first hand. All I can do is share my story. 🙂

17 thoughts on “TPRS lessons for Korean, Chinese, and Japanese

  1. Your description very much fits my own experience with Vietnamese TPRS. When I first started, I had my teacher go through 12 Circle Up! cards per statement in Vietnamese (cards here: She would circle the subject, object and verb, but this only got me to about 20-30% familiarity when comprehending by listening alone. My teacher wanted to move on, but I wanted the same statement circled again 12 times, ideally to get my comprehension up near 80%. I would try to fish through my spotty memory to answer in full statements, but I soon realized I was dirtying her “earworm”, mixing in my learner pronunciation and intonation with her native speech. I realized I need to hear her full questions and statements, and mostly stay quiet and listen for clean input. I then wrote a very sheltered, repeating reader in English, for her to translate it into decent Vietnamese, for us to read together. After we read it once, she told me to write it out. My response was: “This will work just like listening, and should move in the same stages: first I’ll need to progress in my ability to comprehend. Only after I’m able to comprehend effortlessly will I be ready to draw from my memory–and the reading–of how I’ve heard and read it to then speak and write.” In about 5 hours of Vietnamese TPRS I’m feeling a sense of fluency, and my teacher is noticing it too.

    • Nope, in Ulsan. Nowhere near Seoul. Are you in Seoul, or perhaps you have plans to Travel to Korea?

      It was all private tutoring. I’m sure she’d be up to teaching you through this way over Skype. Are you interested in Learning Korean?

      • Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, moving to Korea once more! This time, we’ll be in Seoul. I’ve started using TPRS myself and am quite convinced this is the way to go. Yes, I’m definitely interested in getting in touch with her and doing it over Skype!

  2. Yep, It’s pretty good. I’ll see if she’s still doing tutoring. It’ll definitely help you acquire a lot of the intricate grammar. I do miss Korea. We had to go and get some pajeon mix from the import store and made pajeon tonight! So delicious!

    • Haha, I do miss Korean food too, when I’m away! Can’t wait for my next kimchi jjigae! 😉 So yes, please let her know I’m interested in talking to her. She can add me on Skype: oegugin Thanks!

  3. Hi Zach, I’m a Korean language teacher in Oregon. I just attended National TPRS conference this summer and I’m looking for other Korean TPRS teachers to share ideas with. Do you think you can connect me with your tutor? I’d be interested in learning how she used the method to teach novice learners. Thanks!

    • Hello Janet!

      She’s no longer tutoring. I believe she’s doing professional translation work as of now. To be honest, I think she used textbooks to teach novices, just because it’s easier. With TPRS you need to know what you are doing and the work is all with the tutor. I was back leading her in a way. And she followed very well.

      I haven’t seen any Korean teachers use TPRS. At least not in Korea. Most of them just use a textbook and the traditional methods that they learned in teacher’s college, unfortunately. I’m sure you know there’s not much room for educational innovation in countries like Korea and Japan. If they do exist they are usually in rich areas that can afford more academic freedom. There might be places in Seoul or Busan that have such teachers.

      That being said, I think you’d have better luck finding Korean TPRS teachers in America. Contact some TPRS teachers and see if they know anyone. You can join the yahoo group if you’re not already on it. There you can ask questions in general or see if anyone is out there that you can exchange ideas with.
      More TPRS Yahoo Group

      Good luck!

      • Thanks for your reply, Zach.
        I’m not surprised that you haven’t seen any Korean TPRS teacher.
        I have not found one here either, but I will check the Yahoo group.
        I recently heard from TPRS Publishing that Blaine Ray’s Fluency through TPRS is being translated into Korean. I suspect the book will be used to train English teachers. I do hope Korean teachers will discover TPRS. It’s a fantastic way to learn a language!

    • Hi Janet, Zach gave me her address and she is my tutor at the moment. She is not really a TPRS teacher. Zach taught her the basics: how to teach using TPRS, but she doesn’t remember much and I am not sure she really wants to be a TPRS teacher, she is more into grammar-translation method. I am looking for a TPRS tutor to tutor me Korean, and I am a trained TPRS teacher, but I don’t know Korean (besides some very basic phrases).

      • Hi Joy,
        I can tutor you if you are interested. I’m Korean-American and bilingual. I’ve studying TPRS for about a year now and have used it to teach kids. I’ll be teaching an adult class this fall.
        Email me if you are interested.

  4. I am a WAYK player and a TPRS Latin teacher! I am trying to learn some Korean. Any interest in Skype chatting in Korean? I keep trying to find someone, but all I hear is ‘you’ll never learn if you keep doing it like that.’

    • I’d love to. Sent you a message.

      Yes, it’s hard for people to actually understand that they need to acquire the language rather than just read it and memorize vocabulary for a test. WAYK gets people very functional very quickly. I have to say my Korean has rusted up quite a bit, but I’ve taught a group of Japanese kids Korean using WAYK quite easily. I’m sure they would still remember most of what they learned. Also, I did WAYK in Korean many times, so I could take you through some “rides” if I can remember them. We’ll see what happens!


  5. Zach and magikahn, where did you guys learn how to play WAYK? I’ve checked, but there wasn’t any information for training or workshop.

  6. You can try to contact them through email. I learned by watching videos and skyping with other people and just doing it. Find some people and play in a language that you don’t think you want to learn. You’ll learn quite a bit about how to do it that way.

    When I was learning, we played German, Japanese, Korean, and Koshrae with a small group of friends.

    If you’re brand new, this video might help.

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