This post is dedicated to all who have difficulty improving a second or third language, particularly Korean, or those who just need a bit of encouragement. Keep going :).
I’ve received some comments from friends saying that I’m way too gentle when it comes to title my posts or any other writings :p. So today I came up with this: How to boost your Korean proficiency to get TOPIK level 5. To me it’s already too big of a title haha, hope it is enough to catch your attention! 😀
To be honest, level 5 out of 6 for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) is not something too fancy, because I know some people with level 6 still having problems communicating in Korean. Same to people who have IELTS 8.5 or 9.0 being unable to express themselves fully in English, and so on. Having high score for a language test does not mean you are fluent in that language. But let’s agree: If you’re really getting better at a foreign language, high chance is you will have better score. Schools and companies look at score first before deciding to meet you in person to talk to you, thus those exams are still important.
I’ve been living in Korea for more than 4 years (this blog post was written in 2016) and my Korean is nowhere near perfect. At some point of my stay, I felt completely hopeless towards Korean language in general and TOPIK in particular, so I decided: Okay, let’s take the test once and wrap it up before I leave Korea for good. It’s October 2014. I began studying Korean with lots excitement and sincerity many years ago and it’s not a good ending to leave it there. Result: Level 3. Happy. Satisfied.
If you’re really getting better at a foreign language, high chance is you will have better score.
One never knows where life takes her or him to. So after college graduation, I am still in Korea. I AM STILL IN KOREA. It still feels unreal (or even surreal) to me and my family haha. When I did internships in my second and third year in college, being not-so-good at Korean is not a big deal. Because there were many excuses, the biggest being my lack of chance to learn Korean. “In school I only use English and it’s not my own language to begin with. So please be tolerant to my Korean.” Uhmm not a bad one, right. However, after graduation, it doesn’t work anymore.
Where did you go to? Oh, Yonsei, great. What did you learn there?… Oh, great. What kind of working experience you have? Great. Everything is fine. But you can’t speak Korean, whaaaaat?
But you can’t speak Korean, whaaaaat?
It’s simply weird and tiring. I could explain smoothly in Korean about why I’m so bad at Korean to the recruiters and later my co-workers, and besides that paragraph, I could not convey anything effectively.
So I decided it’s time to get rid of my laziness and ignorance. I picked up my Korean, learned it for the sake of being better at the language, and set specific goals when taking TOPIK again.
In October 2015, one year after taking TOPIK for the first time, I took it again. This time I got level 4. It’s a considerable improvement, but not enough. Every day at work, I was surrounded by managers who expected to communicate with me more easily, other non-Korean staff who were nearly perfect in Korean, and Vietnam-based staff who all have TOPIK level 5 or 6. My English and (also limited) Mandarin Chinese came in handy because sometimes talking in Korean to me was just too exhausting for everyone.
At this point, I did not think of excuses anymore, but only reasons and resolutions. Why was I trapped in this intermediate level? What was preventing my from getting better? How could I achieve that?
It was this period that I worked really hard, for the sole aim of boosting my Korean. I wanted a higher level in TOPIK, and also wanted to be able to speak the language. There came my friends, both Korean and non-Korean, who assisted me a lot with various learning methods and materials and their precious time.
In early 2016, I took the test again and got level 5. Both Reading and Listening had a 40%-50% leap, whereas Writing was still horrible (crying emo).
As I mentioned above, that doesn’t mean I’m super good at Korean now. But a pretty-okay test result has an amazing impact on my mood and self-confidence. It helps regain my belief that I could improve more and more. And of course, it opens many more chances in the job-seeking raid.
I’ve got a lot from others and also collected a few good pieces of information on the way. I think now is a good time to pass the torch. This post is dedicated to all who have difficulty improving a second or third language, particularly Korean, or those who just need a bit of encouragement. Keep going :).
(This is going to be long, so see you in part 2: The actual ‘How to’ 😀 ).