How I Learnt New Languages Efficiently!

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Well, given that I’ve attempted learning Korean and Chinese (both written and spoken) and have somewhat managed to go through it without losing my hair, I’d like to think that I kind of have a grasp of what works and not when learning a new language. People come to me and ask if it’s tough, learning these language – it is. I’m not going to hide it – but it wasn’t so difficult that I was on the verge of giving up at any point. I’ll probably put up a vlog on this when I have time but for now let’s do a blog post!

Let’s get real – Chinese is one of the MOST difficult languages that we can ever imagine to have. And who in the world learns Korean just for fun? Nobody. I didn’t, but I’ll work on that later. I have decided to break down what worked for me  in points!

 

#1 : Learn to love the hardest part of the language – written form.

Korean : You would have thought it’s the weirdest language out there with squares and boxes, and it must be so hard learning to read all that stuff. The hook that got me to learning this was when I found out the language was alphabetical and in nowhere near Chinese where a stroke could change the whole meaning of the word. I got so enticed just realizing that fact – that I was on a roller coaster on memorizing the words over two days.

Chinese : All Chinese letters are pretty easy to write. You just have to remember the simple elements of fire, wood, animal, food, water. Anything that has to do with water (sea, ocean, pool) always has the water element next to the word. The supporting character for you to read it out and give it its own meaning would be another simple character.

 

#2 : You CAN’T stop at intermediate level. KEEP GOING.

Before you start, prepare mentally to survive till advanced level. This is an advice that has been given by SO MANY lecturers from Korea and Beijing – and I stay true to that.

Just because you can already read the words, and hold a simple conversation now – doesn’t mean you will remember how in a couple of years down. Your brain can only sustain information (especially when it comes to a foreign language that you may not use commonly) when you reach an advanced level where you do not need to thread words together before saying them. This makes it that when you stop using it as often as when you learnt the language, it just degrades to an intermediate level – but you will still be able to brush things up in no time when you are determined to get back to advanced level.

For those who stopped at intermediate level will probably see what I mean.

 

#3: Learn with New Media

I love songs and watching movies. I made it a point to polish pronunciation and listening skills by switching all entertainment to the language I was learning. When I was learning Korean, almost everything on my playlist was Korean. I watched Korean movies, dramas, sitcoms. I didn’t go through a day without listening to Korean. Same thing too when I was in Beijing.

I downloaded a music app that only played Chinese songs that had lyrics in Chinese and romanized words so I turned that on every morning when I was getting ready. Before going to bed, I just let the TV play so that I could watch dramas or them reading news. Even if this may not mean that I could understand everything, your brain is actually absorbing on the pronunciation and placement of grammar. It may even be something as simple as “News is brought to you by…” or “Coming up next..”. Your brain picks that up unknowingly because its on repeat – and it may not be a practical thing you will be able to use right away. But you will be surprised how fast your sleeping mind picks up compared to your conscious state.

 

#4 : Start translating early!

Yeap. Even as a newbie. 3-4 weeks into learning the language.

For those learning Korean, you’ve got the best choice of songs. Kpop songs usually don’t make sense and are CRAZY repetitive. Learn translating those songs line by line – download one of those dictionary apps on your phone. I personally recommend Daum Dictionary. For example, I’m just going to pick the simplest and most famous Korean song. Gangnam Style. You will realize that there are repetitions of the same word. Find out what they are and they probably are words that are very commonly used in the context of conversational language.

Romanised Version

Areumdawo / sarangseureowo /
Keurae neo /  hey / keurae / baro / neo /hey
Areumdawo / sarangseureowo /
Keurae / neo / hey / keurae /baro/ neo hey

Translated Version :

Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end

Well, now you know Areumdawo is Beautiful. And Sarangseureowo is Loveable!

It is a proven method to work and get the words in your head.

Translate your favorite songs of the language even if its tough. Go through it over and over again. The feeling of understanding the song upon your own research is not an explainable feeling. It’s alot different than getting readily translated versions online. Doing this well enable you to identify the most common words and having translate c0untless of songs will remind you vocab by vocab each time they appear. You really only need 300 vocabs or so to be able to start speaking normally!

 

#5 Carry a D.I.Y Vocab book!

I wrote down words that I didn’t know but would like to know and went back to write it down. For example, after translating a song of choice – and I find that a word is used so ever so frequently I would write it down and separate it based on columns. It doesn’t have to be words you can use. Write down things that you find interesting, even if it is vulgar or too sexual. Yes I said it. There would be no context that you will be able to use it, but sometimes it’s these triggers that helps us remember grammar better because of its shock level.

Here’s a glimpse into my first DIY book. I have two of these over the span of time I was learning. But really, the first one already had me speaking quite comfortably!

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After jotting down random words, you can advance to writing down sentences that you learn or hear by the streets like this below.

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What you do with this book, is that it has to be SMALL SIZED and you would be able to bring this book EVERYWHERE you go, or at least to the toilet when you can. Take it out and test yourself page by page, slowly. You don’t have to memorize everything. But what I do is I try to memorize one page (that probably has like 10 words?) and i test myself at the end of it – by covering the translation of it in English. I do that again the next session – and slowly you start to remember. Don’t move on so quickly just because you feel like you’ve got it. Get back to it at random times just to see if you know the words still.

You’d be surprised at how much you’ve grown. Looking back at my D.I.Y book now, puzzles me how those words were like algebra.

 

#6 Learn it with at least one friend that you know prior to classes (who is as determined as you are!) 

This is important because of the beginning stage of the learning experience. Enrolling yourself into a class will still get you friends to talk to. But you may not be as comfortable texting or conversing in the language because you may still be quite distant from each other. However if you get a friend to come in with you, you start making silly mistakes and you may even be braver to ask questions on what you missed out and make fun of the people in the class or parts of the class.

Maybe you both found one of the words to sound very much like a very obscene word in your first language, that would be a good thing to laugh over – and also will be a good memory trigger 🙂 You will also end up growing with a friend and it just makes it more fun to be able to share secrets over a foreign language that nobody else knows. It’s almost like a special power.

 

#7 Be Brave To Make Mistakes! 

There is no more advice more previous than this.

Make your mistakes, with whatever you have. Use sign language – you will learn from this making mistakes and being corrected because it also triggers a shock factor into your mind and you WILL remember it because there is an instance that helps you. Everybody has student ego at some point, when you believe you have known enough for your own liking. It is at these times that it is best to test it out and be prepared to be corrected. I still am being corrected till this day and do not mind it one bit! You NEED grammar nazi’s to help you with this.

 

#8 Talk to yourself. Have an imaginary friend.

I’ve never told anybody this. But I had my imagination turned on ever so often when I was learning the languages. Before I slept, I imagined instances and I would speak out loud as part of being in a conversation. I was both A and B who was speaking to each other. I know it sounds kind of odd and not everybody can do this. But doing this more gave me confidence and realization that I could actually say the things I want to say. It can’t be scripted, I had to come up with my own impromptu responses. Nobody was there to judge me – and I was braved to use words that were at the back of my head!

I imagine marketplaces alot and quarreling with old nasty women. That was a way to fire up conversations.

Then I’d go to bed. Not long after, I started dreaming in the language I was learning. Always happens 🙂

Palsaik Samgyupsal at Solaris, Mont Kiara

One thing about having a thing for Korean cuisine is that it’s such a difficult journey finding that correct taste here in KL. Everything could pass and come close, but almost none has ever come near. If there was a reason why I am a Uncle Jang Dalggalbi junkie, it’s because it hits closest to the perfect spot. As a person who’s always on a roll trying out different Korean restaurants, I think it’s safe to say that nobody makes that perfect kimchi stew you can easily get off streets in Korea. They say the best way to judge a restaurant serving Korean food is to first taste their kimchi. Indeed, a very wise method that I’ve found to be extremely accurate. There is this one extremely famous Korean diner in Ampang (which I find quite de-appetizing) that serves such an off-metre taste and extremely localised. I’m sometimes very upset that I find returning patrons because I feel like they don’t give Korean cuisine justice, at all. I know, because my family is one of the many loyal customers. Boo.

Recently, I’ve heard Dawn raving on and on about this franchise from Korea that had just opened up. They serve premium samgyupsal (three layer pork) and I knew I HAD to try it. Samgyupsal is one of my favorite dish for BBQ and it holds very dear memories of my times in Seoul. There were days we ate it to celebrate, and others when we were having less happier phases. Most importantly, I feel like I’ve only ever had samgyupsal with people dear to me. We could have coffee with strangers, shared biscuits with an accidental company. Samgyupsal is different. Samgyupsal is bonding food.

Palsaik Samgyupsal is located in Solaris, Mont Kiara. I’ve been trying to schedule a dinner with the rest of the Korean classmates since forever so we decided to come to this restaurant! Everytime we met we had barbecue so this was the perfect place to come and try together. Unfortunately, the girls didn’t seem to have time so Dawn and I decided to just go ahead ourselves. One does not simply contain their craving for samgyupsal! Dawn told me that it may be a little tough for just both of us to finish the whole set we wanted to order so we called Vivien to come along too. Great, because I’ve been scheduling a sit down with this girl since January but she’s always flying off for exhibitions and what-not.

Right before we went, I tried swinging them a phonecall to reserve a seat because apparently they are full-house everyday! Unfortunately, they’ve recently begun to not take reservations on Friday-Sundays so for those who are thinking of heading there during the weekends – better go early or send a soldier to queue for you.

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Hello to Dawn, who’s a real sweetheart. Every morning she drops me off at work cause our offices are at the same area, and asks for nothing in return. I love how we have the same food adventures so we can always go do things like this. Get away from KL to get some good food!

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Palsaik Korean BBQ. Pal means eight, saik is colour. So it literally translates to eight colored bbq, and that’s what we’re about to it! Eight different flavors of samgyupsal.

These are the flavors in one full set. You can order sets in three I think, but since we have three in one setting –  ALL IT IS!

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Menu is in English. Dawn and I came a little early for Vivien who was still stuck at work. Good thing we arrived when we did at about 6.45PM because the crowd juts started flooding at 7.30PM. The queue outside just suddenly build up in a short few minutes.

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Unlike many local Korean restaurants, they served out kimchi on the pan – just the way we had them  Korea! Also had a little surprise when they served us thsi post of seafood soup! It looks like clear soup now but after it starts boiling, ingredients inside just start mixing together and it turns to a red hot pot of yummybunks!

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Long stretch of fresh vegetables for you to serve with the samgyupsal!

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They kept their cutleries in the drawer right beneath the dining table so its cleaner. Almost more convenient than to have to ask for them everytime.

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All eight flavours served!

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Glorious at sight, delicious at taste.  Couldn’t wait to taste all the flavors!

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Food is beginning to work its way to my tummy! EXTREMELY EXCITED!

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I swear that the Kimchi here nearly put me to tears. At some days we come across some people who smell like our past, or hear music that brings us back to nostalgic phases of our lives. But this kimchi. This kimchi gave me Korea. Yes, dramatic like that. It was SO good, and taste was SPOT ON. Hands down most perfect kimchi I’ve had in a looooooooooong time.

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We call a wrap like this a ssam. Double s because the s is strong. Give me ssam. #punintended

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Like many Korean restaurants, you can get yourself ssam cheese fried rice – which was also EXTREMELY good. Cheese was very rich on the rice and wasn’t barely there like some other restaurants.

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One downside about the whole experience is that the place gets extremely stuffy and your face just screams for an instant face wash. Your body will also feel like it needs a shower, pronto. Can you just look at that cheese dangling like a bungee jump gone wrong.

The whole meal costed us about RM 136 with tax included for three person. So that’s about RM 45 per pax. I walked away pretty full, not exactly a budget meal but worth indulging in once in awhile. Especially when you need that perfect Korean fix. The place is a long drive from where I live, so I probably won’t be visiting it too frequently. But oh, if it comes here to KL – it’s going down. I’m prepared to starve a week for just this one meal.

After the meal, the girls felt like some dessert so we went down to Cafe Bene (which is the current dessert hype on social media) to try their bingsu. Bingsu means shaved ice. I was pretty stuffed from the meal and don’t usually have a sweet tooth so both of them chose Strawberry bingsu. I gave it a little try, it was okay. I would still prefer Nabe in Ampang (I think I’ve never blogged about it) because it has alot of red beans and its quite sweet. It’s not bad at all – but I wouldn’t say its worth the queue lining up at their doors. I’ve gotta give them props for coming up so quickly amongst other cafes. Great start there.

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Vivien tried a couple of flavors she found this Strawberry Bingsu to be the best!

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And this is Dawn who looks extremely excited to try little bingsu out. Look at the people behind waiting to get a seat.  Feels so pressured to just quickly finish and have a conversation while they stare you down to vacate a seat for them.

It’s been a long while since I’ve done this and it does feel quite nice to be able to show you guys where to eat. Hope you find the place and if you need more details, you can always look through Palsaik Samgyupsal at https://www.facebook.com/palsaikmy.

That’s all for today! Goodnight 🙂