Rocky's Review of 6 Korean Language Study Tools

Three weeks ago, I said I would test out a few language learning tools. If you haven’t read my last post, click here.

Well, it’s been three weeks, so, as promised, let me tell you all about my experience.

Below I have rated the tools from my most favorite to least favorite. Accompanied are a few brief comments on my experience with each of them.
 

1. Lang-8

A website that allows you to submit short, written entries in the language that you are learning/studying and have them edited by native speakers of that language. In return, you should edit others’ entries that are written in your own native language.

Lang-8 has so far been a great experience for me. My goal was to write an entry three times a week and it’s the only goal I 100% met. As for Lang-8’s system, it’s easy to understand and use. In order to get more people to see your posts (and then correct them) all I had to do was correct other people’s posts to get points. The more points, the higher you are ranked out of other people learning the same language.

My personal routine on the site was to correct at least three entries each time before I posted my own. A few tips as a corrector, mark your corrections/changes in another color, this way the writer can easily see what has been changed. It’s a little bit of a nightmare sifting through each part of my sentence trying to find the correction when the commenter didn’t obviously mark it. Also, it’s nice to leave little messages of encouragement at the end of some posts. Letting strangers see your writing is not an easy thing to do, especially if the topic is personal. Leaving a nice note may help them feel better and, hey, it even may start a conversation. 

Letting strangers see your writing is not an easy thing to do, especially if the topic is personal.

A few tips as a writer/entry poster: don’t write more than three paragraphs. After more than three paragraphs, most correctors get really tired of going through sentence-by-sentence correcting every error. Additionally, I would suggest not writing on a super specific, high-level topic. I’ve seen too many entries that look to be company business reports, medical reports, or scientific articles. I have a feeling people may post these type of entries on Lang-8 because of a class they’re taking or a job they are working at, but really the type of correctors on Lang-8 aren’t there for work or school. Much of the time they may not be comfortable editing jargon that is not used in daily life, I know, since I avoid correcting those type of entries.

Pros:

  • Fast edit-response time

  • Easy-to-understand format

  • Friendly correctors

  • Language-specific group threads

Cons:

  • No unified system of correcting posts

  • Website sometimes has glitches

  • Point system makes no sense
     

2. Korean Webtoons

Similar to U.S. comics and Japanese manga, and new chapters are usually posted on a weekly basis.

My goal was to read my selected webtoons everyday of the week. Out of the three weeks, I only missed two days of webtoon reading. Yay for me!

I found that reading webtoons was really convenient for me. I downloaded an app called Naver Webtoon onto my phone and I can read two of my three selected webtoons anywhere. I often read them in my spare time, like before class or when I’m waiting for my friends. As for reading webtoons in general, I would say it was a little time consuming because if there was a word I didn’t know I would have to go look up the meaning. This, of course, is helpful, but different from reading in my native language. The webtoons on Naver and Daum are very punctual with their postings and there’s a webtoon for almost everybody. Horror, romance, action, school life.

혼자를 기르는 법(How to grow alone) is the hardest webtoon for me to read. It uses a lot of words that I’ve never seen before and most of the stories have a nuanced underlying meaning that is not easy for a non-native speaker like me to understand on the first read.

A few tips for reading webtoons: don’t worry about knowing every word.

외모지상주의(Lookism) makes my heart break sometimes. The plot-line is interesting, but the human cruelty stabs my heart. Despite the sometimes saddening plot, there are good points too, so I like it quite a bit. This is perhaps the easiest webtoon for me to read and I enjoy reading it the most.

윈드브레이커(Windbreaker) usually keeps me on edge. The writer ends the episodes at cliffhanger points often, so I end up reading two or three episodes. Occasionally some of the characters use English, which is strange, but interesting to read. This webtoon sometimes uses technical bicycle racing terminology, which takes a lot of dictionary searching to understand.

A few tips for reading webtoons: don’t worry about knowing every word. It’s okay if you skip some words in an effort to try and go with the flow. Also, try and learn as much slang as you can. If you’re going to read any high school setting webtoon, the author is definitely going to use slang.

Pros:

  • Variety

  • Ease of access

  • Entertainment value

  • Prompt uploads

  • App keeps track of where you last stopped reading

Cons:

  • Not beginner-learner friendly

  • Vocabulary sometimes not translatable

  • Use of slang/strange grammar
     

3. Language Exchanges

Title says it all. Meeting with a someone to practice your language and their language.

I would rank language exchanges higher, but the fact that not everyone has access to a language exchange partner lowers its ranking. On the first week I was sick, so I couldn’t meet up with my language exchange partner. Fortunately, however, I added on another language exchange partner in the second week, so I feel like that made up for my missed session. I’ve been rather fortunate with my language exchange partners this semester. They have all been great. My only real problem is keeping track of the time. I want to make sure that the time we speak in Korean and English is the same, but I also don’t like the idea of a timer that would just kinda ruin the flow of the conversation.

Tips for language exchanges: don’t correct everything your language exchange partner says.

Tips for language exchanges: don’t correct everything your language exchange partner says. Although they may say that they want you to correct them at all times, it will break up the flow of the conversation and possibly demoralize your partner if they make a lot of mistakes. Also, go with the flow and be open. Language exchanges are often the place where people ask each other about odd parts of culture and language, so you should be honest and open about what you think and what others think.

Pros:

  • Topic chosen by you/partner

  • Real-time feedback

  • Level-correct input (partner’s speech level is understandable)

Cons:

  • Have to work around schedules

  • Partner may not be the right fit

  • Less academically focused

 

4. Hellotalk

An app that connects you with people to practice your language of study with. Like language exchange, but on an app.

I’m going to be honest, I totally missed my goal of using Hellotalk everyday. During the second week, I only used it twice. Hellotalk, although a good app, was hard for me to use everyday. I think my difficulty lies in the fact that I have to virtually meet new people everyday and try to make a connection with them. Also, sometimes conversations span over a few days, so it is hard to keep track of what I am talking about with which person. Not everyone I meet I click with and some people I want to talk to more just don’t want to talk to me.

Tips when using Hellotalk: beware of people who want to exchange pictures and other messaging platforms’ ID information.

Tips when using Hellotalk: beware of people who want to exchange pictures and other messaging platforms’ ID information. Sometimes people will be too forward and will want to be in contact with you through Kakaotalk, Line, or Facebook. Sometimes it’s better to take it slow and make sure you can trust them before exchanging that type of information.

Pros:

  • Plenty of people to start a conversation with

  • App easy to use, level-correct input(partner’s speech level is understandable)

  • Can select partner age, native language, and gender preferences

Cons:

  • Difficult to keep a conversation going over a long span of time

  • People with ulterior motives

  • Sometimes one language dominates another

 

5. Anki

Anki is a flash card tool that is downloadable onto computers.

I failed at using Anki. I said I would use it three times a week. Well, I only used it twice the first week, not at all in the the second week or third week. For me, Anki is boring and frustrating. It’s just looking at flashcards forever until you run out of cards to look at. Also, as a personal flaw I hate not being able to memorize vocabulary and the Anki is just a reminder that I am really bad at memorizing difficult words. I still honestly believe that Anki is a good application to use. If you really want to memorize vocabulary (or anything else, really) in an effective way, then Anki is the way to go.

Tips for using Anki: when making your cards, click the ‘Basic (and reversed)’ card style so that Anki will sometimes show you the English side first and other times the other language side first.

Tips for using Anki: when making your cards, click the ‘Basic (and reversed)’ card style so that Anki will sometimes show you the English side first and other times the other language side first. It will help you to recall both sides of the card better.  

Pros:

  • Helps put vocabulary into long-term memory

  • Easy to input new cards

Cons:

  • Very plain looking

  • Long-term memory algorithm unexplained

 

6. Clozemaster

A website that provides fill-in-the-blank practice available in many languages.

I decided to try Clozemaster out because a friend had posted it onto their Facebook wall and I was curious as to how it worked. Well, let me tell you that after about 20 minutes of using it, I knew it wasn’t for me. Clozemaster basically gives you multiple choice fill-in-the-blank sentences with the English translation underneath. I think this would be good for lower-level learners, being that most of the fill-in-the-blanks were for words that are lower level. I think that I would have enjoyed it more if the English translation wasn’t underneath it as well. It helped me too much. I didn’t try Clozemaster again after the first week. I would say try it out for yourself, however.

Pros:

  • Easy to use

  • Option to track your progress

  • Good for lower-level learners

Cons:

  • Design a little unappealing

  • Site sometimes resets itself

  • Sentences can repeat
     

Obviously, these are just my opinions. How I look at these language learning tools may be totally different from how someone else may judge them. Everyone has a different way of learning, and so if some of the ones that I ranked lower work better for you, it’s totally fine! If none of these work for you, that’s fine as well. It’s all about finding what works for you. As you can see from my 3-week trial experience, some of these worked better than others for me. What is important is that I tried and found a few things that will help me on my path of learning Korean. Rather than focusing on what doesn’t work for me, I just leave those aside and study with what does.

Everyone has a different way of learning.

If you tried out any of the tools mentioned above, feel free to comment on how they worked for you! Also if you have any more language learning tool recommendations, feel free to share!

 

Author

Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.