Duolingo Korean review: First impressions and funny sentences

Duolingo finally added a Korean course this fall and after two months of doing two lessons per day almost every day, I can say it’s one of the most effective and satisfying methods of learning the language I’ve tried so far.

As I briefly noted on my main blog, I’ve been enjoying it way more than the other two Duolingo courses I’ve got going on, which are French and Swedish. My hunch is that my Korean level hits that sweet spot between know and don’t know—such that the basics are not so foreign that it’s strenuous to complete the exercises (like my Swedish course experience), nor am I familiar enough with sentence structures and vocab that the exercises become a bit tedious (like my French course experience).

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Best way to learn a language?

If you had to pick just one method…that isn’t taking a class or moving to that country?

That’s the premise of a great video I watched earlier this year from Talk to Me in Korean, which I’ve been consulting since my high school days. Over the years, the company has grew from a site with online lessons to a whole big production that includes videos, textbooks, and a cafe in Seoul?! But in this video, TTMIK founder Hyunwoo shares just one thing you should do to get better at Korean.

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5 Intriguing Words

Don't know how long this lil' guy's 양다리 game will last, but adorable moment! (Photo: Furman S. Baldwin's "The Kiss")
Don’t know how long this lil’ guy’s 양다리 game will last, but adorable moment! (Photo: Furman S. Baldwin’s “The Kiss“)

…from the last several weeks. (So these vocabulary installments may contain more and more English words, since my real job involves writing…in English…which really means thesaurus.com all day and new tab > “define: xx” — youknowwhatimean?) Anyway:

  • frowzy | EN | scruffy and neglected in appearance; unkempt, messy, disheveled, etc. — Forgot where I saw this, but I love it because it’s one of those words that sound/feel exactly like what they mean. 
  • funambulism | EN | the art of tightrope walking (walking along a thin wire or rope, usually at a great height); see Nik Wallenda’s recent record-setting stunts in Chicago—who knew there was a dedicated word for this!? 
  • pied-à-terre | EN via FR | a temporary or second home; literally foot to the ground in French—got familiarized with this term after reading a bunch of articles on rich people scooping up (a lot of) (prime) NYC real estate. 
  • 山寨, shān zhài | CN | a term (Wikipedia entry here) that essentially means imitation, and particularly refers to the pervasive knock-off industry in China, i.e. “that’s a 山寨/shānzhài cell phone”; literally “mountain fortress” (something to do with the sense that fake goods are getting built/stockpiled in factories in villages far away from official control)—my dad mentioned this word in a conversation recently…he defined it as “Made in China”, which sounds pretty sad. But I’ve also read  quite a few arguments for how shān zhài is highly efficient and also innovative (!). 
  • 양다리, yang dari | KR | literally “both legs”, typically used to mean two-timing/dating two people at the same time; 양다리를 걸치다 means “to try to have it both ways”.

Vocab: Iced Coffee

I picked up an iced coffee on the way home today and immediately fell in love with the beverage’s intermingling colors and textures. Obviously, the rational next step is Instagramming a close-up. But now it’s a quick vocab study, too! CN | 冰咖啡 | bīng kāfēi KR | 아이스 커피 | aiseu keopi FR | café glacé When I […]

Vocab: Tandoori

I’ve been listening to a lot of Korean indie lately — which to me just means acoustic, spring-timey songs that sound like Instagram’s Walden filter in music form.

In any case, I keep hearing a song (or songs) with something like “Tandoori” in the lyrics. The word/phrase? has been stuck in my head for weeks. I knew the word came from a K-indie song, but the back of my mind points out: Tandoori is most definitely Indian food.

Behold, tandoori chicken

 …a popular Indian dish and Pakistani dish consisting of roasted chicken prepared with yogurt and spices. The name comes from the type of cylindrical clay oven, a tandoor, in which the dish is traditionally prepared.

via Flickr

As it turns out, however, I’m not crazy. “Tandoori” indeed also means something in Korean.

단둘이 | dandul-i | “two in private”, a private meeting

“Two in private”? Now that sounds like the start of a great love song.