All posts by katiejurek

Tips for teaching English sanely in Korea

Having moved to Korea several months ago for a job, I’ve made some observations about teaching English in Korea that I feel worth sharing. I teach 3rd through 6th grade at five different elementary schools in Gochang, a small city inside of Jeollabuk-do, and after having a few months of teaching under my belt, I feel I’m in a good spot where I can offer some advice for starting teachers to get their semester off on the right foot. Let’s start off with some tips to keep in mind for planning your lessons with these crazy kids.

Your Lessons

  • English should be fun: Don’t add to everyone’s stress levels by making learning English a daunting task; realize that many students will feel discouraged or uninterested in English through no fault of your own, and simply focus on making lessons fun by incorporating games, songs, or activities where everyone gets to participate and feel like they learned something. Extra points if you can make it engaging by choosing songs the kids are already fond of, or making team competition games a frequent part of your lessons (and who knows, maybe throw a League of Legends reference in there now and then).
  • Use the free and often underutilized textbook materials: Don’t forget about using the activities and flashcards in the back of the textbook if they fit your lesson, even if they’re about a different topic from the one you’re teaching that day. Even if they’re not intensely relevant, you can always use them for review. I found plenty of flashcards, images, and activities there and they were incredibly applicable to my lessons.
  • Be willing to improvise: Because it will probably happen a lot. The coteacher steps out when you need classroom management the most, the projector stops working, or the kids are at way too low a level for your planned lesson. Being willing and able to modify your lesson on a moment’s notice if the need should arise is at the top of the list of useful skills for this job.
  • Learn about your students: You may be the only one who asks students about their daily schedule, or sympathizes with them for being so busy (as Korean children and teenagers tend to be). If you combine this with calling them by name, they could very well learn to really respect you. Calling a student by name can also help with classroom management.
  • Don’t take challenging students’ behavior personally: If a student is being challenging (note: not “meddlesome” or “bad”, as these words can often make you feel negatively toward the student), don’t take it personally. They would try to act out with anyone so long as they thought they could get away with it. Korean students are pushed very hard in all aspects of their lives, and are often pressured to pretend things like free time or the opposite sex don’t exist in favor of studying harder. Teachers and adults here regularly forget (or choose to ignore) that they’re growing kids just like we all once were, so these stressed students may try to act out whenever they think they can.

Continue reading Tips for teaching English sanely in Korea

My Korean resources

Here’s the Korean equivalent for my Swedish resources and my Norwegian resources, in order from most to least used and helpful:

  • Memrise: Used all the time during any stage of learning Korean, or any other language, for that matter. Using Memrise is like using flashcards, but a lot more beneficial since it utilizes not just repetition, but spaced repetition. That means it checks how long ago you learned a word and reminds you to revisit the word at a time when you’re most likely to be about to forget it. It often has (user-created!) mnemonic devices to help aid the recall process even further. I wholeheartedly recommend Memrise to anyone who’s learning any language. You can even create your own deck to help other users practice! In fact, here’s the deck my friend made to coincide with what you learn from Korean Made Simple, which I’ll talk about in a few bullets.
  • Dongsa: The Android and iOS versions are the equivalent of its website. It’s an incredibly useful site like Verbix (though Verbix has the Romanizations on the main page if that’s important to you, and also has far more languages available), and can be used on the go to type in an unfamiliar infinitive verb and have it conjugated for you, even if it’s irregular! One thing that Dongsa does have over Verbix is that, since it focuses solely on Korean, when you click on a conjugation, it tells you why the verb is conjugated that way! The value of this can’t be underestimated, of course.
  • Talk to Me in Korean podcast: Used from the very beginning. They have beginner and intermediate lessons, and their content is quite good! Their podcast is very helpful but also sometimes 10-20 minutes long, much of which is very fluffed up with lots of English conversation between the teachers. Now, though it is extremely helpful, I must say that, depending on how familiar you are with learning languages, it’s sometimes much faster to download their lesson .pdfs and learn them on your own, or maybe just fast-forward through the podcast past the fluff. Besides this, though, I definitely recommend the TTMIK community, as they’re a lovely and helpful bunch of people and will answer any Korean language or cultural questions you have!
  • Korean Made Simple: Great resource to teach incredibly useful vocabulary and grammar construction. This can be used from the beginning, and was made by a guy who learned Korean himself, so is quite familiar with the process of learning Korean.
  • LingQ: Used to start learning words, though given the occasional irregularities in Korean spacing of words, it can sometimes be less useful than for other languages. However, this can be used from the very beginning! LingQ is a fantastic site that allows you to hover your cursor over words in their different language lessons and stories and see the meaning. When you feel comfortable with a word, you mark it as known and move on. This is also the tool that gives me those nifty, auto-updated language badges on the right sidebar.

Continue reading My Korean resources

Guest post: Enhance your language skills through your smartphone

Hello everyone! Today I have a guest post for you, one written by Tongue-Twisting Girl, a fellow blogger and language learner. She is an advocate for learning languages through smartphone apps, and has some recommendations for some good ones! Take it away, girl!


Mobile devices have their own share of benefits to human beings, which includes making learning an interactive and engaging process. Given mobile’s ability to access a myriad of resources online, smartphones have now become an acceptable educational trend that has transcended many different forms. In the United States alone, more and more college students are using their smartphone for learning purposes, spending an average of 3.3 hours daily for mobile learning on their handsets.

Thus, learning a new language on your smartphone has been made easier, so long as you are equipped with the right information about to best do it. How can you enhance your vocabulary and language skills through your mobile device?

Get the right apps
As the often-used adage goes: “there’s always an app for that.” When it comes to learning a new language or developing your skills, there’s usually an application for it. But, there are thousands of mobile apps out there that offer the same things. So, how can you distinguish an effective and suitable educational app for you? Here are some recommendations:

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How to get free wifi internationally

Having an international data plan can be extremely useful if you travel abroad often, but not everyone can afford one. T-Mobile indeed offers an unlimited-data-internationally plan (albeit it’s slow), but it costs about $60/month. So what about the rest of us? One could try and rely on free wifi hotspots around the globe if they wished, but my preference while on the move is to be able to find it much more reliably than that!

That’s where several applications for your phone and computer come in. Meet Instabridge and Wifi Free, two apps created to solve this problem. They work by storing user-submitted SSID’s for networks and their passwords in a database and making them accessible to you. You can browse these wifi connections via a map, and sort them by those closest to you. The database for both applications is already pretty sizable, especially in larger cities like Amsterdam and Seoul, but some may wish to make it even bigger; that’s where you can come in! If you want to help bolster the database, you can only add the SSID and its password to the database if you are currently connected to it, which keeps the database free of fake passwords. The establishments offering the wifi are supposed to not mind you having it for them to be added, but how much that is enforced is dubious. Still, if you don’t mind connecting to places who normally would let you if you were a customer of theirs, these apps (and those related to them) are for you.

There is a catch for most of the free ones, however.

Continue reading How to get free wifi internationally

BauBax travel jacket

There’s a new Kickstarter campaign going on, and I’m excited to see what becomes of it in the coming month. This campaign is the BauBax travel jacket, a jacket with 15 travel-specific features in one, including things like a built-in iPad pocket, passport pocket, phone pocket, eye mask, inflatable neck pillow, gloves, and much more. It’s already way beyond its desired funding of $20,000 (the campaign is at $3,831,413 at the time of this post), and is incredibly promising in its rewards.

If you’re a traveler like me, you’ll hopefully see the value in something so tremendously useful! There are four different styles for the jacket (sweatshirt, windblazer, bomber, and blazer), and several different colors, so its appearance is flexible, too. In a practical sense, no more would you have to gather your items scattered in your backpack and set them in the security bins (other than your laptop, of course); all of these items would be able to be plucked right from out of your pockets!

Not only this, but you’re able to get a pretty good discount ($160 instead of $200+ for the windblazer or bomber, for example, and that includes shipping) by supporting the Kickstarter now rather than waiting until the project is fully in fruition this November, which is when your jacket is expected to be shipped if you preordered one. I support the idea so much that I’m getting two of them. Here are a few pictures from the campaign:

baubaxtraveljacket1

baubaxtraveljacket2

baubaxtraveljacket3

Check out the campaign and give it some support!