As I’ve seen my Korean language skills develop, I’ve started gradually playing with the idea of signing up for the TOPIK. I’m convinced that I’d be able to pass the Basic level, so in order to give myself a real challenge I’m considering the Intermediate level. From what I read on other Korean learning blogs, this challenge is far from easy and it will require a lot of time and effort, but hey – I’ve always loved to challenge myself, and this might be the way to go.

Speaking of  challenges, last week during my lunch break I was sitting next to a new guy in the faculty cafeteria at my uni. Before too long he started speaking about his training for the Iron Man and how many hours he put into this project every week. Obviously, I admire setting yourself goals like that – but here’s a thought: If you’re going to invest a lot of time in something, wouldn’t it be better to invest it in something that sticks? In my opinion, training for a physical challenge is certainly an achievement, and for all the years to come you can tell yourself and others that you did it. But what happens after? It’s such a tough thing to put your body through and although your physical shape may get better as a result, you will not be able to complete an Iron Man on any given day after that.

What I mean is, such an achievement is not lasting. Sure, on your resume it radiates commitment, grit, and determination. But in my opinion, so does language learning. Everyday, outside of my fulltime job, I dedicate at least two hours to learning Korean (an hour in the morning, and one in the evening). You may say that if I decide to sign up for the TOPIK, it would be my mental Korean Iron Man. The difference: After having completed the TOPIK, the skills that I’ve acquired will stick – not only would I have a diploma to show for it, but I would actually have useful skills to last me a lifetime.

Therefore when people ask me why I learn Korean, I often reply by saying that some people train for the marathon, and I learn Korean. It’s a hobby that I enjoy, and I hope that someday it may help me in my academic career as well. On a different note, when people then proceed to ask me why I don’t learn Chinese, which is much more widely spoken, I found the best answer on this blog: The guy behind it is an Irish polyglot (speaker of multiple languages). He’s made the very clever argument that unless you plan to speak to all of the people who actually speak Chinese, the number of speakers is fairly irrelevant. I certainly agree. I’m not in it to brag about how many people speak the language I’m learning – I’m doing it for myself because I enjoy it.

But back to the TOPIK. I haven’t really made up my mind yet, but nonetheless I found myself checking out two intermediate TOPIK books from less than 15 minutes ago (plus a K-drama script, and some Korean stationary for my new office^^). For those unaware, is run by the Mikyung Cho, wife of Hyunwoo Sun from Talk To Me In Korean. I love it when I get a chance to support their work. I’ve benefited tremendously from all the free material, so it’s a pleasure to be able to give a little back.

Since today’s a Sunday I plan to put in a few extra hours of Korean cramming.

Happy Sunday and happy studying! ^^

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