This weekend I’ve been working hard on my listening skills through podcasts, Korean TED talks, and of course a few subtitle-free episodes of 여름향기 (currently have 4 episodes left). During all this listening I’ve made a strange discovery. It seems to me that I either understand everything (여름향기) or next to nothing (random Korean podcast on Korean culture from iTunes). This explains why my husband finds my own assessment of my Korean skills quite volatile to put it mildly. When he asks me how I’m progressing I am able to span the whole range from “well, I feel I understand almost everything when I pay attention” to “I have no clue about this language whatsoever”. Yesterday, I managed to utter both statements within just 3 hours much to his amusement and my own frustration.

Analytical as I am, I began to reflect a bit on why I felt this way. Why are some things easy to understand, while other things make you doubt your skills (and yourself) so seriously? Here’s where I landed. First of all, a drama without subtitles is easier than a podcast for several reasons. Here you have the actions and facial expressions to back up the dialogue, which allows you to more easily fill in the blanks in the language. The drama also has an overall theme and main story, which makes it much  easier to understand the pieces of dialogue. With a podcast on the other hand you have no facial expressions to rely on, and you may also not know the structure and overall theme of the podcast which can make listening comprehension much more difficult. After first having the feeling that I didn’t understand anything at all, I looked at my notebook and felt comforted by all the grammatical structures that I had managed to jot down while listening to the podcast. I guess I have to make peace with the fact that my own perception of my progress is unstable to say the least and always keep in mind that I learn from listening even if I don’t understand everything.

By the way I highly recommend having a look at the Korean TED talks from the link above. They are all in Korean and are excellent for listening practice. Happy listening! 재미있게 들으세요~~


  1. I think it also has something to do with the topics covered in Dramaland vs. podcasts. In dramas there tends to be some pretty stable themes (the weight of each element may differ, but there is usually something related to love, revenge, disappointed expectations, and wealth) while podcasts can be fairly niche in comparison. At some point while watching dramas you will have come across all possible combinations of endearments used between a couple as well as vocabulary related to general things, but that will be of no use if listening to a podcast about philosophy or production and marketing of Persian rugs.


    • You’re absolutely right. I find that with Korean you can be quite lost if there’s just one word in a sentence that you don’t understand. Even if you know anything else the entire meaning is lost. Another reason to just keep on studying ~~

      Liked by 1 person

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