Category Archives: Culture

Claddagh rings – The IRL relationship status!

Today, when we meet someone new that we’re romantically interested in, one of the first 12788431_971115229639817_884393266_othings we are likely to do is go on Facebook (or Twitter, Instagram – even Linked in, if we’re really desperate) and check their Relationship Status for the all clear that we want to see before we pursue a relationship. Facebook makes it so much easier to do that harmless snooping we need.

But what about BEFORE the invention of social media, where all we had to go off was the presence, or lack therof, of a wedding ring? There were no telltale signs short of just asking the person outright (which can get kind of embarrassing in some circumstances) or asking around with friends or family.
That’s why I love the Claddagh ring so much. Named after the Irish town of its origin, the claddagh ring is designed for the exact purpose of displaying a person’s “romantic status” for the world to see.
The design includes two hands holding a heart that is adorned with a crown. The hands symbolize friendship and support, the heart represents love and the crown means loyalty. These are great little details, but the really interesting part comes down to the WAY it is worn!

12776841_971115212973152_692921021_oJust by looking at the orientation on the hands, you can quickly tell if the wearer is single (or at least not currently exclusive with the person they are seeing).
When a claddagh ring is worn on the right hand, with the heart pointing out (away from the wearer’s palm) then they are essentially single. It means that their heart isn’t taken, so that could mean they are not dating anyone or aren’t yet exclusive with them.
Similarly, if it is worn on the right hand with the heart pointing IN, then their heart definitely isn’t up for grabs, as they’ve either given it to someone else or are keeping it to one side ready for them (i.e dating somebody already).
When the claddagh ring is worn on the left hand, it’s a whole lot more serious! If they wear it on their left hand with the heart pointing out, then they are engaged to be married (I always chuckle because it’s almost like the ring is going “Hey, try get me now before it’s too late!”) and if it is on the left hand and pointing inwards the wearer is married (or in a serious committed very long-term relationship – we don’t have to go by tradition here!).

Claddagh rings are an Irish tradition, but it is so common for people without Irish herritage to wear them too. I’m not aware of any Irish in my family, and I’ve worn my Claddagh ring for the last 7 years, with only a few short breaks when it’s accidentally gone through the wash or been misplaced for a couple weeks!
If you’re interested in getting your very own claddagh ring, here is the particular design I have worn for the last 7 years

And, if you are interested in some of the flashier rings, here are a few of my favorites:

I hope you have enjoyed this quick random piece! If you are interested, come and connect with us on the Learn With Amy Facebook and Twitter, join me on my own personal Twitter and also, check out my YouTube channels! Xx

Why Korean food should be on your menu

butternutWhether you are a student, living alone, living with others, bringing up a family or, y’know, just need to eat, we can all agree that eating well these days is more effort and expense than ever. We’ve become so used to being fed garbage food that claims to be good for us, while slowly poisoning us with colours, flavours, preservatives and other chemicals we need not ingest. It is alarming how we are becoming less and less aware of the contents of our food with every year and so many people don’t even beg the question of what they are putting in their bodies.

No wonder the modern world is plagued with cancer, obesity and other illnesses that would have been rarely seen once upon a time.
Now, I could go on about the evils of big corporations and how they manipulate their products in order to control their consumers, but I’m more interested in helping you find solutions.

Now, as you have probably come to realise from the blog, I am a massive lover of Korean food. While being generally quite enjoyable to make, it also has other benefits:

Flexible

I am yet to find a Korean recipe that has one fixed method of preparation. Everyone seems to have their own little tricks and variations on the recipes that I have not come across a single recipe that I haven’t enjoyed.
There is room to play with your ingredients and method that you have so many ways to make your recipe suit your needs.

Relaxing

IMG_0456.JPGI know in our “all go” age we rarely stop to enjoy the process of doing day-to-day tasks but, speaking as someone who is often in a rush and eager to finish the task at hand, I find Korean cooking incredibly relaxing.
There’s nothing quite like the meditative state I slip into while rolling Hobakjuk balls or the calm of chopping the vegetables for kimchi. I love it and I feel all the better for taking that little bit of time to enjoy the moment.

Delicious

Korean food is, in my opinion, the tastiest food there is. I have never been as satisfied as I am when I eat Korean food as it is the perfect balance of taste, texture and temperature.
The grilled meats are to die for and the vegetable dishes have given me a love for some vegetables that I had hated for 20 years!

Healthy

As well as tasting incredible, so many Korean dishes are actually really good for you. despite loving their salt, Korean food is some of the best you can have. Kimchi, a side dish that is eaten with almost every meal, has recently gained recognition around the world as a super food that is known to be insanely good for you.
Also, if you prepare your meals from scratch, you are also aware and in control of what goes into your food, such as salt and sugar.

Cheap

11696527_850932034991471_1306743554_nPossibly the biggest draw of all, Korean food is generally very cheap to make. I can make easily enough Hobakjuk (Butternut squash rice porridge) to last me a week for £5 or less, because the recipe is so simple. And £5 can easily keep you in supply of kimchi for weeks (or months, depending on how much you eat).
Korean food is such an easy hobby for me because it’s so fantastically cheap, which also makes it accessible for anyone. What money you could spend on instant noodles and burgers that offer little to no nutrition, can go an incredibly long way with the right recipes and storage.

So, there are just a few of the benefits of cooking and enjoying Korean food. If you have any questions on preparation, ingredients or storage of Korean food or want some recipe suggestions to suit you, I will be more than happy to help!
I will have more Korean recipes coming very soon! In the meantime, have an excellent day and take care! Xx

Think Like A Native – Using your thoughts to improve your language skills

 

11650593_850429428375065_1268473140_nIn learning languages like Japanese and Korean, I have found one of the best ways of privately encouraging my learning, especially when unable to communicate with others in that language, is to make effort to communicate with myself.
Over recent months, due to breaking up with my Korean ex-boyfriend and terribly missing my Japanese best friend, I have neglected my language studies and this site in favor of taking time out to heal – trust me, you guys didn’t want to be witness to that mess! While this has somewhat dulled my abilities, I have found that regular practice in the privacy of my own mind has helped to preserve my understanding a great deal.
IMG_0844.PNGIt can be hard to find opportunities to communicate in languages not used in the area you live, so I decided to do my level best to think in Japanese and Korean wherever possible.
Going about my day and trying to think of the Japanese or Korean words for items I see and trying to string together the correct sentences goes a long way to help keep me focused on retaining what I already know, while also encouraging me to learn more.
When I dial a phone number, I try my best to think it in Japanese or Korean as I dial and that not only helps to improve my abilities, but I find helps with my concentration. If I am not sure of the word for a letter, I’ll just go with English and ensure to look it up later so I’ll be able to recall it the next time.
Of course, if you aren’t fluent, this isn’t an incredibly easy task, but it does serve as a way of revising a language when you cannot practice in conversation with others.
Even if you only use the odd word here and there, it will still help to build that comfort and understanding that will make learning faster and smoother. It will also help to make you able to fluidly move between languages – an ability that will serve you well the further you improve in all your language studies!
This has been a very short piece, I know, but I wanted to make something quick and simple as a way of getting back into things. Thank you so much to everyone who has waited patiently for me to be ready to return – I really appreciate your patience and all the supportive messages I have received in my time away!
As always, please share any thoughts or comments in the section below, or come join us over on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

What is ‘Oppa’?

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Since Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ went viral worldwide in 2012, more people around the world have been aware of Korea and its pop culture. With that comes the typical questions that come with exploring a country with a completely different language and culture.

One part of Korea that a lot of people are still baffled by is the word “Oppa”. I see a lot of people asking “What is an Oppa?” and there is a lot of confusion about the word due to the cultural differences between us and Korea.
An Oppa isn’t a husband, actor, crush, classmate or a boyfriend, but at the same time it kind of is.
“Oppa” (오빠) means “brother” but is used by women to address older men of a close or similar status as them, so you would say it to an older brother, and older male cousin, an older male classmate or co-worker whom you are close-ish to, and older male friend, a boyfriend (some older women call their younger boyfriends ‘oppa’ to seem cutsy) a husband or even just an older man. You can simply call someone ‘oppa’ or attach it to the end of their name (For example, “Hyunseung-oppa”/”현승오빠”). One of the issues with understanding this word is that there isn’t really a direct equivalent in English, so it is a new concept. If you will, you can kind of imagine that words as like a much less formal “sir” that you can use throughout a whole conversation/interaction.
Photo 08-03-2015 02 19 10It has a lot to do with respect and friendship and knowing when it is and isn’t acceptable to use can be quite tough for non-Koreans to understand sometimes. When in doubt, you can simply ask whether it is okay to call them “oppa”. If you are learning about Korean and Korean culture, pay attention to learning good manners, but Koreans will often be understanding if you make a few errors, so long as they know that your heart is in the right place.
‘Oppa’ is one of 4 very commonly used words of this kind.
You are already aware of ‘oppa’ as the word for brother which applies when a younger female talks to an older male. Along this same strain, you have the word ‘Hyung’ (형) which is the equivalent for a younger male in addressing an older male.
And, if you switch the genders, a younger man talking to an older woman would use the word ‘Noona’ (누나) while a younger woman talking to an older woman would say ‘eonni’ (언니).
Make sure that you use these words with care. Some people don’t like being called by them and you should make effort to respect people’s preferences, especially when you do not have a deep and practiced understanding of the language to guide you.
Do you have any more questions about English, Japanese or Korean? Share your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them for you! Leave comments in the section below, or come join us on Facebook and Twitter! Xx

Random Acts of Kindness

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We’ve all seen videos on Youtube and Facebook about people going out and doing random acts of kindness for others. They fill us up with that warm fuzzy feeling as unsuspecting people are shown gestures of kindness and good will. It’s really easy to watch these videos, but a lot of people don’t feel like they have what it takes to actually DO this.
Well, my sister and close friends have taken it upon ourselves to spread the love and bring joy to people’s day on a regular basis!

Inspired by videos of these kinds of events from big-hearted people like Ryan Higa and his crew, who regularly upload videos of themselves doing kind gestures as a way to inspire others to do the same. They give toys and flowers to people at Christmas and they went around their city giving food to the homeless for Thanksgiving. Popular Viner Thomas Sanders went around shopping mall for “Givemas” giving out gift cards to stores in that mall to happy customers and staff. These people are great examples of how selflessness can be both rewarding and really fun! These are the kinds of people who inspired us to start out own style of Random Acts of Kindness.

11041481_790157151068960_1238396688_nOne day a couple of summers ago, my sister and I traveled to a nearby town for a day at the beach together. It was nice – We drew pictures in the sand, paddled in the water and had a laugh before realising that we were surrounded, both on land and in the water, by literally hundreds of jelly fish and decided to flee the beach.
Wandering around and seeing a mixture of moods from passers-by. Some were loving the summer fun and enjoying the company of their families, while others were stressing out, sulking and generally being moody. We decided, as we were already having a great time, to do something nice to brighten other’s days a bit more. We put our heads together and decided that food and drinks were off the cards due to the insane numbers of seagulls that swoop at anything remotely edible and giving money just seemed weird, so we’d settle for something adults and children alike could just enjoy – Balloons!
After hurrying to the nearest card shop, we set off to deliver our handful of balloons to some lucky people.
Honestly, this first experience opened up so much for us. It was a great feeling to come into someone’s life, give them a gift and just let them go with a big smile on their faces. We met some absolutely lovely people and had some truly moving and enlightening conversations. And, just with balloons, we actually made a positive difference to the lives of others!

With that first experience a great success, we were hungry to do it again.

Valentine’s Day: Taking it a step bigger

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Valentine’s Day is known as a day of celebrating your love and putting on displays of affection for the world to see, but this day can be a huge downer for a lot of people with no partner and a glum attitude. In honesty, I meet more people who are miserable than happy on Valentine’s Day and that is because of the hype and weight put on having a partner. It reinforces the idea that having a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife should be your top priority and not having one is somehow a failure on your part. That can seriously bring you down and Valentine’s Day can be extra bad.
My best friend, little sister and I decided that we were going to take a stand against this yearly downer and go out and spread the love for everyone!
1939724_583856765032334_271925713_nOn Valentine’s Day 2014, we went out armed with ‘Free Hug’ banners and 20 balloons.
Due extremely high winds due to the huge storm that was pelting Britain at the time (hands up if you remember #UKstorm) we moved our post indoors and instead we targeted the students and faculty of our local university!
Shy students didn’t respond too openly to the offer of free hugs, but the balloons when down (or up) a treat! We managed to brighten many days, meet some very nice people and even confused a business lecturer when half his class turned up with balloons tied to their desks!
It was a fantastic day and the three of us had a great time seeing so many smiling faces! It brought us three closer together, introduced us to some nice people and brightened the days of many people!

Despite the success of that day, due to people getting jobs, my best friend moving back to Japan, lots of changes and such, the next time we had the availability to do another Random Act of Kindness was the following Valentine’s Day 2015.
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Due to my best friend still being in Japan, we still needed another to join us. Funnily enough, a few months after Valentine’s Day 2014, my sister made friends with a girl whom we later discovered, when we happened to talk about Valentine’s Day, we had given a balloon to on that day and then had met by chance later! This friend came along to help us out this year and the tradition continued for a second year! Armed with about 25 balloons and a handful of silk roses, the three of us wondered the town.
Due to it being a Saturday, the high street was packed full of families, couples and children of all ages. Honestly, the minute we stepped out with all the balloons ready to go we were mobbed by kids who wanted their own. Seriously, pre-teens are scary!!
The first child we were moved to give a balloon to was a small toddler whose parents asked us where they could buy their daughter a balloon like ours. I wish I could have captured the expression of true delight when we responded by handing over the big heart-shaped balloon that their little one had been so keen on and told them it was their’s for free.
We met a lot of lovely people along the road and we were really well received by everyone we encountered.

The overwhelming feeling I was left with was that it is so easy to make a significant difference to a person’s day (and thus a person’s life) simply by doing a nice gesture as simple as giving them a balloon.

How YOU can try it!

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So, now that you know that it’s actually very easy to do random acts of kindness, there’s nothing holding you back from trying it for yourself. This kind of thing is fantastic for helping the people around you, bringing friends together and practicing the very healthy activity of giving.
In honesty, it is a LOT easier to do it with a group of friends with whom you can feel comfortable around and whom you can chat to and enthuse with. Going around doing these activities does cause a physical reaction of nervousness and it takes a lot of energy, so having friends with you will help to keep your energy up.
There are so many ways that you can try this out for yourself, but sometimes you need some ideas to get you going:
Giving fun things: Balloons, toys for children, gift cards, second-hand video games, etc
Motivational: Positive/inspiring sticky notes, a letter to a stranger, a supportive and inspirational letter to give to a parent to give to their child, Random compliments, etc
Helpful: Giving food or drink to the homeless, a group trip volunteering, a fun charity event, visiting elderly neighbours, etc.

Remember to be creative in your ideas. My crew plan to expand on the original balloon idea for next time, so keep thinking and try to think of some original, helpful and fun ideas. Remember, fun and positivity are the mail point! People will remember their experience of being chosen for a random act of kindness, so make sure it’s a lovely memory for them to share with others.

Remember:

Some cultures are not so open to the contact of total strangers. Especially in more reserved cultures, some of the more friendly ideas might be seen as inappropriate or even illegal, so always be careful of what you decide to do.
In some places, it may be more or less okay to do ‘free hugs’ than in other places, etc.
Be very careful to make sure that you aren’t making yourself at the risk of any legal issues. When I handed over a balloon, I always noted that they should be used with care. Sometimes the giving of stuff, especially to children, can put you at some risk, so make sure you carefully consider that.

Do you have any ideas or questions about Random Acts of Kindness that you want to share? Share them in the comments below or over on Facebook or Twitter! Have a great day! Xx

 

This is purely an informational piece and anyone who uses suggestions from this piece or other pieces on this website should do so with care, consideration, their own common sense and always behave well within the law. Safety first!!

My Experiences: Getting a Tattoo

I love tattoos. It is becoming more and more common knowledge (I suppose since I got my first openly visible tattoo) that I love them and take great pride in the tats that I have. I’ve written before about the cultural views on tattoos and answered a few of your questions on them and their after-care. However, I get asked a lot, both online and in person, about what getting a tattoo done is like and the healing process of it, so I thought that I would document my personal experience when I got my next tattoo. Well! As luck would have it, I had been thinking about a tattoo idea for quite a while and, after a lovely design was made for me by my tattoo artist, I decided I was ready for the plunge!

Sleep on it. Eat on it. Work on it. Live with it.

So, obviously, you need to think about what you want for a good while. What do you want the tattoo to be? What meaning or message do you want to convey? What meanings or messages do you NOT want to convey? Have you done your research?
Getting a tattoo (unless you’re not afraid of the laser) is a lifetime commitment and so you need to be as sure as possible to have covered your bases. Have you checked that the image or words have no negative or criminal meanings? When I was 16 I wanted a tattoo that symbolized that you only live once, which would have meant that I would be stuck forever with a tat that basically meant YOLO… Good thing I didn’t go for that then!
Before you commit having an image put into your skin, understand the risks involved, such as a change of opinion, something going wrong, the eventuality of the design aging, cultural reaction and various (rare) health risks.

Pain factor

I get asked a lot about how painful and how scary it is to get a tattoo and there is no completely definitive answer as everyone is different and everything depends.
The level of pain you will feel from a tattoo depends on your personal pain tolerance as well as the location of the tattoo on your body. If you have a high tolerance to pain and your tattoo is on a more fleshy area, then you are more likely to feel less pain from it.
If, like me, you are incredibly skinny, then your tattoo is more likely to be a bit more painful and tattoos hurt their most when they are on areas with thin, moving skin that lie right over bones.
My first tattoo was on my right hip and it was an absolute breeze, except for when they were doing the parts right over the edge of my hip bones (and then it was still only a mildly annoying tickle).
My second tattoo was only a small design on my side and that was a little more painful because it was over a rib, which is known to be a very painful area. The only part of it that had me more than a little uncomfortable was the shading part, which is done with another kind of needle used for filling and shading.
My third tattoo, on the inside of my wrist, was pretty much fine! It only took about 10-15 minutes to do and was only really a slightly painful tingle. It was so fast to get, quick to heal and practically painless.

Tattoos, as some do not expect, go through a slightly gnarly healing stage with itches, ooze and scabs. But, trust me, it’s not as bad as it seems!
My first tattoo, a large yin and yang on my hip, was very sore the first day I got it, healed with a thick scab and took about 5 weeks to look healed. However, my second and third tattoos were healed in a matter of days.

After care

With my first tattoo, I only had the cling film on for about 3 hours and then went without it. I used Bepanthen, a product used to reduce nappy rash on babies. I found that it actually made pain and itching worse and so I stopped using it.
With my other two tattoos, I didn’t bother with any creams or cling films (actually for the second tattoo, the artist had run out of cling-film so just said not to worry about it) and everything was fine.
But it is recommended that you keep replacing the cling film every few hours for the next three days and use a cream to moisturise and protect the skin.
And make sure that you are regularly cleaning your tattoo with warm (not too hot) soapy water. blot it dry gently with a clean towel (though preferably not a fancy or nice one, as it can get mucky)

So, let’s take a step-by-step look at my experience of a new, and large, tattoo on my foot.

My New Tattoo

Idea

I wanted a tattoo that was delicate, yet strong, youthful and long-lasting. Because we are nearing Spring (my favourite season) and I love Japan, I instantly thought of the adored and celebrated Sakura flowers. I love the Sakura Cherry Blossoms and so decided that it would be the perfect look for the design.
So, as I mentioned in my article about cultural views of tattoos, any tattoos in Japan carry a negative view of tattoos, so there is not really anything I could do about that. So, I did my research and settled that the design was a safe one.
The artist who designed the tattoo for me changed the look of the flower a little bit, but I liked it and we decided on the placement of the tattoo together.
initially, I wanted the design to start behind my ankle, then go over the ankle and follow just along the outside of the foot, but I ended up liking the placement we went with instead (and it looks great with heels)!

Fear

To be honest, the sound of a tattoo gun is, in my opinion, the worst part of the whole thing. It’s like the sound of a dentist’s drill and scares the living daylights out of me before I get started.
With all of my other tattoos, I have just walked in and gotten them done on the day and this was the first tattoo that I actually booked like a week ahead of time and had to wait. Waiting made it so much worse and I was so much more scared.
Really, if you can try to calm your fear then the entire process will be a lot easier. The fear is the worst part and it has never been as bad as my fear has played it up to be.
So, do your best not to let your fear get you down or worked up. It’ll be over soon enough and nowhere near as bad as your imagination has you thinking.

Getting the tattoo

This tattoo was the most painful of all the others I’ve had. The reason for that was because this one was a lot bigger as well as being an area of the skin that moves a lot and runs over many bones and the tattoo was mostly done with the filling and shading head of the tattoo gun (which I said was the more irritating with my second tattoo).
It was rather painful, but the most difficult part was simply not moving as they were doing it. I honestly had to fight with everything in me not to kick my tattoo artist in the face as she did it.
But a good tattoo artist knows what they’re doing, will be in tune enough to know when to take a quick breather, and they’ll get it over with as soon as they can.
Try to be relaxed as you go through it. If you are getting tense and letting the pain get pent-up, it’ll irritate you and make it harder to stay still, so try to just stay relaxed, focus on a part of your body that doesn’t hurt and just zen out.

After-care

So, I learnt with my first tattoo that I cannot use the skin product Bepanthen as I’m allergic to the lanolin in it, but I learnt this time that I CAN use another product instead to sooth my raw tattoo.
Diprobase is a cream that you can get prescribed by a doctor, but is available off the shelf in many drug stores, such as Boots. It’s a very thick cream that cools, soothes and moisturises the irritated skin.
Also this time around I took care to use and regularly replace the cling film for the recommended 3 days.

Healing

As expected, for the rest of the day after I got the tattoo the top of my foot was VERY swollen and I was limping a little bit, but the pain of getting the tattoo itself wore off within ten minutes and I couldn’t feel any pain, except for some soreness when I walked, after about an hour.
And a lot of people assume that tattoos gush blood for hours and hours after you get them, but they don’t really bleed that much and they settle down pretty quickly.
Here is my tattoo after 6 hours:

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At 12 hours:

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1 day:

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With the cream:

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After about 4-5 days it begins the nasty scabby stage where it looks a bit flaky and nasty. All you can do at this time is keep cleaning and moisturising it and don’t pick at it. Scratching it will slow the healing process, can seriously damage your tattoo and hurts A LOT!!!!! It’s not worth it, so don’t scratch it.

During scabby stage:

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And, finally, now:

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After about 3 weeks it’s almost entirely healed up and is not even slightly uncomfortable. It was worth the whole thing!
I hope you enjoyed this piece! If you have any comments or questions, please share them in the comments below or over on Facebook or Twitter! X

Mushy Geek Reviews: Big Hero 6 – Love never felt so cuddly

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Despite being released in the U.S in November of last year, Disney’s Big Hero 6 has only just yesterday (January 30th) been released in UK cinemas. I was lucky enough to score tickets to take my sister (with whom I share a love of movies about friendship and sibling bonding) to see a preview showing at the beginning of the month.

We had been looking forward to seeing this movie, set in the U.S-Japan fusion city of SanFransokyo, for months and I couldn’t turn down any chance to see it early.
If it was great, then everything would be great and we’d be delighted a the chance to see it early. If it sucked, then we’d at least learn early and get on with our lives without almost an extra month of suspense.

The very least I can say is that it did NOT suck. Not in the slightest.

Actually, this film quickly shot (even only minutes into the first viewing) to the top of our favourites list and is still with us now. With a perfect and occationally indistinguishable balance of humour and feels, endlessly quotable lines and loveable and memorable characters, this film was exactly what we wanted and so much more.
This film is a beautiful message about love, friendship, self-discovery and forgiveness that we both agreed is exactly what a film aimed at kids should teach. It showed the love and loyalty of siblings, the pain of loss, the turmoil of the grieving process, how to care for those in need of support, the power of friendship and how being a ‘nerd’ is actually really cool.

Each character was interesting enough that they could hold up their own movie, while fitting perfectly into their roles as supporting characters. Gone, I believe, are the days of forgettable and flat supporting characters who drift in and out without making that much of an impact. My sister and I find ourselves quoting the other characters just as much as the lead roles, and that’s fantastic.

Due to some careless spoilers stumbled across online, my sister and I already knew a key plot point near the start of the movie and we thought that might impact our viewing experience. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t actually spoil anything for us as the emotions were still as raw and shaking as they would have been otherwise. We actually kept forgetting about this point from being so wrapped up in the movie that, when we remembered, we honestly couldn’t believe it to be true and thought it was maybe a fake ‘trolling’ spoiler.

Even first thing in the morning, when the taste of toothpaste still overpowered our popcorn and coke, this movie took us in, captivated us from beginning to the very end (meaning the very VERY end, for the post-credit scene that only my sister and I believed would be there) and gave us so much more than we hoped for.
Hero and Baymax are the perfect duo, with Baymax caring for Hero and Hero teaching Baymax about the world (a nice hat-tip to The Terminator 2) and both helping each other to grow. This story tells us that it’s okay to love, have fun, not know what you want, follow your passion, feel pain, heal, lean on your friend and also make mistakes. It is, in mine and my sister’s opinions, a perfect ‘feel good’ film that reminds us that we’re all human and sometimes we need a big air-filled marshmallow robot to cuddle sometimes.

Now for the  conclusions:
Overall enjoyment: I loved this film so much. It was a fantastic experience from beginning to end, with tears and laughter and good messages throughout.

Family friendly: This film is fantastic for people of all ages, great for families (some sensitive themes, but all handled well), solo movie-goers and friends. Great all-round!

Acting: Seriously, so much emotion in the voices and the animated acting was superb. It’s amazing how the beautiful facial animations and voice acting go together to make performances that you totally forget aren’t actually real people.

Visuals: This is a truly beautiful film with a friendly and futuristic look to it, and the incredible fusion between America and Japan is stunning.

Re-watchability: Well my sister and I have said ever day since seeing this film that we want to watch it again and are even planning our next cinema trip to see it again.

Thanks, Disney! We are satisfied with our care. Xx

Learning Language Like A Baby

IMG_1004.JPGLearning a language is easier than people think. Just look at yourself now, you are reading an article written in English by someone probably very very far away from where you are. You most likely learnt this language as a young baby – as your native tongue – or perhaps you learnt the language later in life.

Baby Amy
Me as a baby

Regardless of whether it’s your first, second or sixth language, it got in there. The hard part about learning a language is the getting around your own mind to allow it in. Most of us learnt a language growing up that serves to comminicate with our community in both a written and spoken form (however, some are not so lucky, due to physical or psychological issues) We learn it as we grow for one reason: survival. If we want to get fed, we have to communicate that we are hungry. If we are scared, we need to be able to explain the danger that is facing us.
As a baby, your parents were probably quite good at understanding the babblings and cooings you made as a kind of personalised pre-language to know when you were hungry, sleepy, scared or needed changing. Parents and guardians are very good at picking up on the needs of the people in their care. But you had to be able to communicate better. If you wanted one of the toys in front of you, it would help you acheive getting it if you said ‘Ball’ or ‘truck’, so the listener would know exactly what you wanted.
You aquired language as a necessity for your survival, pleasure and comfort.
Learning a second language requires a bit more work as we try so hard to learn it through our first language. It is very normal to say “What is this in English?” or “So ‘____’ is just like ‘___’ in English?”
When it is a language that is similar to your langage it is okay, but when it is two entirely different languages it gets confusing. One of the biggest problems I am finding in learning Korean and Japanese is that it is so hard to learn it through the context of English, because they are so vastly different. At times, I even find it a lot easier to learn Korean through Japanese, because they are at least slighty similar.
When you were a baby, the only way you could work out what something meant was through context. You would see and hear how it was used and learn from that.
A Korean baby can’t hear the word “비행기” and think “I think that’s Korean for ‘airplane’.” But they hear it said, maybe the parent points at a toy plane or a picture of a plane as they say it and the child will eventually put two and two together.
It can be a slow process, but it’s the best proven method to make you both natural and comfortable in that language – It made you fluent in your native language!
I know it is incredibly tough to learn another language without referencing your native language, but there are a couple of ways that you can try to work around your native tongue.

 

Go Sub-free

Copyright (C) SBS
Copyright (C) SBS

It’s so easy to watch television programs in the language you are studying and always have the subtitles on. It’s the safer and easier option which means you can take everything in as easily as if you were watching a show from your home.
But, you can find that you’ve watched an entire series and barely looked up from the words on the screen!
I love watching Japanese and Korean dramas without subtitles because I can really watch the performances and it’s a great way to test what I know and try to figure out the stuff I don’t know from other sources (i.e how it’s said, the context of the scene and the relationship between the speaker and listener).
It can be tough and you may miss some details, but it really does help (and gives you an excuse to watch it again later)!
Sometimes, as you improve, you will also find ways that the subtitle writers didn’t get it totally right or misunderstood and you can get an even clearer understanding of what the character is saying. I remember watching a Japanese drama where the subtitles consistantly made a mistake that confused me for ages until I watched it without, actually listened to the actual Japanese dialogue and suddenly it all made sense!

Stick to it

sticky note 1One method I use is to put up sticky notes around my bedroom and office space that have words in Japanese and/or Korean that have pictures to describe what the word or phrase means! I don’t put a single word of English on it so that I learn to recognise and appreciate it in that language. It’s a bit like pictionary, if you think about it!

sticky note 2Try to leave sticky notes or flashcards around for yourself so you learn to recognise them with ease. If you’re feeling tricky as you boost the difficulty, perhaps write a description of what the word or phrase means IN the language you’re learning. If you have friends who speak that language fluently, get them to write some of the words and answers for you so that 1) you can’t cheat (because, if you wrote it, you might remember it) and 2) you’ll know for sure that it’s right!

Read it and weep (or don’t weep)

Try buying a book in the language of your choice. Try reading a bit of it from time to time and see how much of it you understand or just try to look at the grammar and sentence structure to get a better understanding of that. Reading an original book in the language will give you a good feeling for how it is consumed on a day-to-day basis and help you really immerse yourself. Don’t worry if the book makes absolutely NO sense to begin with, just keep studying and soon enough you’ll start to pick stuff up.
I bought myself a book of Korean poetry (which was a difficult first choice) and I’m finding with time that I can pick out more and more that I understand. I’ve got a long way to go, but it really helps to have that as a marker of where I’m up to!

Take it social

Again, the more you immerse yourself the more comfortable around the language you will become. I try to make myself unescapably surrounded by all of the languages I am trying to learn – and that includes online too!
On Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I try my best to keep my exposure to language high. I’ll follow Korean and Japanese people on Instagram and Twitter and try my best to read their messages. Interacting with people is great because it’s a perfect opportunity to test your written knowledge and try have a chat with people.
(Of course, always be careful of who you talk to online. There are creeps everywhere and in every language, so always use your common sense when talking to strangers)
I always keep my ‘Trending Topics’ bar on Twitter set to either Japanese or Korean and I’ll make sure that every time I check Twitter that I am reading every trending topic.
On Facebook, I follow the Korean Huffinton Post, Korean stores like G Market and Retrip (a Japanese online magazine) which is great for a casual glance over the news and makes a nice buffer between quizzes and stressed-out revision statuses!

Listen up

Listening to audiobooks, like reading, gives you a subtitle-free and pure exposure to a text but also has the added benefit of being able to hear clear pronunciation, often totally uninterrupted by noisy surroundings or music that you would find in at TV show or movie.
There is a huge wealth of audiobooks available online, so have a look around and have a listen!
I’m currently listening to the Korean radio play adaptation of Don Quichotte by SBS that is available to listen to on Youtube!

I hope this piece is helpful to you! If you have any questions, please share them in the comments or over on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

K-Drama and Actor Names in Korean

It’s great being a foreign consumer of Korean dramas. We get the benefit of having an outsider appreciation for them and can enjoy the community of people to whom these shows are a luxury, not just everyday viewing that can be taken for granted. As an outside consumer, you get the experience of getting to fully appreciate these programs as new and exciting, where often Koreans see shows like this all the time and they aren’t all that special. We get a whole new angle of appreciation, much like foreign viewers of our television shows find them much more exciting than us.

However, it can hinder our appreciation to not know the name of a show or an actor, especially when you are talking to a Korean friend who may not know the English title of the drama you’re discussing. It also comes in handy when writing to know the Hangul for an actor or show – or, if you can’t type it in Korean, you can copy+paste it from here ;).
If you are interested in learning to type Hangul, I’ve done a piece of adding keyboards on Windows and you can also buy hangul stickers to add you to your keyboard to help you type faster:

Drama Titles

Secret Garden – 시크릿 가든
Heirs (The Inheritors) – 상속자들
(The First Shop Of) Coffee Prince – 커피 프린스 1호점
Boys Over Flowers – 꽃보다 남자
My Love From Another Star – 별에서 온 그대
City Hunter – 시티헌터
Sweden Laundry – 스웨덴 세탁소
Healer – 힐러
Kill me, Heal me – 킬미, 힐미
Doctor Stranger – 닥터 이방인
Tomorrow Cantabile – 내일도 칸타빌레
The Great Doctor (or Faith) – 신의
She’s So Lovable (or My Lovable Girl) – 내겐 너무 사랑스러운 그녀
Fun fact: Google Translate thinks that ‘내겐 너무 사랑스러운 그녀’ means ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ which is a 2007 film starring Ryan Gosling, about a man who falls in love with a life size woman doll! You can get it on DVD on Amazon:

Anyway, moving back along!
Reply 1997 – 응답하라 1997
Good Doctor – 굿 닥터
Rooftop Prince – 옥탑방 왕세자
You’re Beautiful – 미남이시네요
School 2013 – 학교 2013

Iris – 아이리스
Flower Boy Ramyun Shop – 꽃미남 라면가게
To The Beautiful You – 아름다운 그대에게
Personal Taste – 개인의 취향
Emergency Couple – 응급남녀

You may notice that a few of these titles are actually the English words written in Hangul, such as “Good Doctor” and “Secret Garden”. That’s quite common to find in Korean dramas, though I’m not too sure why!

Now, knowing Korean actor’s names comes in very handy, especially when trying to look up accurate filmographies and interviews. Here is a list of just some of the names that you may need to know (If I happen to miss someone you want to know, just ask in the comments or on Facebook)

Lee Min ho – 이민호
Kim Soo Hyun – 김수현
Park Shin hye – 박신혜
Kim Woo Bin – 김우빈
Jun Ji Hyun – 전지현
T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun) – 최승현
Park Min Young – 박민영
Hyun Bin – 현빈
Suzy – 수지
Lee Jong Suk – 이종석
Ha Ji Won – 하지원
Sandara Park – 박산다라
Song Joong Ki – 송중기
Park Yoo Chun – 박유천
Gong Yoo – 공유

You may notice as you learn more Korean that the Romanized spellings of some Korean names don’t fully match the original. This is, again, another example of how relying on romanizaion can hold back your progress and do more harm than good. It’s best to try to learn hangul as soon as you can as it will help your progress with the language all around. I actually found it really helpful to read Korean names as a way to practice my hangul and pronunciation.

I hope you enjoyed this piece! If you have any comments or questions please share them in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter! Xx

Using Kdramas To Learn Korean

©SBS
©SBS

Learning Korean is fun and rewarding, but it isn’t the easiest language there is to learn. This means that we need a helping hand where possible, and television can be really useful. As well as studying Korean in textbooks and online, I use Korean dramas to reinforce my learning. It is really useful to have a casual and native source of dialogue where there is little to no risk of being taught meaningless phrases – which has happened to me a number of times.
A lot of foreigners use British and American television for learning English, so it makes sense that it works in the reverse.

Really listen

I know it’s easy when watching the dramas to kind of glaze over the words being spoken (with the usual exception of ‘oppa’, ‘eonni’, ‘eotteoke’ and ‘jinjja’) and just watch the subtitles all the time. You’re going to have to curb that habit and pay attention to the dialogue. Listen to the words and try to learn the individual words and phrases.
If a phrase sticks out at you that you understand, write it down and try to listen out for when it pops up in future.

Compare

Korean books 2When you study Korean in the textbooks, try to listen out for each of the phrases you learn in the dramas you watch. Some of them, like “남대문 열려있다”/”namdaemun yeolyeoitda” (Translation: “The south gate is open.” Meaning: “Your fly is open”) will not occur very much, but listening out for the Korean you know will get you hearing and beginning to comprehend the dialogue you are hearing.

Turn off subtitles

When you are beginning to find your feet in the language, try turning off the subtitles and watching the drama without them and seeing, from the amount of Korean you know, how much you understand of what is going on in the story.
It might not make a ton of sense for a while, but you’ll start understanding more and more with time, practice and immersion.

Personal taste

Just like anywhere in the world, people’s voices can differ hugely and that can be a big help to hear and identify little details in the language that you many not have noticed before. Listen for the way individual actors speak as a way of helping your comprehension and pronunciation. Lee Min Ho speaks Korean quite differently from his former ‘Heirs’ co-star Kim Woo Bin and Kim Soo Hyun’s voice isn’t the same as Bigbang’s T.O.P (Choi Seung Hyun).
Also, pay attention to the little bits of emphasis in the words. Those could go a long way to helping you remember the meaning, the way to convey emotion in the voice as well as help you to hear every sound in the word (which comes in very handy when you’re learning to write in Hangul)

Getting it right way ’round

One of the things that listening to Korean dramas helps with the most is sentence structure. Because the speaking is so natural, but slower than the usual conversation between Korean people (which is incredibly fast), it is easier to hear which order the words come in for more complex sentences than you are often taught in textbooks. In textbooks, the phrases you are taught are often very basic, but dialogue is a lot more complex, and thus great for learning practical skills needed for natural conversation.

Overall, try to focus on the language with as little relation to English as possible. It is its own unique language, and the less you try to understand it with regard to a totally different language, the better grasp of it you will develop in time. Understand that also a lot of words and phrases don’t directly translate to English. For example, the phrase “힘내요” is used to say “It’s okay” or “Don’t worry”, but often it is translated as “Cheer up”, which can mean that it is often misused and seems weird when used in the correct context, because it doesn’t match up with the English “meaning”.

I really hope this piece helps you to improve your Korean study (and perhaps give you a good excuse for more Kdrama marathons). Let me know what you think of this piece in the comments below and come join us on the Facebook and Twitter! X