Studying Korean Level 4 at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)

I have never been able to find a review for studying Korean as part of the Language Institute at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). Granted its not the most well known program (Yonsei, Seoul National and Sogang often take the lead) but SKKU is not without its own unique selling points.

This was my second Level at SKKU, and the teacher we had for the first half of the week was amazing. The first lesson after Orientation, we sit down and she says:

“You are going to make lots of mistakes, but that’s okay because we will correct them all.”

Thank God. Even if you don’t have any problems with anxiety the idea of making mistakes can be so daunting so having this cleared up from the get go filled me with a lot more confidence.

The next speaking lesson however … PERSONALITY VOCAB … AGAIN! If you read my post about Level 3 you will know this was covered in the beginning of the previous semester so I was over it at this point. Especially when they decide to introduce a bajillion more. 5 months after being introduced to it all am I finally getting my head round all of them. I think writing about Winnie the Pooh characters using those verbs helped a lot …

Moving on …

Required Books 

  • 배우기 쉬운 한국어 4
  • 말하기 쉬운 한국어 7+8
  • Level 4 Workbooks

*The Level 4 Grammar Workbook was massive. And we barely used most of the exercises in the speaking one.

Format

Lessons are from 9am till 3pm with 10 minute breaks every hour and an hour and 10 minute break for lunch at 11:20am. (They give you a timetable and everything is mapped out).

Grammar is always in the mornings and is all in Korean – if you haven’t done studying all in Korean before, look up Korean grammar terms before you come to class because I was lost for the first day.

Speaking is in the afternoon which has its pluses (its often more laid back and involves more interaction) but comes with its downsides (if you aren’t switched on its so easy to get lost).

Memorable Activities 

So this Level knows how to make a shit ton of vocab and grammar fun.

We did a lot of fun speaking games, way more fun than Level 3 and they seemed to be geared more towards everyday life. We got to pretend to be couple counselors, job interviewers/interviewees and even set up our own businesses.

The trip (I actually went on this one) was to MBC’s Global Studio (?) all the way on the outside of Seoul. But as you can see from the pictures above it was really interactive and fun to bond with the class. If you want to read more about the trip you can visit my blog post on it here.

Presentations

Oh my God the presentations were intense … and I am going to have difficulty remembering them all. There were 2 main ones (as far as I can remember) but we had a ton of on-the-spot presentations which were perhaps way more stressful.

*Quite a few of our speaking activities were included in the speaking exams for both midterm and finals.

  1. Survey Presentation – This presentation we did in pairs and is similar to the Survey Presentation in Level 3 only much more advanced. We had to create page long surveys, only ask Koreans (all in Korean) and then make a Powerpoint on the results which we presented.
  2. Debate Presentation – This one was hard. We were in groups of four and had to pick a debate topic from the ones on the board and prepare arguments for and against. They then told us on the day which side we would be arguing. The prep took forever and rehearsing was a nightmare but it was a good experience and really challenges listening.

Grammar

The grammar covered in this level added to the grammar we learnt in the previous one but gave alternatives with similar meanings that focused on written material. We also had a lot of spoken grammar which was hard to use in exams because it was based on reactions to people. The way the grammar was laid out in these workbooks was my favourite (they change it up each level and I don’t know why). Each one had a short explanation in Korean so you had a vague idea before it was taught.

Vocabulary

Needless to say this level was vocab heavy – almost 2500 words in 2 months. The only problem I have is with the vocab learnt during grammar. We never used it outside of grammar class for that week and then had it come up in exams. Only way to do it was to memorise it but with vocab from speaking which you used more often and grammar to revise this often gets pushed back. If there was more practice during class it would feel a bit more useful. Having said this, the vocab we learnt during speaking class was more useful.

*I noticed especially in this level a lot of image and health related vocab came up including mental health (which the teachers didn’t always explain well …) which I found slightly triggering. Its doable just know if you are sensitive use the support you have 🙂

Vocab topics included health, jobs, counselling (couples), food, holidays, saving money (this one was fun), the army and personalities. Again, a lot of hanja vocab but if you want to take your Korean to the next level it can become quite useful.

I made a Memrise course for Level 4 here.

Teaching

SKKU seems to be good at pairing its teachers. We always had a lively, more extroverted teacher in the beginning of the week and a more mellow teacher at the end. I preferred the beginning teacher because I have concentration issues but both were really good. I could always ask either one for advice and they taught us a lot of things that were outside the syllabus. I always walked away with fun stories and a good understanding of what had been taught.

Overall

If I have one complaint it is that this level was rushed … like early morning train doors closing rushed. We went through some chapters of the textbook in a day, skipped whole speaking chapters and exercises leaving pages in the workbook blank (I could bitch for England about the waste of paper) and some days it didn’t feel like we had spent enough time being taught the stuff they were throwing at us.

I think if you want to pass this level you need to memorize everything and then go over it in depth later if you really want to get the most out of it. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to do the exercises for grammar (which were always homework), learn the new vocab from both grammar and speaking, complete the large amount of writing practices and eat, sleep and prep for the next day.

We did this level from November to December so we had no holidays to fall back on. I don’t think I went out at all whilst studying because it was so intense.

Having said all this, I made some good friends, had lots of laughs and did generally enjoy class.

Testing – Listening, speaking and then grammar exams with a pass at 70% (not as bad as it sounds). They provide you with a sheet beforehand telling you what will be in the exam and what things you can avoid revising without backlash.

I didn’t want to include everything in the level as it would take away some of the fun I had feeling my way but I know I wished I had a heads up of what to expect. I hope this has helped give you an idea of what studying at SKKU entails and if it is the right place for you (but nothing beats going in and doing it yourself). I’m gonna be posting Level 5 in review as well (I am left early so did not do Level 6) but hopefully it will help, until next time… ~Ruthie

P.S. Check out my review of Level 3 here.

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