Free Language Classes in Pittsburgh

Free Language Classes in Pittsburgh

Hi dear readers,

It’s been a while, as usual. This time, I have been actually really very busy. As I stated in some previous post (or did I at all?), I have taken some 5 grad courses, I have research to do and then I have a part time job for which I have to pull all-nighters twice a week. So, I am pretty busy. I have been unable to keep up with new anime even. However, I do find time to go to anime club every week. I have missed only twice this semester. I have been to quite a few movies as well and meet friends not from my department at least bi-weekly. Now that I have written it down, I realize I am really enjoying this sem. And then, I have joined these free language classes which will be the main focus of this post.

One of my Chinese friends knew how interested I was in languages (she herself is a big fan of Big Bang and hence is interested in learning Korean) and she took me to these free language classes that are held in Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (by volunteers I think, not sure). I have joined Korean, which is held every Saturday, Japanese which happens every other Monday and the Russian which happens every alternate Thursday. There are options for Chinese, French, German and Spanish as well. I wanted to join Spanish but had already missed number of classes so gave up on it.

First of all, let me review Korean classes. I joined Korean classes when they had already done 8 weeks of work, out of which 4 weeks were spent in learning the alphabet supposedly. Thank God for that. The best part about these classes is that there is structure, there is review and there are buddies to practice with. We have learnt the general stuff in Korean till now: Where do you go?, Your family, What do you like?, making verbs out of nouns etc. etc. This time, the grammar sticks! Because we’re continuously using it in practice. We form pairs and try to talk. The teacher is really helpful and cute as well. And since she is not actually a teacher, we get to learn from a commoner’s perspective: the commoner’s language. I have been to 2-3 classes and enjoyed them thoroughly. This is the most fun class out of three.

For Japanese, since it happens once in two weeks, I have gone to only 2 classes. They were teaching very basic stuff: What do you like, time etc. I was planning on dropping this class because I thought my level was definitely above than that. However, yesterday, when I got to know that minutes in Japanese are ‘ふん’ and not ‘ぶん’ which I had thought was the case all along (for like 5 years! Gosh!), I realized I have never really paid attention to the details. I was also struggling with numbers greater than 10 somehow (THESE ARE SUCH ELEMENTARY THINGS!! No wonder I don’t pass my JLPT exams ;-;). Well, it gave a huge blow to my confidence but after the practice session, I did get a little bit of it back. So now I am planning to go through it till the end. And if I end up interning in summers in CMU only, then I’ll have access to the new semester of classes, so I can join Spanish and French and second level classes for the ones I am learning already.

Third is Russian. The first class for me was a disaster. Not because the classes were bad, but because I had missed more classes than I had thought I had. I joined them in probably 5th class and though the class was small (like 8 people) all of them were proficient with the alphabet. I had learnt their alphabet 2 years ago, so obviously I didn’t remember anything. But the teacher was quite patient with me and let me attend the classes. I promised her to learn the alphabet before next class and I did well with reading in the next class (a small yay!). I have no clue what happened in the classes I missed though. The one I attended, we talked about family, pronouns and gender. I have also started with duolingo for Russian. Russian is totally alien to me except one song I hear in Ukrainian which is distantly related to Russian language including similar alphabet. But I am enjoying learning it thus far because the teacher is interesting as well.

Here is a link for if you’re in Pittsburgh and interested in attending the free classes: Pittsburgh Free Language Classes
They will start new ‘semester’ of classes in summer, May I think. Check their website for more info.

So, this is what I am doing apart from all the academic stuff. I would have loved to post pics of worksheets but it might be copyright violation so I won’t do that. I’ll post the song I talked about above.

Planning to Plan in 2017

Planning to Plan in 2017

I am not one of those who plan their days, weeks and months. Like, I do make a mental note of what to do in the day but I am unable to follow most of it. Even if I do start making to-do lists, that goes on for one week, may be two at max. This time I decided to change it and went for weekly planner.

Best part is, I got it for FREE! Yup, that’s right. I went for this one: How Life Unfolds Printable Weekly Planner. At CMU, we get a semester quota of 40$ for printing and I had some amount left at the end of the semester. I decided to print these for 26 weeks. Although, colored prints would’ve looked good I didn’t have enough balance to go for that. Nonetheless, black and white does the same work as colored one, so that’s that.

Anyway, I don’t have one of the written ones with me right now but the one I use looks something like this:

weekly-planner-front
Front
weekly-planner-back
Back

There are other templates on the above link, so you can try out whatever suits your taste.

I generally start with writing my weekly goals down on top of front page. Then for each day, I write my agenda on the left hand side and what I actually did on the right hand side at the end of the day. In back, I use the space for notes to list down the groceries I need to buy and my meal plan based on what is available to me and what groceries I am planning to buy and on which day of the week (since due to meetings and extra classes the day of grocery shopping might change).

As I said earlier, I am quite inconsistent when it comes to to-do lists. That is why I only printed 26 sheets. I already skipped last week because it was the first full week of the semester with my on-campus job and loads of meetings. Now I can settle down and plan my stuff accordingly. When I am able to accomplish what I set for the day, the sense of achievement is heavenly.

Not that I am not procrastinating. I definitely am. Given the new hectic schedule, many things are going on back burner. I need to gear up more.

By the way, when I made my time table for the semester this time, including major stuff which cannot be skipped in any way, like meal prep, classes, sleep, job, I realised I had so much free time to study. I hadn’t really ever counted how much I was wasting out of it. Unsurprisingly, max was going into social media and addiction to my east Asian entertainment (after cutting some of it for meal prep). I decided to use pomodoro technique to keep me on the track. Let’s see for how many days it works.

What are your planning techniques this year?

My Penny Pinching Secrets

My Penny Pinching Secrets

Continuing from my last post I think it’s about time that I write a bit about my finances. I won’t elaborate much but I am glad I am maintaining at about (500 +/- 30)$ per month including rent, utilities and groceries.

As I said last time, I have heard and read many stories where a lot of students couldn’t afford their rent or food. Hence, they would live in shabby places and eat noodles to save on time and money. Honestly speaking, I draw my inspiration from them. I am fortunate to have enough to live in an apartment and eat all my meals everyday. However, I won’t deny that I still live a frugal lifestyle, without spending much on luxuries. But if I do find something which I would regret not buying later, I do go ahead with that purchase. Before I start, I would say that after my rent, phone, internet and electricity bills, I am left with about 80$ a month for groceries and other things.

Now, it is not to say that I cannot ask for more. I definitely can. But, to be honest, loans scare me. Debt is always scary, even if you have a job with you. Also, it doesn’t fit right with me that I ask my parents for money beyond absolute necessity (this is the Indian scenario and parents support their children financially till whenever parents wish). Hence, I try. Keeping my budget under 500 has been difficult. It means less occasional outings whether for food or vacations or just shopping. I did try some things to earn from here and there, since I was a new student and couldn’t really get an on campus job last sem. So, what did I do? Here is a list:

  1. I got my rent reduced because I agreed to live in living room: We are three students sharing a 2 bed 2 bath apartment (sharing an apartment rather than having your own studio apartment is always cheaper). Hence, the third person had to manage with living room. I agreed to live in the living room for a reduction of 50$ per month in my rent. With a separator, it pretty much feels like a room/ private space to me. So, I am happy. For that, your flatmates need to be adjusting though. My flatmate who has a private bath in her room was fine with her rent increasing by 50$ per month, then only I could do this.
    rent-reduced
  2. I signed up for various apps where I could save/ earn money: Ok, so this is bit of a stretch, but I signed up for various grocery cashback apps which give cashback on select grocery items in their catalogs. They are especially useful for people who eat (especially cook) non-veg and have drinks. I haven’t cashed out anything from these apps yet apart from an Amazon Gift card of very small amount from ReceiptPal and 27$ worth check from InboxDollars very recently. I won’t review any of those because there are plenty reviews out there. However, I would list down what all I use: 

    a. InboxDollars: This is a survey site where you can earn money doing various activities apart from taking surveys. The thing I like the most about them is their TV section. I put the TV on on the website and keep doing my work. After sometime, it does ask to click a button to confirm if I have been watching the videos, but even if I am not, I can just refresh the page and the playlist of videos starts all over again. (They have put a cap of 50 cents per day recently which is disappointing!)
    I recently cashed out a 27$ check from them after three months of joining. That too, because I did not know about the earnings from TV section. Earnings from occasional surveys add up too.
    Beware that this is not a place where you can become rich or earn your rent. But it’s enough to make about 30 bucks per two months passively. If you do surveys (which are hard to qualify for, just a heads up) and other stuff actively, you can earn more. People say they have made upto 70$ per month on the site being more active. Well, grad students don’t have that much time.
    Right now they’re giving 5$ to any new member who joins. And if you’re interested, you can use my referral as well: InboxDollar Referral
    inboxdollar


    b. Apps like Checkout51, Ibotta, Shopmium, SavingStar: They all are apps which give cashback on groceries you buy. They have new list of items every week and you just have to unlock that particular item and scan your receipt. While Ibotta has many selections, they generally need membership details for the given store and Aldi is not there (the place where I do my major grocery shopping from.)
    Checkout51 has number of stores but their variety  in items is dropping down. However, these both would be my go to cashback apps. I haven’t cashed out anything from these yet but it never hurts to get some cents back on your purchase every time passively. One day, they will all add up. Walmart’s Saving Catcher is another option if you do your major shopping from Walmart. I’ll write down the referral codes for these too –
    Ibotta: rflsgnl (if you sign up using this code, you earn 10$ and I get 5$).
    I still don’t know how coupons work, but if I ever get time, I would like to try those too!

    c. Apps like ReceiptPal, Yaarlo: I particularly like Receiptpal because you get a 1$ increment in Amazon Gift card for each 16 receipts you upload on their app. It can be anything whatever you buy. You read it right! I did sign up for Yaarlo but I am not very happy with its earnings. Nonetheless, nothing goes in snapping a picture or two of your grocery receipts. Another app is ReceiptHog, similar ot ReceiptPal, however they don’t have any space with them and I have been on the waiting list for 3 months already. I won’t really recommend that.
    Referral Code: Yaarlo: 4AUCKPG1667

    The only catch here is, none of them is super fast. For some, it might be time consuming to just check out offers too. I check them out on bus or when I am idling around with social media etc. But trust me, when I received that 27$ check on 5th Jan from InboxDollars (I had won a 10$ worth target gift card too earlier), and when I deposited it to my account, I was overjoyed. Seeing that account balance going up always makes one happy.

  3. I stopped eating outside: Not exactly. But yeah, I do my cooking entirely at home. Not only do I save money but my diet restrictions also has something to do with it. I am a vegetarian. I don’t eat eggs even in things like cake etc. but in US even pasta can have egg. Hence, I avoid all outside food whenever I can. A lot of people complain they don’t get time to cook because cooking takes up a lot of time. I have observed that with time, you start taking less and less time in cooking. Also, you can always spend less time on facebook.
    Home cooked food is fresh, healthy and cheap (I did some calculations and one meal comes out to be less than a dollar when I cook all the meals in a month by myself). And I will emphasize on healthy. My parents, who have always had healthy food in their youth are struggling in their 40s. I can’t imagine maintaining my body that long given all the junk I have already consumed. I want to keep fit with exercise and good diet. That is also one motivation behind me cooking everyday. I also save time when I make all my meals for the day in the morning. Or may be on Sunday and use them till Tuesday. Whatever arrangement works for you. That one hour affair pays me for the whole day(s). Proper nutrition also means more energy and better concentration.
  4. participated in researches: A lot of colleges are involved in researches where they need help of human subjects. Not talking about experiments on you but just interviewing, aptitude tests kind of thing. Try to find if that happens in your college. Mine has a huge system where various studies are available. They don’t pay much but if doing fun activities for 20 minutes is giving me 10-15 bucks, I am totally up for it. The mistake I did was, I was too ashamed and egoistic to sign up for them for a meager amount. But when I participated for the first time, I found it to be a relaxing activity. The hospital and another university near me pays as high as 600$ for some studies. Without an SSN, that particular study would have paid me 150$. Not bad for 6 hours of your life. (I didn’t qualify for it though, so that’s that).
  5. Find an on-campus job: Goes without saying. It is the best way to earn money and add something on your resume. Because I did not have one last sem, I tried all of the above to make/ save some extra.

Some more things you can do is to stay away from subscriptions you don’t need. I don’t really watch TV, so I don’t have any netflix or hulu subscription. I use WhatsApp or free video calling apps to call home. Another thing I have heard about is, you can, in general negotiate your monthly bills in US. I have no experience in that at all though. Investment? Well sure, if you can. I don’t have that much money or aptitude to start investing in US yet, but some day soon.

Initial expenditures can blow anyone away. I spent whopping 2000$ in my first one and a half month here. After that, I have been trying to take care of my budget. I did start noting down all my expenditures. Writing down keeps my desire to spend more in check (or checking your account balance frequently 😛). I am not bothered about people saying that I am stingy. Because at the end of the day, I want to be in less and less debt without ruining my health. I know the feeling of spending my hard earned money without any pressure of loans on me and I would like to achieve that state as soon as possible. Hence, I am not afraid, not concerned of ‘missing out on stuff’ right now. Nor do I forget to reward myself once in a while with good food or something I really wish to buy. I rewarded myself with food from my favorite restaurant very recently on finally landing an on-campus job. These kind of rewards keep me motivated to do better as well.

So, these were some of the things I have been following till now to manage my finances in US. What are your pet peeves?

(Pics credits to their respective owners)

K-movie review: Penny Pinchers (티끌모아 로맨스)

K-movie review: Penny Pinchers (티끌모아 로맨스)

Being an international student in US from a modest family background, I like to think a lot about how and where to spend my money, especially when it is coming out of my parents’ pockets and student loan. The movies suggested by various websites to me, it seems, are also related to the topic (given the infamous issue of data collection for the websites visited by users, it comes as no surprise). And hence, I stumbled upon this romantic comedy starring Song Joong Ki and Han Ye Seul.

Penny pinchers 3

Plot: Chun Ji Woong (Song Joong Ki) comes from a not so rich family where his mother owns a small diner. Being the pampered child, he has never had a problem with money. He lives off the allowance from his mother and is looking for a job. Not to say, he keeps failing the job interviews on account of his carefree and careless personality.

On the other hand, Gu Hong Sil (Han Ye Seul) is very diligent when it comes to money, having been brought up by a gambler father. She doesn’t shy away from stealing sugar sachets from cafes to save pennies. She even goes and salvages whatever she can from destroyed homes to earn small amounts and lives frugally. Thus, in five years, she has managed to save almost $200,000 which has been her goal since the beginning.

Both of them live in the opposite buildings and the neighborhood happens to have been sold for making a mall or something and every one is being evicted. By chance, Chun Ji Woong’s mother’s diner gets destroyed by a boar. Having flunked another job interview he is now penniless. Gu Hong Sil decides to take him in and teach him her penny pinching secrets. There is a catch though. Chun Ji Woong has to listen to whatever she says without questioning her. Gu Hong Sil manages to recruit him in her plans while using his name to open another account and put her hard earned money into it to evade taxes. However, Chun Ji Woong has life lessons for her too. And she learns to spend that money for her own sake. In the meantime, romance develops between both of them which is a given, of course. But is she successful in reaching her goal? That is something you need to find out.

Comments: Having been released in 2012 and Song Joong Ki being such a popular actor, I am surprised at the dearth of English subbed versions of this movie. Comedy is apt. Acting is outstanding. Song Joong Ki has done awesome job to channel the dorky and nonchalant character of Chun Ji Woong. Han Ye Seul’s acting, I found a bit lacking compared to her counterpart when it came to emotional scenes but otherwise, her portrayal of serious and badass Gu Hong Sil is……. just badass. I don’t remember the songs, so they didn’t have much impact for me. There is story and there is a bit of comedy. And that is enough for a one time watch, I think.

Penny pinchers 4

Another subject movie touches is the life of NEETS. There are tons of people like Chun Ji Woong and his friends who are looking or rather pretending to look for jobs to satisfy themselves and those around them that they are putting efforts. The stress of not finding the job pushes them to drink more alcohol and hit gaming arcades etc. all the time. I won’t say much about how Gu Hong Sil actually earns money, because hey, there are all sorts of unconventional ways to do that. Doing a job and earning money does not fit everyone’s style.

Lessons Learnt: Yes yes, it does teach you how to save money, that too subtly, but it goes to extreme ways. The two most important take away from the movie are:
1. Learn to save the money. There are other methods of pinching pennies but yeah, one needs to save money no matter what. It always helps. I personally wouldn’t follow all the ways shown in the movie though.
2. Never trust anyone when it comes to money. If something is too good to be true, it is supposed to be that way only. Learn to read between the lines when investing your money as well.

Penny pinchers 2

Other thoughts: People have told me that I keep whining about money all the time. That is what grad studies do to you, when the future is bleak and you have loans and everyone’s expectations behind you. Nonetheless, if you manage well, you can minimize your expenses. This movie will inspire another post from me telling what all I do to save whatever I can without compromising my health and meals. Not that I am the best source for the same. But given that there are so many examples of students who lived their grad lives on ramen noodles due to lack of time and mostly money, I feel like my perspective to keep myself healthy will be refreshing for some. For my parents don’t want anything else from me but good health and happy life for myself. Since they are spending so much money on me, I personally think that I owe them at least this much.
Penny pinchers 1

Side Story: Nothing much this time, semester starts next week. The vacations came to an end without me doing anything productive. I tried Wanikani after months and for first three levels, I got only 51% correct. So I have forgotten my Japanese and I am afraid to test myself on Italian now. I will need to start afresh :/

Today’s song: I have been listening to trance music these days. However, I think I’ll post another song from Black Pink:

 

(Picture and MV credits go to their respective owners)

New Year Greetings and Updates

New Year Greetings and Updates

Oops! I skipped two weekends again? Oh no!

Anyway, a very warm and happy new year to everyone. Another year has passed by and I already did a review of my 2016. However, I do think I wrote that post a bit early as a lot has happened after that. I won’t bore you with those trivial details, but I wrote in the same post that I would tell everyone a bit about how I came to love blogging again.

Some time last year, no wait, it’s 2017 and I am talking about 2015, so last to last year, I started feeling that posting on my blog at one particular fixed time had become a task. I had never heard of post schedulers and my schedule has always been erratic. Sometimes I had so much to write about, other times, nothing at all. For keeping posting schedule on track, I even tried to rope in some of fellow anime watchers and reviewers to do some guest posting on my blog, but they turned out to be exactly like me lol, and the plan failed. In the end, I was just procrastinating. I did it to the point that I would watch 10 shows, begin with the writing process, forget about the post and the show and the unfinished post would remain in my drafts, forever!

This year, after joining CMU, I took a course in Science Technology and Innovation Policy. It was about 8 weeks course (half a semester) and we were asked to write a weekly blog entry in the latter half of the course. We were also supposed to write a weekly journal describing what we learnt in the class that week.

Now most of the people, including me, would say that when something you like doing becomes a necessary task to be done, it becomes boring, you lose motivation to do it. It was the case in here too, but I don’t know why, it actually became fun later. And I decided to take up blogging here again. I posted one or two posts right after my semester got over and I fell down in the trap of k-dramas and anime again. However, I haven’t lost the motivation to write till now.

And, I am yet to discover the reason for that. If I could apply that reason to everything I do, wouldn’t I start enjoying every activity, every task? I hope I will realize that sooner. Till then, I will keep going with sheer determination.

Side Story 1: How did you spend you new year? I spent my new year with running man, and maaaan, it’s so hilarious. The initial episodes are crazy. Finding the subbed episodes is tough of course, but people from respective fandoms of idols guesting on the show have done a great job and I am so thankful to them. I do hope SBS starts officially translating shows like KBS one day so that international fans can enjoy them too. They get to earn through YouTube ads, so why not?

Today’s song: This song has been my solace and motto for quite some time now:

Webtoon Recommendation: Divine Bells (신령)

Webtoon Recommendation: Divine Bells (신령)

I was going through the drafts on my blog today and there is no text in any of my drafts. I don’t understand what happened. Anyway, I see that a lot of people are getting interested in webtoons lately and hence, I decided to rewrite this piece (because the earlier text I wrote is now missing).

Plot: Divine Bells is a historical fantasy by Lee Hye which tells the story of prince of an unknown country in the land of six kingdoms. In this world, if a girl has divine powers, she is considered a priestess but if a guy has divine powers, he’s considered unlucky (ok, some messed up world this is). The story starts with the ceremony of divine bells choosing their owner.

There are eight divine bells which appeared 150 years ago (they were actually made by a powerful witch/ priestess). They choose their masters, mostly kings of the six kingdoms and the number of divine bells possessed by a kingdom determines their influence. Till now, kingdom of Dae Hyun has possessed three divine bells and kingdom of Myung Joo, none. Others have either one or two divine bells with them. The king of Dae Hyun has recently passed away, and hence, our protagonist, king Hong Ryung has come to take part in the ‘divine bells choosing their owner’ ceremony for the same reason. However, everyone is of the opinion that the three divine bells will choose king of Dae Hyun again. Hong Ryung has no interest in the ceremony either.

But, call it fate (or the author), one of the divine bells ends up choosing Hong Ryung. Hong Ryung, himself is a kid and faces opposition from his late dad’s concubine Chui Bi who wants her own son to be the king. The story develops from here to reveal what divine bells actually are, who Hong Ryung’s real enemies and friends are, why he is chosen so suddenly by one of the bells and ultimately, his role in saving/ destroying the world (No spoilers! Phew!).

Art: I love the art. It’s minimal yet portrays everything. There are some scenes which become vertical from horizontal to show the full extent of the cut, which is a bit annoying. But the author changes the drawing style, I would rather say the drawing style evolves throughout the webtoon. The colors become brighter later and it keeps getting better and better (when will I be able to do something like that?).

Characters: There are lots and lots of twists. I read it while it was still publishing, so it seemed slow to me, but since I was writing a review now, I read it once again. 140 chapters aren’t that much. Pace feels okay now. Character development is not bad. Villains become friends and friends become the enemies, there are many many and huuuuuge plot twists. Every character has got time of their own. However, I would have loved it if each divine bell had much more screen time of their own than they were given. You see Hong Ryung transform from a ‘no fucks given’ to the sympathetic guy who prepares to sacrifice himself for the world (well, he is protagonist after all).  Rest you can find out on your own.

On account of not spoiling the story too much, I have to withhold the names, so I cannot say much. But I would highly recommend this one to anyone who has slightest interest in fantasy and history or just general interest in webtoons. There are quite a few elements of comedy as well. Read it here: Divine Bells on EG Scans

Now for today’s song (I don’t even know why I am listening to this one on repeat, it’s neither Korean nor Japanese, it’s an ENGLISH SONG!!!!):

 

(The credits for images goes to their respective owners. None of the images are mine.)

My 2016 In Review

My 2016 In Review

Oops! I realise I have taken too long a break! In the meantime, I have accumulated so much to write about. And I am finally a bit free, like comparably. My semester exams are over and I finally have some time to myself. Not that I wasn’t watching anime or k-dramas before.

Anime updates: For fall anime, as usual, I started with a bunch, dropped quite a few. And hence, I am again remaining withslice of life or sports anime with me: Natsume Yuujinchou, 3-gatsu no lion, Yuri on ice, Haikyuu, Days etc. Haikyuu finished quite early, only 10 episodes, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Days was summer anime, I think. Although many people have been disappointed with the anime, I liked it nonetheless. Yuri on ice is a different one, enjoyable though. Natsume, as usual is the best! I will miss Natsume TT_TT

K-drama updates: I watched quite a few k-dramas this year: DOTS, The K2, W (I loved W by the way. Recommended to a friend as his first k-drama and he fell for the plot as well!! Brought another person to this world, yes!). This time I have picked up Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo and Goblin. I feel Kim Bok Joo is better than Legend of Blue Sea, it might be my personal preference though. Initial episodes of Legend of Blue Sea were hilarious, but I can’t see where the drama is going now. Whereas, it is easier to relate with Kim Bok Joo. Goblin is utterly hilarious! Tvn and JTBC have made some real gems this year.

Other dramas: In the latter half, I watched quite a few other dramas as well. Love O2O, Virtuous queen of Han Dynasty etc. I don’t remember all the names but for rom-com, love O2O is my recommendation, for now. If I remember any other which I found good, will update the post.

Variety updates: Weekly idol had been my top choice for this year as well. However, I am losing interest in it somehow. I finished whatever English subbed episodes were available for Knowing Bros. I took a bit interest in K-pop star 6 as well. The absolute favorite of mine is however Go Fighting! I started watching it for Lay but the comedy is the best. Highly recommended variety show (I am yet to try running man by the way.)

K-pop updates: Infinite! Infinite! Infinite! Yes, my recent favorite boy band came with an album this year and the title song grew up on me as usual. I got into VIXX as well, courtesy to my sister, and now I am a fan. I don’t really listen to YG groups, but black pink has certainly caught my attention. I like Big Bang’s recent song Fxxk it too. Other than that, Lay and Sistar did a good job. Lay’s ‘monodrama’ has been on my playlist for quite sometime.

Webtoons and Manga Updates: I were to release my translations for some manga but then my college started, and I did not find time to put the text in those blurbs at all. And my sister fried the hard disk of my old laptop, so all my work is gone now :/ Many webtoons ended this year, I dropped almost all of the ones I was reading because updates were really slow. Same with manga. I dropped Dice, Thousand Nine Tails, TAL, City of Dead Sorcerer, Skip Beat, Haikyuu (Damnit! Didn’t know they were these many) I am still waiting for Barakamon updates. I started reading Tsubaki-chou lonely planet, again courtesy to my sister. Another one is Fujiwara-kun no Daitai Tadashii, because I was translating it.

Language Learning Updates: Both of my languages are on hold and whatever I learnt till now went down the drain. The revision is on my agenda right now. I borrowed tons of books from my library for some winter reading, I am going to hoard some more. Let’s get some motivation!!

These are my updates for now. In weather updates, Pitts weather is super erratic. One day, it’s sunny with 15 deg C temperature, next day it’s snowing with -5 deg C temperature. Really weird.

Anyway, I need to get back and do some work so that I can write more tomorrow. I will also update a bit about the courses I took this semester and how I came to love blogging once again. See you all and happy holidays!

And for the customary song in each post, here:

I Am Finally At CMU!

I Am Finally At CMU!

Hi guys,

It’s been quite a while since I came to my blog (I have been monitoring my stats though, lol). And the reason is, *drum roll* I have been preparing for higher studies. I finally landed in US three weeks ago. And the college I am going to attend is Carnegie Mellon University. Studying in such a reputed university is a dream come true. Which also means more responsibilities and lesser time.

I couldn’t keep up my schedule while preparing for here, I can’t imagine if I will get time for writing. But I promise, I’ll try my best. So, the classes have started and I am still pretty confused about the classes I should take. I have registered for 4 courses, which everyone says is more than enough for a master student but I just feel like I am too free. May be because it’s just the second day of the classes.

But otherwise, the profs are cool, everyone is really helpful and what I like the most is the collaborative nature of the education here. No wait! On second thought, what I like the most is that you can eat and drink in the class and no one would bother you. Sometimes, when you enter the class, it’s smelling of salad, but yeah, pretty convenient.

Food reminds me, it’s really difficult to get used to American diet. I am vegetarian plus I don’t eat eggs in anything, not even cakes and stuff. On the top of that, I am not very fond of cheese either. So eating outside is no option for me anyway. I generally cook for myself, but I need to improve in this field too *sigh*

Oh, the free goodies! Yesss! I need to brag about it! I am sure this is the culture of US colleges, but there are so many events that take place everyday. And we get so many freebies, like anything. Which is a good thing, I think. I just hope I get funding for my masters from somewhere. That’s a challenge too.

Anyway, I’ll go back to cooking dinner and try to take time out to post some pics from Pittsburgh and CMU. Or maybe some trip I take in US since it’s a new chapter and a new place….

JLPT N4 Experience: Late Post

JLPT N4 Experience: Late Post

This is for the JLPT N4 that took place on 3rd July 2016.

I am going to say this first. I might not clear the exam. Nonetheless, it was a great experience as usual. I came to know a lot about my strengths and weaknesses and yet again, some awesome resources to study the language (last minute prep)

*I still can’t believe I took N4 and I knew half the stuff in it!!!* (I had to come back and edit the post once I saw I had actually written N4 there)

The test: The info about the sections and all would be available everywhere I am guessing. All I remember is, there were 3 sections: Kanji and vocab, Grammar, Listening.

Kanji and Vocab consisted of 5 questions I think, with various sub parts to it, in total 35 questions as far as I remember. Time given was 30 minutes. There was a 20 minute break after this, but no one was allowed outside as this break was just for the teachers to bring the second exam question papers.

Grammar section had 9 questions with many many sub parts, I don’t remember the total number of questions. Time given was 60 minutes. There was a break of about 25-30 minutes after this where we could go freshen up ourselves.

Listening section was of 35 minutes. There was some problem this time with the audio, so they repeated whole first and second questions for us.

For us in New Delhi, India, the reporting time was 8:15 a.m. but they didn’t let us inside the test center before 8:40 a.m. Listening to people talking to each other because they belong to the same Japanese learning academy and you being alone can be a little intimidating. So, I would suggest myself to go a little late next time because the exam, anyway would start at 9:00 a.m. 😄

Difficulty: Well, I don’t really know. The grammar was difficult for me, as usual. Kanji and Vocab were kinda breeze thanks to WaniKani. People around me were afraid of Kanji and I was the most confident in that only. Although, some type of questions were frustrating, especially the one with 4 blanks and a star mark to fill that particular blank because in some of the sentences more than one sequence was making sense to me. Of course, that can’t be the case, even so….

Listening section sometime seemed a joke for N4 level and sometime too high leveled. One of the questions was like the introduction of Genki 1. I thought, “Really? Is this N4 level?” And then in the last questions, they spoke so fast and the options were so confusing, again two options seemed apt for the answers.

Reading comprehensions were long and many in number, again, as usual. But this time, I could read faster and understand better (is it translating the manga effect? I don’t know). The content of the comprehensions was interesting as well, not some academic or news article. I really like JLPT that way.

Resources: Well, as I said in my earlier posts, I got really bored with Genki (although, on close scrutiny, one can find the resemblance between JLPT and Genki easily. Hence, if you can put up with it, it’s the best resource to study for JLPT). So I switched to Tae Kim’s guide. It is a nice resource, especially for learning particles, but I got distracted from there too. For grammar, one of the best resources I found was renshuu. It is again a paid website if you want to use it fully (some free resources are available as well), but I think I have become a fan of gamification of stuff. This one is a fun site with various hankos to earn on achieving different stages (thank you for that word by the way renshuu. It was a part of the test as well 😉 )

Another resource for kanji and vocab is Wanikani (which I have been thinking to do a separate post on, for a while now actually but you know...) It is SRS based website and really effective in learning kanji which many find hard. Not to mention the amusing and out of this world mnemonics. At least I remember them now….

In the end, there were a lot of things I could have done before taking the exam. I wanted to take mock tests starting one week before JLPT but ended up getting fever, so couldn’t do it. I don’t blame my cold though. I had enough time to practice from renshuu, but I didn’t. Life happens and I can now, up my game for I can finally call myself at beginner intermediate stage of Japanese (if you take out speaking skills actually). Intermediate is not far enough! *pats her back*

Then, until next time….

First Step Korean: A Beginner Coursera Course from Yonsei University

First Step Korean: A Beginner Coursera Course from Yonsei University

Hey peeps! This time I am going to review this course which I took up in their last available session. I hope, most of you are aware of Coursera, a platform for free and paid open MOOC courses. I have been a student there since they started (although I never came around to complete any of their courses because laziness).

I have been waiting like crazy for them to introduce language courses, and I have always wondered that they have courses from so many non-English Universities, why these universities wouldn’t introduced beginner level courses for their languages. There are a ton for English language!! Well, this just goes to show how much learning languages is unpopular (or that universities are busy enough to not make any elementary school level course?) Things are certainly improving though and I found two language courses there apart from English: Korean and Mandarin

So, since I have been neglecting Korean for quite sometime now, I decided to take up this absolute beginner level course from Yonsei University. It turned out to be easier than I thought (at least initial levels), for of course, my level was a little above than the level of material provided here (WARNING: this was written before I reached 4th week). But for a beginner who is confused as to where to start, or a person who has been able to acquire some words from the dramas, this is a great head start. I, at least, learnt a lot from it.

The professor Seung Hae Kang seems to be very sweet and gentle lady and her lectures are like she is teaching a live class before her. It does excite one to take Korean classes from a Korean professor. The TAs are very helpful and prompt in the forums. The course is divided into 5 weeks and each week takes up one topic and introduce grammar points based on that. The topics covered are Korean Alphabet, Greetings, Family, Time and Date and Daily life. Through these lessons, grammar portion covered is Hangeul, Particles, Verb conjugation in present tense and both types of number systems in Korean.

What I like about the course is that it’s self-paced. Within the given time frame of the course, you can complete your assignments any time you want, even after the weekly deadlines (but before the final course deadline). There are dozens of new words in each lecture. You get to listen Korean conversations, in context, directly from native speakers (although a lot of Korean language resources use that) and the lectures are quite interesting. The content covered in 5 weeks is really exhaustive.

Which brings me to the cons of the course that it might seem overwhelming to absolute beginners to do so much in so less time. But rest assured. They have new sessions coming up regularly and if you rejoin any subsequent session because you were unable to complete previous session in time, your progress from previous session will carry over to the new one (I have done it for another course, so it definitely works, but please do check, just in case).

Another thing I find a bit sad is really easy quizzes. I scored a 96.6% in total just because I committed 2/3 silly mistakes. Otherwise quizzes are way easier than the course covered. Nonetheless, they give a good practice of particles (I am finally able to differentiate the ones taught in the course, yay!!!).

The thing I absolutely disliked was that to get a certificate I would’ve to pay 29$. 29$!!! Coursera seemed awesome when there were at least free statement of accomplishment. I mean, for an Indian 29$ is not that big an amount but not that small either. If I have to pay such amount for each and every subject, then…. Although financial aid is available for most of the subjects but anyway, I gave up on the certificate for every course, and just focus on learning. Which is not that bad either. I also don’t like their verification thing before every quiz either. But, it’s not the course’s fault, so it’s alright. Also, I do understand why Coursera has to take such measures, so I have made peace with it.

Hence, I would recommend this course to people looking for a head start in Korean or brush up their concepts a little!! You can go and have a look for yourself at: First Step Korean

In the end, the story of me neglecting Korean studies is that, I have been trying to start with TTMIK again. Or start the books I have, though they might not be the best out there (but I learnt a lesson about books in my last post, remember?). But all in vain. I am putting Korean on hold after I completed the course. I will continue with the vocabulary though (don’t want to absolutely cut from it, since no good drama coming either. Weekly idol after format change has become a little boring as well 😦 )

Heck, I have even been thinking of taking up Thai again and at least finish the notes my senior in Thailand (who was provided with the material by her company itself) gave me. I am a lazy ass after all (That’s something you must have definitely observed given that I try to make a proper schedule of posting blog posts ultimately abandoning it in two weeks or so. I even forgot to put up my blog’s third anniversary post).

Height is that I have JLPT in two months and I just can’t seem to develop an interest in Genki 😐 Guess, I’ll lack in grammar again this time….