I have decided to take TOPIK, which is the most popular test of proficiency in Korean. A TOPIK score is strictly speaking not totally necessary for me, as I’m applying for an F-6 visa which, unlike some F visas (like F-5), does not require a TOPIK score from the foreigner. And my job search is temporarily paused (more on that in another post, maybe). However, there’s no denying that a TOPIK score would still help me if I can put it on my resume in the future and, more to the point, taking the TOPIK test will help me focus my studying abilities.

I haven’t been diligent in my Korean. Since landing in Korea almost a month ago, we’ve been preoccupied with a lot of other things, and I just sort of assumed I’d start picking up more Korean in daily life. That hasn’t really happened, or at least not to any great extent, and I feel my Korean is stagnant at a high-beginner level.

I’m going to register for the next TOPIK test, which is October 22. Registration is the third week of August and the cost doesn’t seem too terrible (40 000₩ for the TOPIK II test).

I am going to be registering for TOPIK II. It’s a little beyond my abilities now, but I have two and a half months to study and my wife is a (good) Korean teacher, so I think it’s doable. My philosophy as a professor was always that you teach students at a higher level than you want them to learn at (or, equivalently, that you learn at a slightly lower level than you studied at/were taught at). I’m applying that principle to my studying for TOPIK and am studying for a TOPIK Level 4 in the hopes that I will be able to solidly achieve Level 3.

To start off with, my daily studying regimen is:

  1. Study old TOPIK tests. Sinea has already given me a 2015 (?) version of the reading portion of TOPIK I. I’ve started studying from it to ensure first of all that I’m comfortable with the format of the questions, and also that there are no vocabulary words that I’m unfamiliar with.
  2. Reading and summarizing (in Korean) news articles. TOPIK Level 4 requires being able to understand news articles (yikes) and being able to write summaries. I just tried reading a news article this morning which was, to put it mildly, humbling. I’m hoping if I can stick to my daily regimen, it will become a little easier over time.

Probably my daily regimen will change in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Code for reading a random Korean news article

Want an easy way to read a random news article? I didn’t want my corpus of training material to be biased (too much news about girl groups), so I wanted an easy way to get a totally random news article to read each day. If you’re on Linux or a Unix-like environment and have sharutils installed (required for randomly selecting a line of text) and xml2 installed (required for parsing RSS), create a text file called rss-feeds with the following text:


The command for opening up a random news feed is then firefox $(curl -s $(shuf -n 1 rss-feeds) | xml2 | fgrep link | sed -r 's/(^.*=)//' | shuf -n 1)

This way, when you’re studying from news articles, you won’t get stuck with articles from one particular newspaper or on one particular subject!