About

Though I’ve been studying Korean since 2007 and living in Seoul since 2011, there’s always more to learn about this place and its language.

More and more people are living their lives outside of the continent they grew up in these days ~ and I’m adding my voice to theirs.

This blog shares some of my adventures, culinary discoveries and general experiences here in South Korea.

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12 comments

  1. Amy George · February 7, 2015

    Hi Sophie,
    My name is Amy George and I just read a recent interview with you on Korea.net. I’ve been taking Korean studies and translation in Canada at UBC and I’m graduating in May. I’m planing to apply for the KLTI program to continue my studies. Your interview is the first piece on the internet that I’ve seen written after 2012 and I can’t find any reviews on the program at all. I’d like to hear about your experience there and the pros and cons.
    I’d love to chat about it if you have time.

    Sincerely,

    Amy George

    • Sophie Bowman · May 31, 2015

      Hey~
      I’m really sorry but I only just saw this comment. I see that you applied, good luck! Do let me know if you are coming to the LTI in the fall. I would definitely recommend the program!

  2. Cristina · June 29, 2015

    Hi Sophie!

    I’m Cristina and I was referred to your blog by a friend, as she told me that you seemed to have similar professional goals as me 🙂 I’ve read some of your posts and I really can tell what my friend meant!

    I’m already an English-Spanish translator, but being an English translator is so common that I can barely get a job xD (but I liked the English language so much…). Then, I decided to become a Korean-Spanish translator, too. I’ve studied Korean as a hobby before, but now, I’m taking it more seriously, and I’ve been really studying Korean for two years now.

    I’ve been trying for a couple of years to go to Korea and study there Korean language, because it’s really difficult to study good Korean here in Spain (also, you never get a high level in a foreign laguage if you don’t spend a long time in the country). I was wondering if you could give me some tips on how to do that, as you seem quite experienced in that matter, places to study Korean, some advises related to visa, working or stuff like that. Anything will be helpful!

    Oh, I applied twice for the KLTI Fellowship but sadly, I failed at the phone interview stage (foreign language + a phone call = hell xD). It was a positive experience doing all the paperwork, though. They even told me they really liked my translation. I don’t mean to show off or anything, it’s just that something like that is difficult to forget xD

    Okay, it seems I was quite in the mood for some writing, sorry!

    Thank you for taking some time to read me 🙂 Hope you have a nice day!!

    • Sophie Bowman · June 29, 2015

      Hi~ well, the KLTI course is great so I would recommend that you keep trying. It would probably help if you study a little more Korean, which you can do at many language schools in Seoul or elsewhere in the country. Also, if you haven’t done an MA yet you can try applying for the Korean government scholarship which is a 3 year program including a years language tuition and two years MA. There are now lots of MAs in translation that offer literature courses.
      Another option is to look into the Korea Foundation they have a range of programs such as a language fellowship.
      Good luck~! It’s really exciting to meet someone working on similar things but in a different language. It really gives me hope ^^ Thanks for getting in touch~

  3. Cristina · June 30, 2015

    I had no idea about the Korean Foundation, I’ll look into it! Thank you!! And Thanks for replying so, so quickly. I hope we can meet in the future as translator collegues in Korea 🙂

  4. Burcu · July 12, 2015

    Dear Sophie, I love and enjoy reading your blog so much! You keep inspiring me with your posts and I feel like I constantly learn something new about Korea and its literature whenever I come here! So, please do continue writing – it truly is appreciated! 🙂

    I also have a few questions if you don’t mind^^:
    I read that you studied Korean literature at SOAS in London. Would you recommend the degree to someone who is also interested in specialising in Korean literature in the future? I must say that even though I studied East Asian Studies during my BA, it was only my minor and my focus was only on Japanese Studies (my interest in Korean only developed towards the end of my studies). I graduated from English and am currently an MA student in English literature. But I’ve spent a term in Korea and would love to improve my Korean and focus on Korean literature during my PhD. Do you think to realise this goal, an MA in Korean literature is the best idea or would you rather recommend the MA in Korean Studies which I believe is probably more comprehensive and still includes courses on literature as well..?
    And finally, I wanted to ask whether you have applied for and funded the MA in Korean literature (at Ewha) independently or whether you received for a certain scholarship? Would you recommend studying Korean literature in Korea instead of doing so abroad? If you compare your MA degree in London to that in Seoul, what can you say about the differences, about the pros and cons?

    I think I went a bit overboard with the detailed questions^^ But it would be really lovely to get some words of advice from you! Thanks in advance!

    Best wishes,
    Burcu

    • Sophie Bowman · July 13, 2015

      Hey Burcu!
      It sounds like your specialism is definitely literature so an MA in Korean Lit would probably be a better fit but it will require a higher level of Korean than straight forward Korean Studies. If you are lucky and feel capable you may also be able to get straight onto a PhD programme, but that will depend on whether your professor thinks you are ready.
      I would recommend the Korean Lit MA at SOAS 100%. The Centre of Korean Studies works with academics from the comparative literature department and also with people working on literature translation so you get a really great perspective on Korean Literature in the world as well as its history etc.

      Even for postgrad Ewha only accepts women. I have a scholarship from the school for my fees and there are a great set of scholarships for people from specific countries. The scholarship is merit-based so you have to keep working hard throughout the course though!
      What I would say about studying Korean literature in Korea is that you need to have a much higher level of Korean language proficiency, unlike courses taught overseas where essays and discussions are all in English while the literature may be translated or in the original Korean, with courses in Korea, everything is in Korean and at least 90-99% of your fellow students will be Korean. Also you will need some knowledge of Chinese characters as well as Korean academic writing ability.

      You have a ton of options and I would say that with a lot of hard work and determination any of them are possible. Work out what you really want to get out of the course of study, such as improving your academic Korean, or getting a strong grounding in Korean literature while practicing discussion and academic writing in English etc. and then go from there. Once you’ve got that decided you can start contacting professors and asking whether they think your study goals would be well served by their course and whether you might be able to meet the entry requirements and demands of the course.

      Comparing teaching and learning styles in UK and Korean universities is a whole PhD thesis waiting to happen! Maybe after my next semester I will feel qualified to write a blog post about it 😉

      All I can say now is GOOD LUCK!!!

      Sophie

  5. Burcu · July 13, 2015

    Wow, thank you for the quick and detailed reply!! So sweet of you!!

    The SOAS does sound more and more interesting the more I think and hear and read about it! 🙂 Yet as you’ve also mentioned I’ve been thinking about applying to a PhD programme straight ahead..but I guess there is nothing else to do right now except wait and see how things (i.e. applications^^) turn out 🙂

    Meanwhile I hope that you will keep sharing inspiring posts about your life and studies in Korea 🙂

    Best wishes,
    Burcu

  6. Berna · March 13, 2016

    Hi Sophie!

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and I’ve also been doing some serious thinking on whether to apply for the translation program at LTI. However I find the info on the official website, although very helpful, quite confusing:
    For instance, is there any big difference between the special and the regular program? As a translation “newbie” should I rather apply for the regular one? How about the translation atelier? (I gather from your posts that you’ve recently been attending the latter, so the level of Korean/translation competence must be higher? :)) And finally how about the successful applicants? What level of Korean proficiency do they normally start with and from what academic background do they come from, i.e. is it very important to have some sort of academic history in translation, literature or Korean studies?

    I would be happy if you could answer at least a tiny few of my questions^^ In any case I want to thank you for your blog and for your time! xxx

    • Sophie Bowman · March 14, 2016

      Hi Berna,
      The courses at the LTI are very different. The ‘regular program’ and the ‘special program’ are both for people new to literary translation, but they are also very different. The regular program is full time with 3/4 classes per week (translation practice, Korean literature lectures etc.) and lots of homework. The classes are usually made up of an equal number of Korean and non-Korean students, and students coming from overseas get a stipend. The special course is a 2-hour once a week evening class which just focuses on literary translation. The format it usually that everyone translates the same bits of a literary text at home and then compares their work each week.
      The atelier class is for people who have completed the regular or special course and who are pretty much ready to be having their translations published. It is a 2 hour class once every two weeks, usually held in the evenings.

      Although there is no need to have an academic background in translation, literature or Korean studies it is very important that you have a passion for literature and writing, and of course reading! In terms of level of Korean, it depends on the target language you are working with. The successful applicants to the programs for translation into English tend to have a very high level of Korean, at least TOPIK level 5 I would say. Classes tend to be conducted in English but there are also lectures and events in Korean so it helps if you can follow and keep up with listening. In the year that I was on the regular course we did most of our classes in Korean and it was a real challenge for me but my language skills really improved!
      I hope this helps, and good luck with whatever translation you do in the future!

  7. Burcu · September 15, 2016

    Dear Sophie, hello again! 🙂
    I just saw above that it’s been almost a year since the last time I’ve asked you for advice – it’s really crazy how time flies!
    Right now I’m actually in the middle of organizing my life after my MA graduation. I will hopefully be graduating from my German university (in English lit and Transcultural studies) in february and continue with my Korean language journey in march ’16.
    I am not so sure about my level of Korean as of yet, since I have yet to take the TOPIK (but I suspect I will be somewhere on the intermediate-ish range, personally I hope to be able to start with level 4 classes when I get to Korea though).
    My current plan is to study Korean up to the highest level (which I believe is L6 at Yonsei & SNU?) and apply to do a second MA in Korean literature at SNU. Since I’ve been following you for quite a while now I happen to know that you took quite a similar path with Ewha university.
    Which is why I was wondering how long exactly you took Korean lessons and when exactly you felt “ready” to study Korean lit “for real” at master’s level? Did you finish all levels at your uni’s language school?
    Do you think it’s realistic to study Korean for one year in Korea and then to start with an MA (in spring ’18)? Or should I calculate more time to reach a sufficient Korean proficiency in that case (also since Korean lit is quite a tough major language-wise)?
    Actually I have more questions but I’d hate to be a bother! 🙂
    Also, I would love to see more new posts here (-though I know that you are probably more than a little busy with your studies right now:))

    • Sophie Bowman · September 16, 2016

      Hi~
      Thank you for your interest in my blog, and it’s really cool that you are thinking of studying Korean literature in Seoul. As for my own Korean language training it had lots of twists and turns, but I know that the Korean government scholarship program for example gives students a one-year intensive Korean language training and then sends them on to Korean MA programs, so it might be difficult and challenging but it seems like it must be possible. For entrance to a Korean MA program you usually need a TOPIK level 5 or 6 but it varies depending on the Uni. You will need to study for the exam separately because there are sections on things like sayings and proverbs, but the language school courses are pretty much targeted to the TOPIK anyway.
      For me I have been learning more Korean the whole time I have been doing my MA, so really it is a double learning process, gaining a deeper knowledge of Korean literature while at the same time having to learn lots of new words and writing techniques really fast. It is exhausting and stressful and quite difficult, but doing an MA in Korean Literature all in Korean is probably the best Korean language training you could ever have.
      If it’s what you really want to do and you have your goal in mind I’m sure you will be able to do the MA after a year of intensive language study. My goal when I started my MA at Ewha was really simple, to get better at reading and writing in Korean, and I think I have really achieved that, but I did need a lot of encouragement from my teacher who kept telling me, “Remember why you are here, what you are trying to get out of this.”
      If I have any advice it would be to read lot’s of short stories and poetry in Korean while you are doing your language course and try to learn the basics of the Chinese characters used in Korea (it’s not really necessary if you’re doing contemporary literature but it really helps!). Once you have studied for a few months, get someone to recommend a really well written journal article in Korean on a topic that interests you and read through it from start to finish, however long it takes, looking up words and learning the vocabulary used — this will really help when you start having to go through assigned readings.
      Also at SNU there are quite a few international students on the Korean literature program and often a couple of courses taught in English so hopefully that will encourage you and make things a little easier.
      Good luck and all the best~

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