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120 Days to TOPIK #1 – Gather Resources

Gather your resources!

This is one of my favorite parts of any new Challenge because it can be fun to look over the kinds of materials you WANT to use and the kinds of things you WANT to learn (plus, shopping is always fun). The tough part of the Challenge is putting those resources to good use once you’ve got them. But that is another topic for another post.

Notes about the NEW Challenge:

As with my previous 30-Day Korean Speaking Challenge, the daily posts in this 120 Days to TOPIK Challenge will contain 3 parts:

  1. Inspiration (to remind you why you want this and motivate you to go for it)
  2. Challenge (action steps to put into practice today)
  3. Resources (extra links you can follow for more things to see/learn/do)

I won’t pretend that writing the 30-Day Challenge was easy because it wasn’t, and I expect a full 120-Day Challenge (if writing daily) to be even MORE difficult (to keep up that pace), so here are a few notes regarding the NEW 120-Day Challenge for us all to be aware of:

  1. These Challenge posts may be significantly shorter than the first Challenge posts (I’m aiming for 500 words or less) but will still contain great content, resources, and action steps (besides, I can’t spend all my time writing these, I’ve also got to take my own studying seriously)
  2. I won’t pretend that I can include unique action steps in EVERY day of the 120-Days, so expect some repeated Challenges, though possibly with some modifications
  3. I haven’t fully planned out every day of this Challenge yet as I did with the previous one, so I’m going to be flying by the seat of my pants here and we’ll be learning all this together
  4. The three parts (Inspiration, Challenge, and Resources) may blend together and not be individually identified in each Post – but all three will be included

So, with that said, on to today’s Inspiration!


The following are some book notes I’ve gathered from Forever Fluent by Gabriel Wyner. If you like these, then I strongly recommend getting the book as it’s full of things like this:

The THREE keys to language learning:

  1. Learn pronunciation first (the US military and Mormon missionaries do this – it’s effective – it trains your ears to more quickly become attuned to the sounds of that language and you pick it up faster)
  2. Don’t translate (rather, throw yourself fully into SPEAKING full time – even with broken sentences)
  3. Use Spaced Repetition Systems to supercharge memorization (more on that later)

Estimate how much time you should study (i.e. write these down in a Challenge notebook):

  1. What are your fluency goals? (Be specific)
  2. What are your daily time constraints? (Be honest)
  3. Korean is a Level 3 language – French is Level , so it will take 4 times as long to learn as French

Prerequisite for success: Find something about the language you LOVE that will keep you motivated to keep going even after it gets tough (I wrote more about this in the 30-Day Challenge)

We enjoy learning; it’s what addicts us to reading newspapers, books, and magazines and browsing websites like Lifehacker, Facebook, Reddit, and the Huffington Post. Every time we see a new factoid the pleasure centers of our brains burst into activity and we click on the next link.

Let’s make our language learning LIKE THAT ↑

  1. Discovering new words and grammar = new Facebook
  2. Assembling new flash cards = arts & crafts
  3. Memorization = a fast-paced “video game”


It’s time to pick up some language books to get ready. I’ve already gone through some recommendations for this in the 30-Day Korean Speaking Challenge and I’ve posted the list again below (see the original post for pictures and links to recommended books and resources at that time):

  1. A basic phrase book
  2. A good grammar book
  3. A good dictionary or translator service (online or smartphone app)
  4. A memorization app
  5. A private tutor
  6. A language exchange partner (or 8)

The following list and recommendations is an updated list for 2015 and our 120 Days TOPIK Challenge (based on recommendations in Fluent Forever).


Get these books NOW:

1. A good grammar book

My recommendation: Korean Grammar in Use Series ( international shipping)

TOPIK 중급 Grammar book
TOPIK 중급 Grammar book

Also, have on hand a good phrase book (here are 7 online) because it’s difficult to learn contextual phrases from grammar books.

2. A frequency dictionary

My recommendation: Our (upcoming) 5965 frequency word list(s) taken from a FREE Excel list put out by the National Institute of the Korean Language. It is basically the following book in a digital format:

6,000 essential words
6,000 essential words

Or, one of the 쏙쏙 TOPIK 한국어 어휘 Series (or premade flash cards on

We also have a list of 500 Basic Korean Verbs and 500 Basic Korean Adjectives (or a bundle of both) on a single-page PDF available (on sale for $2 off from any link within a #120TOPIK Post)

3. TOPIK Test prep books

My recommendations:

  1. Beginners: Test Guide to the NEW TOPIK 1 (
  2. Intermediates: 완벽대비 토픽 ( Pass TOPIK | Sample Tests | Writing 100)

In fact, you can see all the above recommendations on our poster advertising our Summer Classes:


4. Additional Resources

My recommendations: 

  1. Beginners: Pronunciation Guide (we are planning a video series for this for the summer)
  2. Bilingual Dictionary: Google Translate works well enough
  3. Monolingual Dictionary: Both Naver Dictionary and Daum Dictionary are better than Google Translate for this
  4. Thematic Vocabulary Book:
    1. Beginners: the 625 Word list included in Fluent Forever – I will be creating a one-page cheat sheet for this later as well)
    2. Intermediates: there is a thematic vocabulary list in the 완벽대비 토픽 TOPIK Prep book(s) recommended earlier
  5. The Internet:
    1. Talk to Me in Korean is still the definitive resource for all things Korean language
    2. The Korean Wiki Project (run by TTMIK) is also an excellent site
    3. is an excellent site for prepping for TOPIK
    4. Or, see some of my other resource recommendations on the original 30-Day Challenge Post


If you want to Tweet about this 120 Day Challenge, I’d encourage you to use the hashtag:


for the entire time leading up to your test so that we can follow what everyone else is doing on social media. I’d also like to make a forum available on our site later on for people to post updates and encouragement both for this Challenge and the original 30-Day Challenge.

Stay tuned and let me know what you’re up to in the Comments below!

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