Interview #9 – Alex Ristich

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We are back with another interview with another inspiring person! Listen to Hyunwoo’s interview with Alex Ristich and find out how he started being interested in the Korean culture and language and how he is improving his Korean now. This first half of this interview was done in English and the other half was done in Korean.

Check out Alex’s YouTube channel and as well! And click here to listen to other interviews too.



Interview #9 – Alex Ristich
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  • 알렉스!! 😀

  • 알렉스형! ^^

  • steven

    Awesome! 😀

    I really wanted to know how Alex learned Korean so well! I find his motivation for learning Korean to be interesting too. 🙂

    Thanks for the awesome interview guys~

    Can you recommend any Korean podcasts?

    • 스티브 안녕?
      알렉스랑 스티브 귀여운 어린이들이다 ^0^

    • Hi Steven!
      Thanks for listening, and I am glad you enjoyed it (and Hyunwoo as well, I’m sure)!

      As far as podcasts go, the Iyagi series here at TTMIK is excellent. Nowadays I spend most of my time listening to Korean radio programs that are available in the Podcast section of the iTunes Store. I find it’s helpful to train my ear to understand better and also to get constant practice. Not to mention I can rewind and re-listen as much as I like 🙂

      I recommend you listen around and find something that you like then stick with it. Repetition is key to improving your listening comprehension, vocabulary and natural sense of the language.

    • Can you recommend some specific podcasts? Free right?

    • I just went on iTunes and searched “KBS” and “MBC” to find radio programs. There are quite a few on there, so I recommend going through the list and picking out ones that you enjoy 🙂

  • 잠깐만! 형아니에요?! ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ 22살이면 저랑 동갑이네요

    • ㅋㅋ 미국 나이로 거의 22살이라고 그랬는데^^ 한국은 어때? 간지 얼마 안 되서 아직 피곤할걸~ 암튼 한국에서 잘 지내고 한국어 많이 배우고 친구 많이 사귀고!

  • Jacky Lozano

    wow! srsly inspired! 3 and a half years!! thanks for the interview.

    • I’m really glad to hear that! 🙂 When I started learning Korean, I never expected that I’d make it this far, much less be an inspiration to others. I hope you are encouraged and motivated to keep learning ^^

  • chris

    That was pretty dope..not gonna lie. Keep up the good work bro! ^^

  • Hi Alex,
    Any tips on developing Korean vocabulary?
    I think that easy children stories are very good for it, but I cannot find it yet.

    • Sure, the best way to improve your vocabulary is to read 🙂 Studying flashcards help, but the more times you see a word in different contexts the better you will remember it and understand how to accurately use it. Reading takes time and is often difficult, but it is invaluable in increasing your vocabulary. I currently use the resources available at LingQ to increase my vocabulary and find them very useful.

  • Amritpal

    I think it’s amazing that you’re fluent in a language you practiced as a “hobby.” It makes me feel more confident about my possibilities of learning Korean. 🙂

  • hi Alex!! 😀

    Nice interview! I agree, reading is really important ^^ 한국말 정말 정말 잘하시네요~! ^^ 저도 열심히 공부해야겠어요 ㅎ

    p.s. i dint know we are of the same age! ^^

    • ^^
      I think you said your age somewhere…maybe in your interview? Or it might’ve been one of your introduction videos.. 😛

      열심히 해야겠다는 말이 맞나요? 블로그를 보니까 열심히 하는 것 같아서 ㅎㅎ 어차피 열심히 하는 것보다 재미있게 하는 게 더 중요하죠?~ 재밌게 공부하세요^^

  • This is such an inspiration to me! nice interview… 알렉스 찌, 현우 선생님 정말 감사합니다!

    • Thank you for the kind words, Zoryana! 🙂 I wish you the best of luck with your Korean studies! You’ve got excellent teachers here at TTMIK 😀

  • Samier


    인터뷰 좋아요! I like the alternation between Korean and English ^^

    Alex, you are an inspiration ^^;;; Someday, I hope to speak Korean just ask well 😀

    한국어 정말 어려워요 ㅠㅠ;;; 하지만 TTMIK 많은 도움이예요 ㅎㅎ


    • I wish you the best of luck with Korean!! 😀

      한국어 어렵다고 생각하지 말고 재미있다고 생각해 보세요~ 열심히 공부하면 저보다 더 잘 할 수 있겠죠? 물론 TTMIK이 만든 자료를 사용하면서 ㅎㅎ

  • 크리스

    Man.. I just came back from a korean restaurant, and the lady asked me ‘is it delicious?’ in Korean. I was so nervous I accidentally said ‘yes’ in spanish. She must have thought I was on crack or something lol! I don’t even know how to speak spanish 😛 I have never failed so hard in my entire life. Then she asked me who taught you korean?, and then I said TTMIK!! (Just kidding on that last part rofl!) I would never let you guys partake in my shame. Anyways, Alex man I gotta applaud you on your mad skills bro. Keep us updated on your awesome journey through one of the most beautiful and unique languages in the world. ^^

    ~항상 신념을 간직해라~

    – 크리스

    • Haha, great story man! I’ve totally been there, don’t worry. 🙂 I’ll be making more YouTube vids in the near future, so stay tuned!

  • 와! 잘 들었습니다… ^^ 저한테는 Alex 씨가 아주 유창하게… 정말 자연스럽게 한국말을 할 줄 알고 있는데요. 제가 요세는 안타깝게도 연습니다 배울 시간이 짜내지 않았는데요. Lingq 대해서 다시 언급해줘서 고맙습니다.

    • 정말 감사합니다! 제가 거의 4년전에 이런 기회가 있겠었지 아예 몰랐는데요. 힘든 시간 많았고 거의 포기했을 때도 있었는데 계속 끌리는 한국 문화하고 한국사람에 대한 관심 덕분에 아무리 힘들어도 극복했어요.

      저는 이제 LingQ를 사용하며 다른 웹사이트가 제공한 자료를 공부하면서 실력이 많이 늘은 것 같네요. 마음대로 공부해서 재미도 있고요. 즐겁게 공부하세요!~

  • Stefano

    Hi Alex,

    I’ve been studying Korean for the same length of time, but I cannot speak nearly as well as you do. I can understand the 이야기s and I’ve been to Korea 3 times, but I can’t seem to produce easy and natural sentences. Any advice on this? From the interview, you made it sound like magic… once you had the knowledge, the words just flowed out. I also have Korean friends (and a Korean fiance), but once we start talking they usually switch over to English… even though they know I’ve been studying Korean. What’s the trick?

    Thanks for a great example that it can be done…

    • jon

      The trick is to tell your friends that they shouldn’t switch over to English.

    • Hi Stefano,

      There’s no trick, just a lot of practice 🙂 I’ve had a lot of opportunities to speak over the years, but more than that I do an extensive amount of listening whenever I get the chance. Before traveling to Korea I was doing anywhere from 2-4 hours of listening to Korean every day.

      I suppose the “trick” is to pay attention not only to what people say but how they say it. At websites like LingQ this is helpful because you can easily save phrases to flashcards, but attentive listening and reading (and a lot of it) is what will give you that “easy and natural” feel when you speak.

      One other thing I found is that it’s sometimes not worth pushing your preferred language on someone else. It’s all a give and take, and some people refuse to speak their native Korean with a foreigner no matter how bad their English might be, but others are very sympathetic. More than anything, improve your Korean ability so that you can make them feel more comfortable when speaking Korean.

      You’re well on your way. Keep up the great work!

  • AlexW

    Hello Alex!

    It’s really fascinating to see you speak to Hyunwoo so fluently.

    I am still building up my vocab by reading flashcards everyday around 15-30mins a day, watching Korean shows with English subtitles and also learning new grammar once every two weeks or so, while revising on the previously studied lessons.

    I don’t know how fast I can reach your level but I will do my best!

    • Hello! A fellow Alex I presume? 😛

      I myself don’t use flashcards. Mostly because I find them boring, hehe. The way I learn vocabulary is by reading. In my first two years of learning Korean I didn’t read very much, so while my speech wasn’t bad and I could communicate decently with a lot of people, I felt that I was always lacking vocabulary. As soon as I started to read, I found that my listening comprehension improved as did my ability to express my thoughts.

      I’ve never been a fan of English subtitles, as I often find myself reading the subtitles rather than listening. Plus, it’s almost never a direct translation. I prefer variety shows (like 1박2일, 런닝맨, etc.) that have tons of Korean text on the screen (whether it be subtitles, speech bubbles, or “narration”). What I used to do is write down some words I didn’t know (preferably with the context as well) and review them every once in a while. I would also do a Google search to find places where these words are mentioned to get a better understanding of how they are used.

      Language learning isn’t a race, but the more time you put in the faster you’ll progress 🙂 Good luck!

  • Haneul

    This is totally inspiring!!
    I began learning Korean last July. My goal, albeit ambitious, was to become fluent in a year and a half. I often feel frustrated because I can’t fully express myself yet, but listening to your interview I understood your Korean portion with Hyunwoo perfectly. Made me realize that if you are determined, you really can do anything ^^.
    It gave me the motivation I need to keep studying, so that one day I can speak as fluently and flawless as you!!
    Thanks from a fellow Vancouverite~

    • Awesome, you’ve clearly been working hard to be able to understand the interview full after just 10 months! 😀

      My speech is by no means flawless, and listening to it again I recognize mistakes that I made, but it’s all part of the process 🙂 My goal is to communicate effectively and I’ve largely achieved that, but there’s always room for improvement (even in our native languages, right?).

      As long as you put in the time and are motivated you will definitely succeed. It’s just a matter of persevering when times get tough. But from the looks of it you’re clearly well on your way to fluency 🙂

      (By the way, always nice to see a fellow Vancouverite!! :D)

  • jon

    Hi Alex. Your Korean skills are impressive ^_^

    Can i just give you some constructive criticism regarding your pronunciation? When you pronounce 데 it sounds very north american-ish. xD

    Your 데 sounds like the ae in weather.

    No offence meant ^^

    • Thanks for the comment, Jon. 🙂

      I’ve actually never worried that much about my pronunciation, as my primary goal has always been to communicate effectively, not pass myself off as a Korean. Interestingly enough, my pronunciation is much more refined than it was a year ago this time (especially looking at my YouTube videos from that period) even though I made no dedicated effort to fix my pronunciation.

      But I guess more than all that, I remind myself of this: would I feel more comfortable speaking English to someone who has excellent pronunciation but only a basic or intermediate level in English or to someone who still has a noticeable accent but speaks well and understands everything I say?

      I trust that with time my pronunciation will continue to improve, but even if it never did I still have no trouble being understood so I guess I’m OK with that 🙂

  • 와 알렉스씨, 질투 하네요 ㅠ.ㅠ
    전 한국어를 배우기 시작 한 지… 으 삼년쯤 됐는데, 아직 그렇게 자연수럽게 말할 수 없어요. 물론 쓰기 말하기보다 더 쉽지만, 재 친구한테 이얘기 하고 싶으면 생각할수록 시간이 없어서 가끔 말도 안되는 소리를 해요… ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ
    미치겠어요 ^^
    그래도 알레스씨 때문에 저의 기분이 좋아졌어요, 동기를 주셨스니까!
    알렉스씨가 그렇게 잘 하실수 있으면 저도 그럴 수 있겠죠!!!!
    인터뷰를 즐거웠습니다, 화이팅!!!!! ㅅ_____ㅅ

    • 페이스북에 대답 미리 했는데 여기에서 다른 얘기를 꺼내쓰니까 여기서도 대답 쓸게요^^

      말을 잘 하고 싶으면 말하기 연습 많이 해야 하죠? 그래도 처음에는 말이 안 될 때가 많고도 시간이 지나면 지날수록 더 자연스럽고 명확하게 말할 수 있어요.
      캐롤린 씨도 화이팅 하세요!~

    • ^^ 네~~~~ 혈심히 하겠습니당 ㅋㅋㅋㅋ
      알렉스씨도 화이팅 해야 돼죠!!!!!!!! ^___^

  • Monicaaaa

    Eerg! Your pronounciation is amazing! Im so jealous >.<

    • Hehe, thank you very much. 🙂

      Pronunciation has never been that important to me, and I still find that my lack of vocabulary is the greatest obstacle when trying to communicate effectively. Pronunciation will get better over time as long as you do a lot of attentive listening. Keep at it and you’ll definitely improve 🙂

  • 박노아

    선현우형!!! 재이름 은 박노아임니다!!! 저는대한민국갈거예요그리고 TTMIK 인터뷰하고싶을거예요!!! I am coming to korea this summer and i would love to have an interview at the with you. Currently I speak korean at about half the fluency that I would like to be able to. I am going to study very hard until June 19, when I come to korea. Would love to hear from you guys. 안녕히계세요!!!

    • 노아 씨 안녕하세요!! : ) 한국에 도착하면 연락해요~~~! See you in Seoul! 😉

    • 박노아

      현우형 정말 감사합니다. 그럼 한국에서 연락 하겠습니다.^^

  • ingrid

    Thanks Alex!! you’re great!!!!!!!!! i hope i can make as good as you in Korean someday!!!

  • 와우!알렉스 씨 진짜 부러워요!

  • 와~ 알렉스씨 인터뷰가 너무 잘 한 것 같아요.
    나도 한국어를 3년 반 정도 배웠지만, 보통 독학으로 배웠기 때문에 알렉스 처럼 그렇게 자연 스럽게 말 할 수 없어요 :<
    그렇지만, 지금 알렉스의 인터뷰 들은 후에 꼭 한국어 말하는 실력을 향상 시키려고 더 열심히 노력할게요!!~

  • Batselem

    Hello, Well Done, You speak Korean fluently, I have been learning it for 2 years but I still have listening problems. I prefer to listen a lot in order to learn a language and that’s how I learn English, too. But I always have problems finding Korean dramas or conversation with Korean subtitles.

    By the way, you make me inspiration. You sound like a Korean. After I listen to it, I also think that I can do it. Fighting! 🙂

  • Alejandra

    Hola TTMIK Team!! 😀

    I really like all your amazing job, I’m learning a lot with it.

    There’s a problem, I can’t download the audio file, there’s a page with “Error: 404 Not Found”. I would like to hear this audio file, please put it back again, Gracias!

  • Queen Dreamer

    This Audio didn’t want to work !