You can read and write Korean?? **GASP**

Something I encountered back home  in America which I wasn’t expecting to encounter is the fact that people here, my family included, seemed so surprised that I  can read and write Korean.

 

Wow! You can read Korean!?

Maybe it is the fact that they have little knowledge of the Korean language.

When I first moved to Korea knowing no Korean I thought it would take forever to learn how to read and write it.

And it did take me a while, more than some people who moved to Korea at the same time as me.

But to me it seems ridiculous to live in a country for 1 year and never learn how to read the native language or write basic sentences.

use your brain

I would compare my level of Korean to the level of English some immigrants to the USA have.

I know Survival Korean. I can understand a little Korean, I can read signs (even if I don’t always know what it means) , I can say essential sentences like “Where is the bathroom?” “This is delicious!” “I will meet my friends tonight to go shopping.” “Korean is hard!” “My head hurts.”

If I can’t fully get my point across in Korean, or the Koreans I am talking to can’t speak English too well, then I use hand gestures, body language or my trusty friend called Google Translate.

Actually, Google Translate sometimes does such a horrible job of translating, but it’s better than nothing when you are desperate.

Hahaha

According to an article I read, Korean is ranked as the 9th toughest language for a English speaker to learn. I would agree there are times I find Korean quite challenging in terms of pronunciation and also remembering when to speak politely and when you can speak normally to your friends.

But, what helps a great deal to learn Korean is that the writing system is really easy once you have memorized the characters. Also, the pronunciation of words is mostly phonetic, with some words trying to trick you here and there.

While I have taken various Korean classes and have studied with friends, colleagues and students, I know my Korean could be a lot better than it is now.

However, most Koreans, especially young people, want to speak English with me to practice their language skills. If I say something in Korean they will often answer in English assuming they don’t start giggling hysterically.

 

I can get by in Korea fairly easy knowing only a little Korean.

Definitely  my students liked me more  once I made an effort to speak  their language. They find it amusing the “foreigner” tries to speak their language.

I am not sure how much longer  I will live in Korea, but I am doubtful it will be forever. So while I am game to learn more Korean, I know that my ability might only go so far because learning  Korean is not my  #1 priority living in Korea.

Regardless where I will end up next, I know I will learn the basics of the native language so that I can survive.

survival of the fittest

 

confused gif

Again, I am just so impressed with some of my kiddos

Yesterday  was science day at my middle school which meant that the afternoon classes were cancelled. I was just doing work in my office when randomly two boys came to talk to me after they did their science experiment (egg drop).

I ended up talking with them for a long time which is always fun.

They told me that English was hard for them and I told them I feel their pain because for me, Korean is hard.

My students trying to understand & speak English

 

Me trying to speak and understand Korean

I had them help me practice writing sentences in Korean and then I asked them to write what I wrote in Korean into English.

I think it is so cool that even though their English level isn’t super high, they still made the effort to try to communicate with me outside of class. They were under no obligation to talk to me, but rather they came to chat with me on their own volition. I told them I was super proud with them because they were going the extra mile (or in Korea land, kilometer, ha!) to practice English.

I really love it when students come seek me out after class to chat with me for two reasons:

Firstly, most of my classes are pretty BIG!  It’s hard for me to get to know everyone when I have so many students (about 600! not counting the 1st graders in Middle school who I don’t actually teach but I sometimes interact with)

Secondly, I really love chatting with people. I have developed from a shy bookworm into a chatty, chatty, chatty person.  I find it really interesting to hear about my student’s lives, find out what they are interested in and what is important to them.

I am currently taking Korean classes which I think is really helpful for me a teacher. I understand what is is like to be in a class taught almost entirely in another language and feeling lost and confused. Sometimes I feel like the dumbest person in the class and I am frustrated that I don’t know what the teacher is saying and what is going on.

But then when I know what is going on and I can answer a question in Korean or when I write a sentence properly, I feel so accomplished! I think: YAYYYYYYY!

This in turn helps me with dealing with my Korean students because I will sometimes bust out my Korean skillz when I am talking to them.

For example, sometimes in English class the students will be learning a new English word and I will ask them “What is the word for this in Korean?”

Then I will attempt to write it on the board in Korean and when I get it right, I do a little happy dance and say “I am a genius!”

Most of my kids laugh, they probably think I am crazy, but I think they are so surprised and happy I am trying to speak Korean.

I know English is hard, but all I ask is that the kids try! So I am  thrilled when they really make an effort to get out of their comfort zone and chat with me.