Teacher… please Korean speak.

May 2, 2007 at 12:04 pm 1 comment

As much as I want to, I generally make it a rule not to talk with my students in Korean.  I figure that since I am their English teacher, I should take every opportunity to help them practice their English.  The classroom provides so little interaction, that any extra little bit they get is a good thing.  However, sometimes it is necessary, and the word is strarting to spread that I can speak a little Korean.

Usually they plead with me in Korean “한국어 말해주세요!” (literally, please give me Korean speech!)  I decided that if they ask me (in English) to speak in Korean, I’ll humor them.  If they say something in English, I’ll say it in Korean.  At least this provides something of a language learning experience for them.

 Mostly, they just want me to say “안녕하세요!” (Ann-yeoung ha-se-yo) which is equivalent to “Hello.” (More accurately it means, “Are you at peace?” which I think is a fascinating way to greet someone.)  One day last week a student desparately wanted to hear me say it in Korean.  I have been waiting for the time they ask me to say something more compliated….and it wasn’t then.  So I said it and then asked him:

“Are you really surprised that I can say hello?”
“Yes.”
“Why? I have been here for 9 months!”

I didn’t really get an answer.  I tried to explain that after 9 months, anyone could resonably be expected to learn at least “Hello”.  But yet again, they get such joy out of just hearing me say that one word. 

It hints at this subconscious idea Koreans have that their language is the exclusive domain on thier people.  Often, they don’t even call it “한국말” (Korean langage).  Instead, it’s called “우리말” (OUR language).  The “our” thing comes into play in quite a few ways actually…”our house”, “our teacher” (even if the speaker is alone) and the really weird one “our wife.”

Koreans are just really surprised when foreginers say anything in Korean.  They don’t expect it.  There’s one resturaunt I frequent where I have to ask for water 3 times or so before it registers.  Last night I was there with a Korean friend, andI asked for the water (3 times) .  But then they looked at my friend and said something like “Shouldn’t you be ordering? You speak Korean!!”

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Entry filed under: Culture, Language, Teaching.

Seoul Land…. Exams..

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. rachelle  |  May 3, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    that’s the second time i’ve heard the anyonghaseo story and it still made me laugh out loud the whole time. have a good life!
    -r

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