Week 5, Friday

This week flew by.

I had an impassioned discussion about Korean Romanization (summary: it’s wack) since my sixth graders were working on a flyer for a “hot” place in Seoul but didn’t know English spelling. I wish I knew.

I’ve seen:
ㅜ like the oo in Boo! Romanized as “oo” “u”
ㅓlike the eo in “Seoul” romanized as eo and u

By this logic Seoul 서울 could be spelled in the following ways:

Seoul
Suul
Seoool
Suool

And DON’T get me started in Pusan/Busan or Taegu/Daegu…

I have to complete an online module for post training and several real students were filmed talking about what they desire in their foreign teacher: fun, corrects mistakes, understands the levels of the class, talks about culture and gives advice (high school student), breaks the foreigner phobia, casually converses with us, friendly teacher that answers students’ questions and if teacher is not kind they can’t study well.

One student said “Kind, friendly, good heart and beau—” (the video immediately transitioned into the next student interview)

These are all a good reminder.

My students have started to ask me more questions during class. Not every class and not every student, but I’m really happy that they feel comfortable asking me “how do I say this? How do I write this? Teacher is this right?”

And my coteacher is also more curious about English, even though it wasn’t the subject she wanted to teach. I don’t want my students to enter high school and think of English only as means to an end for the college entrance exam. If I can make them just a bit aware that this is real language with real people and that language opens doors, I’ll be happy. I hope that idea is also cemented as they see me make mistakes in Korean. Two very patient sixth grade girls tried to explain the spelling for 마이쮸 (candy) which sounds a lot like the Chinese liquor “Baiju”. One pulled out a piece of taffy with the actual name for candy. “Wow thanks for helping!” “Oh teacher you can keep the candy.”

I’m also grateful for the strangers who know I’m not anywhere near fluent but patiently assist without any of the daily and slightly-demoralizing language correction I experienced when living in Spain. There are so many times I struggle through a sentence but I’ve never had anyone get impatient or insult my pronunciation. Well, except for today when the ddeokbokki metro seller listened to me struggle to read out loud (in my defense I was trying to order the cheapest ddeokbokki at 50 cents on the menu which was some word I’ve never seen before) and then he pulled out… an English menu?? He was mostly just being helpful.

Anyways I refused to speak English (he didn’t know English regardless) so there was some confusion as he tried to upsell me but I got my cup of ddeokbokki. And didn’t get a drop on my white shirt.

Probably most of the patience is relief that I’ve spared people from communicating in English (I saw The Fear in the eyes of a very posh Gangnam barista and the silent sigh of relief when I ordered in Korean).

It would be a lie to say I’m satisfied with my Korean language level but fluency isn’t something one achieves overnight (even if my coworkers seem to think so). At least I can identify more context in conversations and yesterday I learned grammar that involves my favorite sound in Korean -까.

For the linguists out there, Korean has aspirated and plain AND tense consonants which makes for some confusion. And for an extra layer of confusion, plain consonants are often unvoiced at the beginning of sentences so they sound very similar to their aspirated counterparts.

In layman’s terms, think of a scale of B>>>>>>>>P but all three Korean “P”s ㅃ ㅂ ㅍ fall between those two sounds.
Same for:
J>>>>>>>Ch [Korean has three distinct letters in this range of sound: ㅉ ㅈ ㅊ]
G>>>>>>>K [Korean has three distinct letters in this range of sound: ㄲ ㄱ ㅋ]
D>>>>>>>T [Korean has three distinct letters in this range of sound ㄸ ㄷ ㅌ]
S>>>>>>>S [Korean has two S letters ㅆ ㅅ]

For example: 타다 sounds like Tada! As in, tada! Look at all this grammar! Quiz: can you guess what sound ㅏ is?

And can you see the pattern of how the letters change from tense to aspirated? Neat!

I love the tense consonants (ㄲ ㅃ ㄸ) when they fall in the middle of a word (I’m still a bit in the gray area when it comes to their pronunciation at the beginning of a sentence), especially ㄲ which sounds like the Ck in icky.

Now to my grammar:

다음 주에 월급을 받을 거니까 금요일에 식사를 할까요? Since I get my paycheck next week, shall we go to dinner on Friday?

And speaking of pronunciation, I also had a funny listening mistake in class:

올해 [olhae] this year
오래 [olae] a long time
(오 o, ㅎ h, ㄹ l or r depending on placement,ㅐshort e)

When spoken quickly the pronunciation is the same (ㅎ h is the first to be thrown out in spoken pronunciation). I was like, no I just moved here, I don’t understand why you’re asking me if it’s been a long time.

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