As much as I love Korea, it is undeniable that all Korean cities tend to look more or less the same. They may be small, medium, or large; they may have various mountains, rivers, beaches and temples of which the locals are proud; but apart from that, there is little to separate one from the next.
If you are the administrator of a Korean city, then, how can you distinguish your city from all the others? If you answered, “By appending a random English word to the city name and using it as a slogan,” then you are not new to Korea. Read more
EPIK sent out volume 21 of their newsletter yesterday, including some important information for people applying for Fall 2013: Read more
I wrote on here once that “while North Korea and the Korean War probably still dominate Western coverage of Korea, South Koreans don’t think about either very much. They are also a little… something… about talking about those things with foreigners. I still haven’t worked out what the something is, despite thinking about it a lot.”
North Korea has been in the news a lot lately, with their missile and nuclear tests and latest threats to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire”. So I wanted to take another look at that something, and try to answer the question – how do South Koreans really feel about North Korea? Read more
I had an argument with the 부장님 who drives me to work. It was a very Korean argument. Neither of us disagreed with the other person; we just offered up thoughts in this disembodied way, as if we were talking about other people or abstract concepts. Everything was said by implication, but it was no less stressful than if we had been screaming. I nearly cried.
The topic was desk-warming. Or maybe it was about me talking to other people about my problems, when she thought they were her responsibility, and I should have come to her. I think it was really about the gap between Western and Korean perceptions. I’m glad we had it out. And I’m glad I managed to do it in that circuitous Korean way, and that I didn’t lose my shit or damage my reputation permanently. If nothing else, I can say that: I didn’t lose my shit. Read more
You can now follow this blog via twitter or facebook, if you are so inclined. Please click on the blue circles on the home page – if only so I can get past the initial hump of “0 followers”. (One of the drawbacks of a completely anonymous blog is that you can’t depend on support from your friends for things like this).
I’m not totally sure how I will use those things just yet. Twitter might be interesting, as I sometimes have mildly humorous or penetrating observations to make that don’t merit an entire blog post. I’m not so sure about Facebook, a website which tends to irritate me, but at the least it should be set up to show new posts automatically.
You can also follow the RSS feed, or follow this blog on Google+. Cue laughter for the last one. The link for that is at the very bottom, in the footer. Truthfully I’m only on Google+ so I can get the little pictures in the google search results.
After two and a half years in Korea, I have TOPIK level 2 Korean. I took the test a year ago, after 18 months of living in Korea, and since then my Korean hasn’t improved much. I haven’t been studying. It’s probably around TOPIK 1.8 these days, if there were such a thing. I’m going backwards…
TOPIK Level 2 means I can theoretically “discuss familiar topics employing a vocabulary of about 1,500∼2,000 words”, which sounds about right. I can make small talk with taxi drivers and communicate my needs when I need to. When I talk with a student outside of class, it is usually about half in English and half in Korean, both of us code-switching constantly. I can have a conversation in Korean with a Korean – so long as they make allowances for my abilities, put effort into deconstructing my mangled grammar, and stick to easy topics.
This puts me ahead of about ninety percent of the English teachers here, and you know what? I think it is a pretty pitiful achievement on my part. Read more
There is a phrase you hear a lot when you first come to Korea: “It depends on your school.” Often this is said with a shrug and the word “just” – “Ahh, it just depends on your school.”
There are aspects of the situation you will find yourself in that are just random, uncontrollable. And you have to prepare yourself for that. Read more
Need an idea for a Summer/Winter English camp activity that is:
- Good for students from second grade through high school?
- Requires almost no preparation?
- Will take anywhere from an hour to an entire day?
- Students love?
Of course you do! If you are anything like me, you would almost give body parts for decent activities. This is my favorite English camp activity: making Rube Goldberg machines. Read more
Some students are charming and bright, and immediately demand your attention. Some students are deeply troubled: they show signs of OCD or parental neglect or abuse. The damaged ones are usually not much good at English – they have too much else going on in their lives to think about it. Sometimes you can help those students, if only by being available to them and being kind to them; despite the language barrier, or maybe because of it, you are outside the system enough for them to trust you.
It’s rare for a student to fall into both of those categories – to be both bright and charming, and also damaged. Actually, I can recall only one such student, and that was Yeti. Read more
I seem to have a habit on this blog of promising posts which I never get around to delivering. This following was mostly written at the same time I wrote the first “Are Koreans…?” post, but it was Sunday night, and I put the second half aside, intending to complete it later in the week. Three months later, I’ve finally got around to finishing it.
A reminder: this was a result of me playing around with Google’s auto-search feature for the phrase, “Are Koreans…”, then attempting to answer the questions. I have tried to give researched answers where possible, and personal opinions and experiences where it is not. Any generalizations – and there are a lot of them – are just that: generalizations, which may or may not be true of any individual Korean. Read more