My most embarrassing moments were probably when I was in the public schooling system (secondary school) in Korea and got embarrassed because I was trying to literally do what I was told. This was when I was speaking moderate conversational Korean which was around my 5th year of speaking Korean.
One example was when I was told to continue to practice in PE class. We were doing 100m sprints and the teacher had to dismiss himself for a few minutes. He was of course a very strict teacher and told us not to stop practicing (나 없는 동안 쉬지 말고 열심히 해).
A 없는 동안 (A up-neun dong-an) = while A is not around
쉬지 말고 (shwee-jee malgo) = don't stop and
열심히 해 (yulshim-hee he) = do your best
I was afraid that we would get scolded if we stopped so I continued to sprint. It was probably my 5th round when someone softly smacked the back of my head. It was my teacher who said "하랜다고 정말 계속 뛰냐" meaning (are you seriously running without stopping because I said so?)
That was one of my cultural shocking moments. In a sense I just got scolded for doing something I was told to do. Which got me all confused. After that moment I never could really sense how much versatility was tolerated. I experimented until I got it right but of course went through many trial and errors for several years.
In my first experiment, I decided to speak up when a classmate got caught not paying attention in class. She was asked to stay and clean the class afterschool. But it wasn't her fault. I put up my hand and said that it wasn't her fault because I was asking her something in hope to clear up the air. However instead the teacher said, "그럼 학생이 남아서 당번해!"
그럼 short for 그러면 (Geruh-myun) = then (in such case)
학생이 남아 (hakseng=student), (nama=stay)
you stay instead and clean instead of her. During the entire time of cleaning the class, I still couldn't figure out what I had done wrong. That experience shut me up for quite a while.
What are some of your embarrassing moments?
Those are excellent examples. And in fact, they are more than language experiences, they are cultural issues. A good lesson that culture and language are deeply intertwined and you really can't have one without the other.
Thanks for sharing!
It's interesting you say that, Jay. I've also heard about the horrible, cruel teachers in Korean schools.... But I've never seen them.
My kids have now had a lot of teachers at Seongpo Elementary, which I guess is quite near the elementary school you went to here in Ansan, and most of them have been caring, hard-working people. I remember hearing about one incident of chair-throwing, but that was an exception, nobody got hurt, and according to my son, the kid who made the teacher mad deserved it... Another teacher never really got along with my wife, but apparently she was also not popular with the other mothers either. That's not a lot different than back at school in America for me a generation ago.
Same thing at the college level... I hear about all those horrible professors... but although I haven't been crazy about every professor at Hanyang (and there were a couple rather incompetent fellows and one that should have been fired long ago), I'm not sure this is any worse than anywhere else. I had some incompetent professors in the US too.
And come to think of it, I keep hearing about how terrible Korean bosses are... but I worked in a Korean workplace for about five years at LG and if there were bad things going on, they somehow managed to hide it all from me. I do remember one verbal fight that escalated into a pushing match, but that was just one instance in five plus y ears... Do people not fight in other countries?
There's apparently a dynamic going on here that I've had trouble noticing... Maybe I'm just not perceptive.
Maybe because things are getting better here? : )
In my elementary school years, I was often hit on the head by my teacher with a golf driver.
A metal golf driver! Can you guess how painful it was? :P
Almost everyday I saw students hit on the cheek, head, thigh, bottom, etc by teachers because of making a little noise or doing poorly on the test. And of course, students didn't deserve it at all. It was habitual violence by teachers who learned to release their stress that way.
I remember one day a teacher start hitting a student for over 5 minutes. It was too cruel. Grabbed the kid's hair and started punching, kicking, stepping on the fallen students, etc. The student ran away and left school for good but nothing was done to the teacher.
Of course, there were more good teachers than bad teachers but the bad ones were too horrible.
e.g) How can a teacher keep punching a student on the face until the student's teeth come out in the middle of the torn cheek? And how can the teachers get away with it?
Well, I guess it is not happening anymore in Korea since students can upload the scene of violence on-line with their cell phones. : )
Learning a new language and learning a culture will have their common grounds and differences. I would like to mention that in my example, I was focusing more on the barriers of learning a new language with lack of knowledge of the cultural differences. If you can study the different connotations of words in advance and learn the subjective cultural and/or emotional association that some words or phrases carry, in addition to a a words explicit or literal meaning you should be able to avoid such embarrassing moments as in mine shared above. Both teachers mentioned in my story were very charming and thoughtful teachers. In fact, I think in the second case, the teacher was trying to set an example of discipline through his strictness. (At least that is how I positively summarized my own experience). And the PE teacher in the first story actually had a sense of humor which was something I was lacking.
I hope that we might/can pick up connotation of new Korean words through our stories shared.
William, I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that word even.
Thanks for sharing your little incident there or should I say coincidence.
When I'm conducting telephone interviews for English teachers I'm often asked to repeat myself when I say "what are your strengths as a teacher" even when pronounced with my American accent. So it's just easier to say "what are your strengths in the classroom" or they'll never miss "what makes you a good teacher". I'm not sure if it's just skype that has trouble transferring "s" sounds or if it's the words that I used together that make it unclear.
During a recent trip to Vancouver, I noticed my bus driver would always answer questions by repeating their question. And in a country where there are a mosaic of nationalities and accents his method seemed like a very good idea.
Only if you'd used the word Kida-ryu-juseyo (please wait) after Jamshiman....even with a mispronunciation the message would have gone through. huhu ~
I remember counting once to a group of people: 일천, 이천, 삼천, 사천, 오천, 육천, 칠천, 팔천, 구천, 십천... Everybody started laughing at 십천.
This is a story recounted to me by a friend... He'd gone shopping at a bakery for bread and meant to say "우유빵 주세요". The problem is his pronunciation of the ㅃ was a little off and he also left off the first character when asking....