Friday, November 11, 2011


Last week I posted a collection of quotes I'd jotted down while marking High School speaking tests. My brother told me I was mean for taking the piss out of my kids, but I don't think I was. Do you think I was being mean? I just found a lot of the things they said amusing because of the sometimes inappropriate words they used, or how simply adorable or funny they were. So, with a guilt-free conscience, I present a few more quotes, followed by some insights I gathered in the two weeks I listened to them battle with a complex language.
  • "I want to go to New Zealand. There are lots of beautiful mountains and tasty animals."
  • "I want to go to German. I like sausage. I go to beer festival. Left hand beer, right hand sausage! *demonstrates with alternating eating/drinking motions*"
  • "I like Harry Potter. My first kiss, watching Harry Potter. Harry gives me wizard feeling. Expecto Patronum! *makes spell/wand-waving motion*
  • "I would eat poison. People say eating is the joy of life, but eating one dish is a horrible life. The pleasure of taste would disappear. I would rather die than live in this agony."
  • "I want to see the Colosseum very much. It is broken a little, but it gives me a magnificent feeling." - I loved her way of saying it was a little bit broken, like it's no big deal, just some minor damage!
  • "I will choose without hesitation my mother's kimchi fried rice. It has a unique flavour and aroma, and when I eat it I taste her love and devotion."
  • "I want to be a social worker, and care for poor people. My boyfriend and I will build a village and become very rich!" Me: "In which country will you build a village?" Her: "Africa." Me: "Ok, but which country in Africa?" Her, confused: "Africa?!"
  • "I want to go to Japan because I love sushi. I want to eat many kinds. Also, I want to tell them that Dokdo belongs to Korea!" - Dokdo is an island between the two countries. Each country claims it as theirs. Koreans get violent if you even tease them about this issue.
  • "I want to be a bodyguard. I am strong and I like Tae Kwon Do. No, I LOVE Tae Kwon Do! Girl bodyguards are *thumbs up*" - 17 year old girl
  • "My favourite food is cheese." Me: "Cheese?" Her: "Yes. No. Pizza!" Me: "So you choose pizza?" Her: "Yes. No! Vegetables! Um... (topic) change?"
  • "I want to be the boss because I don't like working under anyone. I want to command my subordinates. I will target their respect." - So serious, I got scared.
  • "I choose to eat soup. It has many nutrients, and nowadays people live a long time so when I am old I can eat it easily." - Love the logic
  • "I think I will be living a single life. But I will not be lonely. I love cats, so I will have my lovely cats. I will enjoy my freedom." - 17 year old girl. Aw!
  • "I want to go to England because I love soccer. I love Man U. My favourite player is Javier Hernandez because he is cute and a good player." - 18 year old boy. Koreans LOVE Chicharito, they think he is adorable!
  • "I will win American Powerball lotto. Very rich man! *stands up to indicate on his body* Armani suit! Gucci sunglasses! Rolex left hand, Breitling right hand! Hermes belt! *shows me his belt buckle* This one is imitation, but soon real one. Big house, beautiful house, many cars in front of house!" - hilarious, super-cocky boy
  • "I want to go to the USA. It is home of black music. Hip hop...*can't think of more examples* I like black music."
  • "I wand to be a 'raijer'. I like animals, they are cute and fun, so I want to be a 'raijer'." - If you know Korean pronunciation (swapping R and L, saying J rather than Z) then this could either be 'laser' or 'eraser'. I couldn't figure it out, so my co-teacher and I tried to think of what it could be. Raiser! Someone who raises animals:)
When one teaches so many children (nearly 600), and only see them once a week, it's difficult to get to know their names, let alone their innermost feelings. While I wanted to shred my own eardrums by the end of it, I did enjoy learning about my kids, and Koreans in general. These are some things I learned:

  • The gaps between job choices (nurse, social worker, teacher) and financial expectations were hilarious to me. So many kids said they want to do a fairly low/average-paying job, but then followed up with, "and be very rich". The quote above about Africa is a prime example of that. They are going to be very disappointed! At least some of then said they'd win the lottery, or marry a rich man.
  • Given that Korea is still a pretty patriarchal/gender unequal society, and that it's a big deal if you don't get married, I was surprised by how many girls said they didn't want to get married and have kids at all. They wanted to focus on their careers. To be fair, they were the top-level girls, with high career expectations. Their facial expressions were comical when I asked if they saw themselves getting married. Utter horror!
  • Despite always professing their love for western food like burgers, pizza and spaghetti, the majority of kids chose Korean dishes for that question. Kimchi Jiggae (stew) was the most popular, followed by kimbap (kind of sushi roll), bibimbap (google it) and chicken. The girls usually thought about the question a lot, but many boys just said ramen because it was easy. Quite a few boys said they'd choose their mom's cooking, but neglected to pick a specific dish. I imagine in 10 years they'll be sitting on the couch, playing Nintendo and eating Kimchi Jiggae their mom made.
  • If I have to hear the word 'delicious' ever again, I will cry. Every single kid used it to describe their chosen food. "I choose xxx because it is delicious!" I'm going to do an entire lesson on ways to describe food! The worst part is that my vocabulary has shrunk so badly that I don't bother to use anything else either.
  • Don't interrupt them to clarify/ask a question, they lose their train of thought and panic! This is especially true of the lower level kids, who have learned their responses like a parrot. Wait until they're finished speaking, then ask follow-up questions. Them; "My favourite movie is Twilight." Me: "Oh yeah, do you like Edward or Jacob?" Them: "Uh... Twilight is... um..."
  • Almost every single kid, when asked to choose a second country to visit, chose Japan. In fact, I don't think there was a single kid who didn't say Japan. Most of them want to go there to see Disneyland, mind you, and because it's close to Korea. First choice countries include the USA, England, Australia, France (Prangs!) and the Maldives (?!). Also, there are only two cities in the USA: New York and LA. Also, Africa is a country.
  • The most popular job choice was nursing, especially for lower level girls. I found this odd, and even thought they were deluding themselves, until my co-teacher told me that nursing is the easiest university course to get into. Odd! Other jobs included teacher, chef, vet, banker, accountant, interior designer, fashion stylist, soldier, model and public servant. Also, more girls than boys wanted to go into policing, with one saying she wanted to be Korea's top detective.
  • Bibimbap is a favourite amongst students when they are studying, because it's the quickest thing to eat. Unlike other meals with side dishes, it's all in one bowl and they can shovel it down and get back to the books!
  • This is going to sound really evil but by the end of the second week I didn't try to prod them along if they got stuck. I sat and watched them squirm, especially the kids I knew could do better. I just thought, stuff it. You've had three whole weeks to prepare, two weeks longer than the kids who went last Monday. Suffer!

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