Saturday, March 07, 2009

I think I'm supposed to hate it, but I love getting new students, especially complete beginners that don't speak any English at all. There's something fascinating about trying to communicate with someone using just your tone (I've never had a dog). Actually, it's more hilarious than fascinating. I had a new student Thursday in what was already new class, and after telling me that his name was either Pear, Bear, Peel or Phil, he just stopped talking altogether. When I had him copy the words "go", "slow" and "stop" off of Charles, he even wrote in his name as Charles. When I ask one of them to stand up, they all stand up. Since I often tell them to read a book on the carpet, when I tell them to go read a book, they just go sit down on the carpet. Or, when I tell them to sit down on the carpet without a book, they go and get a book.

Of course, ignorance can be just as amusing as incomprehension. I asked advanced elementary students where they would travel if they could go anywhere. They told me, as a group, that they didn't understand the question, which I wrote on the board.

"It asks where would you travel?"
"What is travel?"
"Traveling? It's going to another place."
"Oh, like Daejeon, Daegu, Jeju-do..."
"Yeah, but not just in Korea, to another country too."
"What's a country?"
"What's Korea? A country is a place like Korea, or Japan, or Canada."
"Korea is hot in the summer"

I gave up before my class degenarated into a discussion on statehood.

Today I had a class of 15 new kindergarten students who eyed me warily for an hour, and then decided that they were going to treat me as a motherly Korean authority figure. At the start, a few children told me their names, but then one of them wrote the first name he saw in the class, which unfortunately happened to be Mary. Then one of them wouldn't tell me her name because it wasn't an English name. Getting their favourite food out of them was like an interrogation. Everyone just opted for English foods like donuts or spaghetti, except for the intrepid fellow who thought he understood the question and replied, "I like noksaek (green)". That puts him right up there with the lovely girl who replied "I'm fine, thank you, how are you?" to the question "how old are you?".

Normally, I benefit from the fact that children are scared of me as a man, a foreigner and a dark-skinned foreigner (we at AWYHIGTC also accept swarthy). Today, I wielded all sorts of mundane queries, and in rapidfire Korean at that, questions that are normally directed only at Korean teachers. I had no idea kids were this boring.

"Is it okay if my traffic light is red, orange and green?" No, it's not.
"I didn't eat this banana, what should I do with it?" Put it in your bag.
"All finished! All finished!"
"I don't have pockets!" I'd told them to put the candy I gave them in their pockets.
"Can I have some more chocolate? What about more candy?"
"Unintelligible" from a boy holding a strawberry in my face. This one was translated by one girl who mysteriously spoke fluent English as "the food fell on the ground."

My favourite moment of the class was when a boy stood at attention, saluted me and called out across the room in Korean so formal that I had no idea what he'd just asked:

"Can I go to the bathroom?"

No comments: