Korea: Caught in Translation

I’m fairly certain I’m supposed to be teaching class right now, but obviously I’m not. I am curious to see if my students could get behind a blog lesson which culminates in them starting their own individual or class blog. I need to decipher the details to make that work though. When I went to teach the class, Mr. Cho intercepted me and made the international symbol for ‘next class.’ Mr. Cho teaches ethics and entertains me by being a Korean caricature of Yosimite Sam, just lose the magnificent handlebar moustache and swap the red hair for black and add a tonsure monk haircut and the transformation is complete. So now I’ve got time to kill before teaching class, later, maybe, possibly, hopefully. This change came after the grade I usually teach switched from First to Second grade.

I slip outside and the groundskeeper asks why I’m outside. I slowly say, “to get some fresh air.” But he doesn’t understand “pressheeaer” but I understand what he’s trying to say and anyone who’s living in an Asian country will probably get that transliteration straight away. So I take in a deep lungful of air and repeat, slower this time, “Fuh-re-shh ae-er.” “Oh… Preshee Ae-er!” he smiles, knowingly.

Then I walk under the ginkgo trees from the last blog I wrote to where the vice-principal gathers more of the ginkgo nuts. Now her English limited but better than my Korean but through a some words and me really paying attention she teaches me the process of preparing ginkgo nuts. First the fleshy skin is “kuh-leen-ee”d and “wah-shee”d which she supplemented by miming washing her hands. Second the nut is “duh-rah-ee” (not having the ‘i’ sound in Korean makes words tricky – that’s ‘dry’ by the way.) Third it goes onto a milk crate for one minute in an electric range, it is removed when the shell of the nut cracks (a bit like popcorn I suppose.)

Now what took me two minutes to write and probably less for someone to read, ate up probably five minutes of English, Korean and miming, but that sums up what so many waygooks must do in order to communicate.

It can be frustrating at times but whenever I finish this extended adventure I am going to be able to kick ass at any charades challenge I stumble across!

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One thought on “Korea: Caught in Translation

  1. Haha, I met a guy at the Travel Tribe on Thursday night who was informing somebody of the difficulty we have in directing taxi drivers for the same reason. Home poo-luss-uh!

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