Thursday, July 23, 2009

On not being the best Korean speaker in a group of forigners

While my Korean is infantile at best, I can get around pretty well and people generally turn to me when they need to ask a Korean something or relay some message. Koreans are easily impressed, and if you can just say kamsahamnida with a decent accent they think you're a genius. My typical taxi ride usually involves a list of prying questions about my nationality, how long I've been here, why I speak Korean so well, if I'm married, and if my friends can speak Korean too. Usually the end result of the conversation is something like, wow, you've only been here a year? Impossible! You're (infantile) Korean is so good, you must have been here many years. It's kind of a nice ego boost, and sometimes I forget how poorly I actually speak...

This weekend I attended the birthday party of a Korean friend who teaches Korean (yes, Korean). For this reason, her group of friends is about 50/50 with Koreans and foreigners. Three of the foreigners were actually Kyopos, one who had studied Korean in college and has a Korean girlfriend here, with whom he speaks Korean to about 90% of the time, his sister, who devoted herself to Korean study for a while and now works as a translator, and another guy who spoke really well who I assume probably learned from his parents. Another guy who I didn't get his background story, could speak phenomenal Korean and has lived here quite a while I guess. There were two other Americans there too who knew a little bit of basic Korean.

Listening to all those foreigners hold down real conversations (aka, not 20 questions)... making jokes... and understanding jokes.... reminds me of how much I suck. These past weeks I've had even less time to study too, as I prepare to take back my afternoon schedule, and get things ready for my replacement for preschool. Also my Japanese friend with whom I only spoke Korean with has gone back to Japan for a while, so I'm not FORCED to speak Korean. I feel like I'm making no progress these days... *sigh*....

Anyway, the party was fun. They held it at a "business club"... actually it is owned by my friend's friend, and since they are closed on Sundays, they let us have free reign. We had our own bar and tables and even our own illegal norebang (karaoke), which the owners kept covered up with a screen when not in use. I'm sure it must be an interesting place when they get customers in there. Such a nice, small, private sort of place in the basement of a building must be for clients of a certain caliber I guess...


  1. While it's no consolation, at least you are there. You are doing something that literally over 99.99% of the rest of the world has not done nor is likely to do.

    At least you can find the bathroom.

  2. I know, I know.. it's a process... and I can find the bathroom. But... I've been here a year, I feel like I should have improved more...

  3. Hi, I'm Alex. I teach English in Korea too and was hoping we could share links. I'm looking to make some online contacts who are here too :)

    Let me know!