Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Call 24/7

Sometimes I feel as if my job as an English teacher is a 24 hour job. It's not a job that I can leave in the office, though I'm not doing the work I'm technically being paid for. Of course, living with my Korean boyfriend, I'm always helping him with his English. I don't mind this at all, because it's in both our best interests if he can improve his English. Not to mention how much he helps me with my Korean.

Then there are the people who stop to talk to you out in public, with the obvious purpose of not actually caring about your presence, but seeing you as a tool to practice English. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of people who start talking to me who are generally interested in me, and why the hell I want to be in this country. Those are generally the people who are willing to speak with me in Korean. Then there are the people who, though I speak Korean to them, continue to speak English at me, either trying to prove their mastery or trying to get some TOEIC/TOEFL practice.

Today on the subway the girl sitting two seats down from me asked the man sitting in the seat directly next to me to change seats. It seemed kind of strange to me, but I shrugged and continued studying my Korean homework. A few minutes later she said "Can I talk to you for a moment?" I looked down, and written in her notebook was this exact phrase, she must have been practicing it in her head for 5 minutes while I was focused on 했다고 했어요 in my Korean book. She continued to explain, in broken English, that the was studying for the TOEFL test and was hoping to study at Texas A&M.

Anyway, she practiced her English on me for the next 20 minutes until she had to get off at her stop, one stop before mine. I find it really hard to talk to strangers. You can't make conversation if you know nothing about a person, right? Especially a person you will probably never meet again... It's not that I mind helping these sort of people, but I just feel like I'm seen as a sort of tool to be used by these random people, rather than a real human being.


  1. Four options:

    Listen to the iPod all day long.

    Tell her you're Non-English-Speaking-County-Native and don't speak English well.

    Get off two stops later and wait for the next train.

    Answer everything in Korean, or by asking her questions about Korean.

    The fourth option works. Really!

  2. Yeah, amusing. I love Korea but in my last school in Cheonan, actually one of the most prestigious high schools in Korea,me and the other english teacher used to refer to ourselves as 'rice cookers.' If we did a good job and were liked we were occasionally unplugged and cleaner but for most of the time we remained turned on. There were times when we turned up at school to discover there was a public holiday or arrived dressed in shirt, jacket and tie to discover was a sports day and all the other teachers were dressed down. Great school, great people, brilliant students, but not much consideration for the problems involved in being foreign and living so far from home.

    Only the other day when I was in a similar position to the one you mentioned and wanted some peace and quiet, I considered speaking German to put them off. I was disuaded however becuase several months ago I pretended to be married to avoid explaining to an elderly gentleman why a fifty year old man should have no wife or kids. Well, I dug a hole for myself as he started asking the names of my family and their hobbies and what they looked like. The train was packed and no one else was talking. It was even more stressful than telling the truth.