1.2 Fall 2019

Week 10, Wednesday

Guitar teacher saved me from another silent lunch by mentioning his Halloween; he was also in Itaewon at the same time.
“Wow we could have seen each other.” I said, although the reality is Itaewon was crowded and my PhD friend is 6’4” so if I walked behind him, I was effectively a ghost.

He added:

“I went to Yongsan park on Sunday. There were many foreign families celebrating Halloween. I just walked around.”

“Ah I see… you were walking off your hangover?”

A moment passed thinking I was mistaken until he admitted with a small laugh aimed at the window “…yes”.

On the stairs a rowdy boy and Strong Girl were wrestling so guitar teacher tickled the boy. He twitched, fell backwards, and brought both of them to the ground, still holding strong girl in a back hug. There was a scuffle and then they both sprang up and chased each other down the hallway in good spirits. Guitar teacher and I carried on as usual, even if this is the last thing anyone would see or allow in an American school. (Strong Girl and most of her female classmates tower over the boys and there’s always some playful wrestling match happening in the hallway. Usually Sky Boy and Tank Boy call one girl a monster and she chases them down the hallway, fist raised, murderous intent shining in her eyes).

As we walked in a staggered line up the stairs and he walked ahead of me once we entered our hallway, seeming to duck out of our conversation, a terrible icky feeling came over me: I was a burden. That being friends or talking with a foreigner causes too much mental language stress and is something to be tolerated… which is obviously ridiculous because I am a blast.

When you’re reliant on natives to take care of basic life necessities in your new country, it’s a hard feeling to avoid.

G came by my class later to hammer out some third grade class details. I get to conduct the speaking test for each third grader individually so I’m excited! I love them even if they still call me the previous teacher’s name.

I said I will miss G when she leaves. She told me she might stay for the full semester since according to S, H (the coteacher that left for her maternity leave) may stay on maternity leave until next semester. I do miss H too though it feels like 100 years have passed since I last saw her. G added “You know, younger teachers are energetic but don’t know the minds of students and have a harder time controlling them.”

She tells me often “I’m very thankful to be with you” and “you’re a good teacher”. I know this is part of her reward shtick but I’ll take it! My inner former gifted child needs constant praise.

I’ve been secretly wishing that she’d come to fourth grade and clean them up. I mostly shadow in her class which I’m okay with— she’s a good teacher and I enjoy learning from her. I think she talked me up to guitar teacher earlier too LOL.

Speaking of fourth grade.

Oof, y’all. S repeated some phonics notes I told the class a few weeks ago “big mouth says ah” but she still, bless her heart, mispronounces short A (“short A like bet” as I cringe). I’m like “hi! Native speaker hired specifically for this! Right here!”.

It’s a delicate balance between correcting their pronunciation while knowing they’re repeating after her. Some foreign teachers do full lesson from planning to execution but not at my school

My feeling today. Credit: South Park.

In the resource room I asked a teacher who stopped in if I need to fill out clipboard sheet. Well, what I wanted to say was “earlier I took some paper, do I need to write on this clipboard sheet?” But I searched for a long second and couldn’t locate any word in my mental Korean dictionary for “take” so I landed on:

종이 가자고 있었어요 which was wrong on so many levels and she just responded…what?

“Um… 써지 않았어요 …괜찮아요? [gesture to paper]” I didn’t write, is that okay?

“아 네 괜찮아요.” Oh. Yes, that’s okay.
(But also props to me for using more difficult negative conjugation on the fly)

Some grade 5 girls saw me from atop the playground and shouted hellos.

“What are you doing?”


I pointed at the second girl who was attempting to climb up the slide with two backpacks on.

“One bag.. two bags…”

“Oh. Yes! Bye teacher!”

The principal and vice principal were crossing the field at the same time. Yes kids, let them know you like meeee.

I saw my two smartest fourth graders at the ddeokbokki stand. The boy shyly bowed although he and the smart girl are becoming a loud tag team in 4-2. The girl said hello teacher! And then we all almost got run over by a man on a motorcycle, because why use all that open street when you can rev at children and make everyone squeeze into a six inch space so you don’t run over our toes??

There wasn’t a traffic or roadblock so I can’t tell you what he was doing… although this is far from the first time I’ve had to make way for a motorcycle or scooter on the sidewalk. I turned back to tell her, wow scary, and we exchanged raised eyebrows at the neighborhoods antics.

In other good news though, I’ve decided to quit Korean class! Taking the train 45 minutes during rush hour and skipping dinner twice a week were taking their toll after two months. So going forward it will be self study, private tutoring, and maybe an online course. I’d love to go back to Hankuk University but until I can spare ten full time weeks so this is what I got.

Language corner!

In Korean there is a subject marking particle that is optional in speech. It’s 가 (ka, if word ends in vowel) or 이 (ee, if word ends in consonant). In English, word order and pronouns help establish a clear subject but in Korean that can be more difficult to do since word order is much more flexible— hence particles.

Obviously this becomes confusing in spoken language when particles (subject marker, topic marker, object marker) are dropped and the listener is expected to understand through context. There are of course regular Korean words that end in 이/가 but in spoken language I start to misunderstand what is part of the word and what is a marker. My most glaring example:

In summer class I heard “키가 커요” = Is Tall [keega keoyo]

— yep, subjects as a whole are optional and there are no subject specific conjugations like English or Spanish. That’s why when I thought the barista said “싫어” (bad/dislike) I thought it meant her OR the latte were not good.—
So it came to essay writing time where particles are NOT optional.

“Ah, then 키가 must be 키가가” I thought, until my teacher handed me back my paper: “what is keegaga? The noun is just 키…”

I also spent the whole summer thinking 키 was “body” since 커요 means big. It actually means height. So:
키 height
가 subject particle
크다 to be big* (all adjective are verbs, fun right? Just me?) *irregular conjugation
요 polite ending

키가 커요.
Height is big >> Is tall

It’s funny because to say someone is old you DON’T say big age, but instead say “many age”:
나이가 많아요

Can you figure out what is “age”, the subject particle, and the infinitive of “age”?

*Adjective-type words come in infinitive or stem forms. You must conjugate them to make a verb or to make an actual adjective part of speech. For example:
재미있다 entertaining/to be entertaining(can be used alone on occasion as an expression)
영화가 재미있어요.
Movie-subject particle is entertaining >> the movie is entertaining.
재미있는 영화예요
Entertaining movie-is. >> it’s an entertaining movie.

금요일 저녁에 식당에서 맛있는 음식을 많이 먹었어요.
Friday evening-on restaurant-at delicious food many ate.
As you can see, word order is very different from English! Do you know what the sentence means?

(I once said, quite literally, “I ate a large breakfast” and was laughed at. Just goes to show things that may seem perfectly reasonable in your language are not in others.)

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