1.2 Fall 2019

Week 13, Wednesday, a grave offense

Today was a whole lot of good but I have to get something off my chest. This pertains to language and relationships so let’s have a fun language corner:

Korean has a lot of politeness levels that can also be combined with various honorific conjugations. But for our lesson today, let’s focus and say that there are essentially three levels of politeness.

Casual language that is used between close friends, lovers, people born in the same year, or from a much older to younger person; polite language which is used between coworkers, people who don’t know each other that well, and general every day situations; and formal which is used from a subordinate to a boss or younger to older person. My students use casual language with each other and the teachers speak casual language towards the students. The students speak polite language towards the teachers. I could use casual language towards the students but I stick to polite language for all interactions unless I’m trying to make a point with the kids.

Even with my friends I speak polite Korean. There is only one friend I speak casually with and that’s because 1. he asked me to and 2. we’ve known each other for almost a decade.

During Halloween I met a lot of different people. One of them texts often and we recently switched to texting in Korean. He switched to casual language almost immediately which I could not understand: we’ve only met once and for an hour at most, I didn’t speak causally with him or invite him to speak casually with me, and we are close in age. It’s like calling your friend’s mom by her first name the second time you meet her.

I asked friends and coworkers why he would do this and received a range of answers: he wants express closeness, he’s older, and he thinks he can speak casually with you because English doesn’t have politeness levels.

Well I asked the man in question and it turns out… it’s all three! I’m mostly aggravated by excuse three.

He said he likes North American culture where age doesn’t matter. But 1. this is Korea, 2. this is Korean language and 3. he is Korean. It’s presumptuous to the umpteenth degree.

“I’m your oppa” boy no you ain’t, get out of here.



The subject teachers and I had a retreat today. We visited a van Gogh and Monet exhibit and had a very American style dinner. S told me she overheard some teachers talking in the lounge and I immediately said… oh no.

“No, they said you speak Korean well and it shows you are so well mannered for learning the language of the country you came to.” G told S she’s lucky to have me and S complained that she can’t practice English with me because I speak Korean to her often.

This seemed like a gateway into my brewing study plan: “do you think, with the homeroom teachers’ permission, I could give every student one vocabulary card and they could quiz me when they see me during breaks? Then they would learn the word in English and I would learn Korean which would help me greatly for the National Korean test I want to take in January.” They didn’t seem to have any opposition so I might have a whole host of little tutors quizzing me in the hallway next month.

Our retreat dinner place was actually in Dongdaemun which is a side of town I know very well. I opted to stay back and shop at the outlet and by complete and utter accident I finally finally found the huge discount shopping mall that I’ve been looking for for six months.

My final purchase? I ended up with a padded down jacket (with raccoon fur also?) for under $70.

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