Thursday, 20 October 2011

Language Learning - the pleasures and the pratfalls.

Do you remember that scene from 'The Matrix' where Neo is 'plugged in' to a training programme for about half an hour and then wakes up to proclaim, "I know Kung Fu!"
Oh how often I have longed for something like that.......for Kung Fu and Korean!

Since, sadly, there is as yet no way of learning a language without time or effort, at least I have the infinite advantage of total immersion.
And if ever there was a danger of losing motivation - though the prospect of watching K Dramas without subtitles is plenty motivation for me! - there are the little victories and the little embarrasments every single day to spur me on.
The victories encourage me and the embarrasments make me bloody determined not to make THAT mistake again!

Allow me to present you with a few examples for your delectation:

  • The taxi driver who was so delighted with my Korean directions that he rounded down the fare.
  • The taxi ride where my pronunciation of 'department store' made a grown man giggle.

  • Introducing myself in Korean at Tae Kwon Do and getting a round of applause.
  • Bidding farewell to twenty students from another dojang (tae kwon do school) and using the Korean phrase for "Thank you for your hard work" (it's catchier in Korean) only to discover the next day that what I had actually said was "I'm sorry."  Over.  And over.  And over.

  •  Ordering a coffee in Korean and rendering the server speechless.  Literally.  She just stood there blinking until a kind colleague led her away and filled the order herself!
  • Ordering in another coffee shop entirely in Korean, without need of repitition or clarification.......and getting what I ordered!!
  • On leaving a restaurant, using the phrase, "I have eaten well", and eliciting a surprised "Oooh!"

  • Dodging a linguistic bullet by asking my Korean teacher about the word 'jaebal'.  It's listed in some Korean phrase books for 'please' but in seven months I had never once heard it used in conversation, only in the more ballad like of pop songs - turns out it's not so much 'please', more like 'I beg of you', or 'I beseech you'.  So some poor sod of an unsuspecting tourist is brandishing their phrase book and declaiming in the middle of a SevenEleven - "A pack of chewing gum, I beseech you!"
  • Getting the joke when my six year old student, Alice, begs me to speak Korean, and uses 'Jaebal' to do it!

  • Trying to tell one of my students that their rabbit pencil case is really cute......when they pick themselves off the floor and remember how to breathe rather than laugh, they tell me I have just said the rabbit has no ears!
Episodes like that make my homework almost palatable!
Though on second thoughts, never mind the dramas, I'll settle for understanding my washing machine!