Students asked me to write an article for the newspaper. I asked when it was due, how long it should be, and what it should be about, and they answered “whenever, about a page, something funny.” Thanks guys. I set the limit of Friday at lunch to try to finish it in time, but I just finished it about a half hour ago. For those of you that read my final address to the Sapgyo students parts of this may seem familiar, and that’s because I took direct inspiration from that address. I feel like something I can’t tell students enough is that when they come talk to me they’re not a burden to me, even if they are not very good at English, I still really enjoy talking to them.
Most likely I won’t update this blog until after I come back from traveling (January 15th), so I’ll leave you with my nice long newspaper article. Happy holidays!
“It seems like it was just yesterday that I was worried about what to write for this newspaper, and now I am worrying about what to write again. In my last article I introduced myself and said hello to all of the students, and now inevitably I have to say goodbye, not only to the third graders who are graduating and starting a new chapter in their lives, but to the second graders who I will no longer teach. Thank you all for making my first semester at Changpyeong High School memorable.
As a native English teacher in Korea, who is studying Korean in her free time, my life is overwhelmed by language. The longer I stay in Korea the more the lines between English and Korean blur and while it is very fun, sometimes by the end of the day I cannot speak any language, let alone Korean or English. I’m sure you know what that’s like.
I think learning a foreign language is one of the most difficult things a person can do. It is very frustrating when you can communicate perfectly well in your native language, but can’t think of the simplest words in another. Not only that, but it is so easy to make very basic mistakes. The first few weeks I was in Korea every time I went to a coffee shop I ordered a 코피 [kopi - nose bleed] instead of a 커피 [keopi - coffee]. I’m sure that sometimes I still do. It is also easy to make vocabulary mistakes. In English we have two distinct words, “head” and “hair” whereas in Korea there is only the word [meori] 머리, so sometimes I make mistakes when listening to people talk about their hair or head. Therefore though it is easy for you to know what someone means when they say “머리를 자르고 싶다” [meorilul jareugo shipda - want to cut hair/head], I become very worried until I realize that they probably just want a hair cut.
However, the most difficult part of learning to speak a foreign language is not grammar or vocabulary, but self-confidence. The purpose of learning a foreign language is to communicate. In order to speak a foreign language you must feel two things. One – that you can do it. You know the vocabulary, grammar, etc. Two – that you are worth listening to, that you have interesting and important things to say. It is important to know vocabulary and grammar, however the most important thing when speaking a foreign language is your feeling of self-worth, and not being afraid to make mistakes. No matter how good your English is, if you feel that you are not worth listening to, it will hurt you more than bad grammar.
In my opinion, the best English speakers at Changpyeong High School don’t always have the highest grades – they are the ones who are confident in themselves. Because I am the foreign teacher, I know it can be intimidating to talk to me. You have to think carefully about your words, and it can be very stressful and tiring. However, even though you didn’t have to talk to me outside of class, many of you did. Some of you talked to me on the street, or in the hallways of the school, or on the bus, and for that I thank you. Thank you for telling me all of the best places to eat in Changpyeong. Thank you for explaining to how the dormitory works, and telling me stories about your roommates. Thank you for showing me pictures of your family. Thank you for telling me about your morning EBS classes, and the nightly self-study system, and how vacation days work, and other seemingly small things that help me understand Changpyeong students better. Thank you for giving me high-fives in the hallways. Thank you for sharing with me pieces of your lives – even if you think they were small or insignificant, you taught me a lot.
Have a good holiday, study hard (but not too hard), and I will see you again next semester. I’m excited to meet you again, and hear more stories.”