Archive for the ‘korean language’ Category

Em in Asia! 2013-06-24 21:25:51

Monday, June 24th, 2013

I’m sorry for the lack of updates.

I just… it’s hard for me to write when I feel like my heart is being torn into multiple pieces everyday. I came to the astonishing realization last week that some of my students don’t realize that I’m leaving. I’ve told them so often that I’m leaving – for vacation, I normally hasten to add, that they don’t realize that when I say that I’m going to America I mean that I’m not coming back. Furthermore, the Korean school year starts in the fall, so I’m leaving halfway through the year, why on earth wouldn’t I come back?

Last week I made it very clear that I was leaving. I told one of my second grade girls’ classes the number of weeks that I had left at our school and was surprised to find the class captain crying.

I got a phone call from my host mother on Saturday. She doesn’t speak any English so while I would’ve been scared talk with her on the phone my first year, it’s a mark of my improvement that without hesitation I picked up the phone and we had a short conversation. She wants me to visit before I leave.

Our program’s final dinner is this weekend and I can’t bring myself to be excited about it. I love F*lbright, but I can’t shake off the feeling that by spending a weekend elsewhere, I’m missing stuff here.

In addition I’ve been trying to make time to meet and see everyone I’ve grown to know over the past two/three years, make time for a new special person, teach special Friday classes, prepare for YDAC (we got 3rd place!) keep up my Korean studying, host visitors, hike mountains, plan for Camp F*lbright, pack up my belongings to mail to the US (check!), apply for jobs (I hate my resume. I hate my resume. I hate my resume), cry over my failing TOPIK result (partially joking), and keep myself together. It’s exhausting.

I found this letter in one of my club class students’ notebooks.

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Yes, yes I am sad, and pensive, and happy, and nervous, and frustrated, and overwhelmed, and surprisingly numb. She’s a very perceptive student, but I don’t think she’ll ever realize how much it means to me that she used the word “our.”

On the TOPIK and Being Okay with Failure

Friday, May 31st, 2013

I failed the Intermediate Topik again.

I took the test in April, and have been anxiously awaiting the results ever since. The results came out yesterday at 3 and I ran up to my co-teacher’s office to use her computer because mine was too slow. The score finally came up, right as the bell signifying the next period rang. 불합격. I had failed. The tightness in my chest I had felt while waiting for the test results further constricted, and surprisingly I found myself struggling to hold back tears. My co-teacher looked at me, concerned, and I left to go teach.

I have spent the last three years “studying” Korean, but to be honest with myself I have spent only the last year and a half intensively studying Korean. I’ve done classes, private lessons, and studied on my own. My focus ever since I submitted my graduate school applications has been the TOPIK, and I’ve given up a lot of other extracurricular activities to further focus on studying for this test. However, according to the Korean government I’m not good enough at Korean to be considered an intermediate speaker – I’m just a beginner.

This is obviously just me feeling sorry for myself, as I’m not a beginner by any stretch of the imagination, but I spent most of yesterday down in the dumps. You see – I didn’t expect a failing grade, I actually thought I would pass.

In order to pass the Intermediate TOPIK with a score of 3 you have to get a 50% on all 4 sections, the grammar/vocabulary, writing, reading, and listening. In order to receive a score of 4, you have to get a 70% on all of the sections. A 50% is pretty low, so even if you feel like you failed the test, there’s a chance you passed it. I had taken the TOPIK once before and had failed it then, so when I left the building this time around I felt much better, and it turns out I should have. I got a 70% on grammar/vocab (enough to qualify me for a 4 in that section), and a surprising 66 on the reading – which last time around was my worst section. I felt a little nervous about my listening score, but as listening is normally my best section I assumed that I had passed it and I did with a score of 59%. Writing is what killed me, with a score of 35%. 35%. One percent worse than I did last time. Where I improved by leaps and bounds, almost doubling my listening and grammar/vocab scores, my writing score actually got worse and I was so frustrated that I probably would’ve burst into tears if I hadn’t had class.

Today I finished teaching my content matter a little early, so I let students relax for the last five minutes of class. A student called me over and asked if she could talk to me about something. She ended up telling me about her English grades, and how her teacher had told her that her English was getting worse because her test scores were dropping. She was really upset because she thought that her English was pretty good, but both her score and her teacher were telling her that she wasn’t.

I sat down and told her that I couldn’t say that scores don’t matter, because unfortunately they do, but we both know that she has a high English level. Of course she wants to improve her score, and she should try, but a lower test score doesn’t mean that her English is bad. I then told her that I had just failed a Korean test. Her eyes got wide, and she exclaimed “but you’re good at Korean!” and I replied “I know. But sometimes we get bad scores.” It took talking to this student for me to remember that scores aren’t the end all be all. We tell our students everyday that the score less important than your actual ability, but I had to tell a student this in order to apply it to myself. Yes, I failed this proficiency test – but I’m still good at Korean. And I will pass this test the next time around.

Pictures from the May Concert

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

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Some pictures of the events taken by the lovely Waygook Photography.

Hosting

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

I had a really cool experience yesterday.

I know that at this point I mostly use this blog to blather on about my school, so most a lot of people don’t know what I do from day to day. Mostly I just teach or lesson plan, however I also study Korean and volunteer with various organizations. One organization where I both volunteer and study Korean at is the GIC, the Gwangju International Center. The GIC is a nonprofit organization that provides services to international residents in Gwangju or the surrounding areas and promotes cultural exchange between local and international residents.

The GIC is currently in the process of relocating, and fundraising to cover the relocation effort. Every May, the GIC hosts a May Concert that showcases local and international talent, and this year the proceeds of the May Concert were going to the GIC. They needed two people, a Korean person and a foreign person, to host the event, so they asked me to co-host the event with a very nice Korean English teacher.

I’ve actually never hosted anything before, so it was a very new experience for me. I received my script on Monday and spent all week frantically studying it, then on Sunday as the concert started I walked up on stage with my co-host, smiled at the audience that I couldn’t see because of the blinding stage lights, and said

“여러분, 안녕하십니까.”

A ripple of surprised laughter rang through the audience, which quieted down as I continued to give our introductory remarks in Korean. After I finished, my co-host took the microphone and smoothly introduced the concert in English. You see, as I said earlier one of the GIC’s  core tenants is promoting cultural exchange between local and international residents, and thus the GIC had asked me to host the event in Korean, and my co-host to host it in English. We continued on this way, alternating between English and Korean, with little trip-ups, and slightly unnatural cadences, for the rest of the concert.

TOPIK Update

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Most of my energy outside of school has been put into figuring out my future (finding promising looking jobs to apply for, updating my resume, cleaning my apartment) or studying Korean. I have my proficiency test this Sunday, and I’m hoping to pass the intermediate level test. The intermediate level is much more difficult than the beginner, so while I’m miles above the beginner there is a fair chance I wont’ pass the intermediate. This would be unfortunate because then the only level documentation I have (other than my certificates of completion for various Korean classes) would state that I was at a beginning level.

Furthermore, this test is only offered once every three months, and the next time it’s offered in Korea will be after my contract ends and I will probably have already left the country. I CAN take it in America, but it’d be much better if I could just pass the intermediate this time around.

Wish me luck!

Em in Asia! 2013-03-07 00:21:56

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Positive – I now have over a thousand “flowers” (words) on Memrise.

Dashboard   Memrise

Negative – this is what happens if you don’t study for a few days.

Words Words Words

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Sorry for the lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing for my trip to Japan, my time in Seoul, and the TOPIK exam (the Test of Proficiency in Korean). The most difficult thing about the TOPIK is the sheer amount of vocabulary I’m expected to know. The listening section is alright, and I actually do okay with the grammar, but many times I’ll read a sentence and understand it, only to be told that I should substitute in a synonym for an underlined word and realize that I don’t know what any of the options mean! At that point the only thing I can do is guess.

I’ve been thinking a lot about language. In July I’ll be heading back to America (for good?) and I’m scared that I’ll lose all the Korean that I’ve gained. Though I’ve been studying for over two years, sometimes it feels like I’m getting nowhere. I’ve been reading a lot about language acquisition, and I’ve been observing my students struggle with English, and part of me wonders if I’ll ever get to “fluency,” however you define that. I read an interesting article written by Antonio Graceffo about fluency, and how many words it takes to read a newspaper, and started thinking about my own vocab level. How many words do I know?

I wasn’t always, but these days I try to be methodical when studying vocabulary. It’s too easy to “think” that you’re actually learning and retaining a word, and then realize that you can only recognize it, and not produce it. Halfway through last year I started using an awesome website called Memrise to study vocabulary, and my rate of retention skyrocketed. It’s the only program I know of where in order to get the flashcard “right” you have to actually type out the word, which is great because then I’m being tested on spelling and there’s no cheating. If I can remember the spelling, then I’ll know how to pronounce it correctly.  When you get a word right the “plant” associated with each word is “watered.” With every successful watering, you have to water that plant less, so words I get wrong are frequently shown to me, whereas very simple and easy vocabulary is brought up once every few months or so in order to refresh my memory. I highly suggest Memrise to anyone who struggles with vocabulary (be my mempal – Memrise friend- I’m AnnPotski!).

Anyway, in the article Graceffo takes eight different articles from the New York Times online and through what seemed to be a painstakingly painful process counted all of the unique words (counting conjugated forms as separate words, so word would be counted once, and words would be counted separately). Apparently to read the New York Times you should have a vocabulary of approximately 4,000 words. Holy mackerel. After reading that, I headed over to Memrise to see how I was doing.

memrise

 

Considering that not all of the words I know are actually on Memrise, I have a vocab of at least 1,000, probably closer to 2,000. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there. Time to go water some plants.

Em in Asia! 2012-11-19 23:21:44

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Remember how Solomon gave me a literary collection that contained three of his pieces? I’m still only halfway through the first one. He’s a good writer, but goodness this is difficult.

This is his essay about Typhoon Bolaven.

You see the three post-it notes full of vocabulary? I’m only 3 1/2 paragraphs into translating his essay.

Em in Asia! 2012-04-24 22:00:30

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

It is raining like the dickens outside (… what does that even mean? Charles Dickens? Why are intense things associated with Dickens? Did the person who coined this even READ Great Expectations?) and students have midterms next week. It’s a weird mix of crazy and exhausted, and damp. This morning I woke up at 5 am because the shutters in my apartment building’s hallway kept banging open and shut. It’s only 10:50 and I can already tell it’s going to be a strange day.

I pointed out the window and asked my advanced 1st grade students how they would describe this weather in Korean. Interestingly enough, this seemed to stump them. After class a student came up to me with a post-it note:

Storm

- 폭풍우: 폭풍 (violent wind) + 폭우 (violent rain). * 폭: (Chinese) violent; 풍: (Chinese) wind; 우: (Chinese) wind*
- 비바람: rain (비) + wind (바람)
- 거친 (adjective) 날씨: turbulent weather. (거칠다: V, Be rough)

 

While students are self-studying I’ve been writing in my Korean language diary, but unfortunately when it rains that is all I can really think about, so my entry today is only about rain. I’m tempted to go up to students that are goofing off instead of studying and asking them grammar questions and making them correct my entry, but then they might see some of my weirder entries (or the ones where I talk about them), so I’ll probably just leave it be.

Anyway, onward to third period, where I’ll be teaching teenage boys right after they’ve finished an English listening test who’ve been cooped up inside during their breaks because of the rain. Let the games begin.

But on a much more positive note…

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Yesterday my classes weren’t all that great, but a lot of great stuff happened outside of class. Here’s all that good stuff, in random order.

I met with the two girls who wanted to have lunchtime conversation practice, and it went much better than anticipated. I’m always a bit wary of small group conversations because many times students are pressured into doing it by their parents or other teachers and don’t actually want to be there, and thus aren’t motivated to speak, so you end up asking a lot of leading questions to fill the awkward silence which gets really tiresome. These girls came prepared with not only a topic that they had obviously thought about (Korean versus American schools) but also lemonade and so we chatted for twenty minutes about their and my high school experiences while sipping our beverages. I had so much fun talking to them that I was surprised when the bell rang. Later in the day they came and gave me a tomato, because one of the girls’ father is a tomato farmer in Damyang.

As I was leaving school I ran into multiple groups of three or four first grade boys who were carrying large paintings across school grounds and across the street. Immediately upon seeing me they start screaming “PODOSKYYYYYY PODOSKYYYY HELP ME THIS IS HEAVY” to which I of course reply “Sorry. Going home. Have fun. You are strong.” If the second grade boys like to call me “Emily Photo-ski” then I think my new nickname given to me from the first grade boys is “Podoski,” because they think that my name sounds like Podolski, who is a famous soccer player.

Boys are weird.

After school I went to a coffee shop called Te Amo and worked on Korean for about two hours. I’ve grown kind of disillusioned with textbooks because all textbooks have such varied curricula that I end up learning grammar forms that are considered beginner/intermediate by one book’s standard, but not learning grammar forms  that are considered super basic by another book but hasn’t been introduced in my book yet. Also I’m so sick of hearing about Linda Taylor, and Michael, and Natasha, and Tien, and all the stupid characters that they insist on introducing to you in the books. “Natasha is married to a Korean man and likes to cook Kimchijjigae-” GUESS WHAT EWHA KOREAN LANGUAGE PROGRAM –  NATASHA IS NOT REAL AND NO ONE CARES ABOUT HER COOKING PREFERENCES.

/rant

So instead I borrowed a book from Changpyeong’s library called 국경 없는 마을 (The village without borders) which is a book written in 1st person narrative from the perspective of South East Asian workers and their children who live in Korea. Not only is it much more interesting than a textbook, but I’m introduced to a lot of new vocabulary and grammar and I can actually see how it’s used in a real sentence, rather than in a “dumbed-down-for-foreigners-learning-Korean” sentence. This isn’t to say that all textbooks are bad, or that simplifying sentences for second-language learners is a bad way to go, it’s just that I feel that I’ve hit a rut with my Korean reading and writing skills so it might be time to try a different approach. This book is especially interesting because as I live in a rural area, there are quite a few immigrants in my town, and in Damyang-eup (about thirty minutes away) there’s an immigrant center just like the one I’m reading about. It’s doubly interesting when you consider that this book is written in Korean and there’s no English translation, so by translating this myself, I get to access a resource that would have been completely inaccessible to me a year and a half ago.

I’ve also been writing in my Korean diary, and today I’m going to meet my language partner and she’ll hopefully check it. It’s always so humbling trying to write down your thoughts in another language. My most recent entry goes something like this:

“Usually I write with a pencil because I write many wrong things but today while going to Gwangju I forgot all of my pens at school so I must write with a red pen. I do not like writing with a red pen. When I write with a red pen, I feel like a bad student. Also now while I am studying at a coffee shop my cell phone battery ran out so I cannot use the dictionary. It is very difficult. In Korea if you write a person’s name in red it is bad, right? In America, any color is okay however I still don’t like red pens.”

I feel like I’m back in elementary school. Ah well, as long as you work a little everyday, right?

However I’ve saved the best for last – so to preface this story, I should explain that in Korean schools there are no janitors. All of the students are assigned a location and a job (for example, second grade building staircase – sweeper) and they have to clean that area during a designated cleaning time, which at our school is for twenty minutes after 6th period everyday. I don’t like to leave school until after cleaning time, so I’m normally awkwardly sitting at my desk alone (all the other teachers are supervising cleaning crews) when the teachers’ office cleaning crew comes by to sweep and mop under my desk. The current mopper is scared of me, perhaps, because she refuses to talk to me, but the sweeper is an adorably sprightly second grade girl who everyday skips over to my desk (she literally skips) and asks if I can move so she can sweep under it.

This girl, MW, asked for my email address last week so that she could practice her English, but then the next day told me that she’d have to wait until the weekend to email me because she lives in the school dormitory. I told her that if she wanted she could do that, or she could hand-write me notes and I would correct them and write them back. The next day she gave me TWO pieces of paper – the original note (with drawings and multiple colors) and a photocopied one that I could edit and give back to her. The entire note was just charming, but this one section just put it over the top:

“I like to talk with others, but this school makes me study hard.  so I have to study every time.
In meanwhile, I had a dream. It is math teacher in middle school :) . Although math is often hard it makes me happy.
Do you want to know reason?
Umm, math’s range is very wide. So I’m happy when I learn new things.
also, I like teaching my friends. So, I have a hope. I grow up like you, because teacher’s class is very fun! (thanks teacher)”

Thank you MW. I hope you don’t think my similes and metaphors lesson this week is too boring.