Language is a tricky thing. Every time I write these blog entries I’m struck by how long it takes me to pick out the exact right word, or create the perfect phrase. There are so many nuances you must be aware of and take advantage of, both in grammar and vocabulary, that it’s a wonder we’re able to communicate our thoughts at all. Now, imagine doing this in a second language.
Everyday as I keep my Korean language journal, I become very frustrated with my elementary, maybe even pre-school level ability. While I don’t think I’m the next Dickens, I can certainly put together a sentence in English, and it’s frustrating when I can’t in Korean.
As an English as a foreign language teacher, something I struggle with is how to give my students the tools and confidence to express themselves. You see, they’re smart, quirky, opinionated, driven, cute, and a whole lot of them are scared of English. There seems to be this mentality where the grammar is the most important aspect, so if a person can’t say the sentence correctly, he or she won’t say it at all, or will revert to an easier and less personal statement (all you EFL teachers out there know what I’m talking about – “I’mfinethankyouandyou” is the bane of my existence). As easy as it is to dismiss this type of attitude as perfectionist or juvenile, when trying to speak Korean I do it as well.
This conundrum inspired a fellow ETA to create a project similar to iSpeakChina called Korean Students Speak. ETAs from F*bright schools all over Korea introduced the project, gave their students pieces of paper and pens, and asked them what they wanted to tell the world – without worrying about grammar, vocabulary, etc. The pictures were then compiled and and anonymously put on tumblr. Approximately ten F*bright schools have participated so far, and there are still more photos to come. I am so proud of the students that have chosen to participate – both from Changpyeong and from Sapgyo. I tell you all the time what my students say in my classroom, or yell at me in the hallways. Visit the website to see what they want to say to you.