I’ve been given ample time for R&D of late, and also I’m staying an extra hour and a half every day for dinners at school.  (it costs half the price of eating out)

The opportunity to learn Korean with immigrant brides was dashed when the class time was changed to conflict with the classes I teach.  So, I’ve got to learn on my own, as there are no weekend classes anywhere, and no way to make a weekday class in Seoul when my commute is about an hour and a half each way.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered:

Talk to me in Korean


Live Mocha

and the sexy voice of

Busy Atom

also helpful have been some random videos by individuals, such as:

(the video above is REALLY helpful – these are actually the words that stick out the most, that you hear the most, and which grease conversations)

Queerion’s LEARN KOREAN in less than a minute

(okay, maybe not as helpful since foreigners can’t afford to be smart-asses, but definitely fun)

My lunar new year’s resolution was to create a set schedule of studying Korean daily, but like all resolutions my whole life, it’s fallen by the wayside.  I do  believe these will help, I just have to repeatedly listen to them again, and again, and again, and again.  It’s the closest thing I have to human company too.  : (

The great thing about this past year of trying every kind of learning Korean method under the sun – all of which have failed – is that it’s made me think about how to teach English better.  And no, I disagree with Ask a Korean who claims foreigners are just lazy and need to work their asses off memorizing like Koreans do.   It’s true that method is possible, but it’s also inefficient, academic, and  hard to make meaningful.   And thus, my problem learning Korean is fundamentally learning in a vacuum.  I HAVE TO learn language naturally.  I NEED a Korean in my life, and it’s not happening despite my best efforts.  (and, unfortunately, for those of us involved with TRACK, our energies are diluted so language acquisition is even slower than other foreigners — that along with not having the celebrity cache that white westerners do so people take time out of their busy schedules to talk with us, and many who were not relinquished at birth feel there is an emotional mental block; that the recognition and loss of this language hurts every time it’s heard or spoken)

This assumption that foreigners should suck it up and learn the same way Koreans do, through busting their ass, is fundamentally flawed because  IT ISN’T WORKING FOR KOREANS, so how can they expect hitting the books to work for us?  This attitude — that it’s all up to the individual to learn a SOCIAL skill involving COMMUNICATION by oneself in isolation — is just, well, bullshit and ass backwards.

It’s shocking to me how nobody here OFFERS to show the foreigner a word or explain anything EVER.  When back at home, I’ve helped visitors from other countries with their English without even a second thought and witnessed everyone around me doing the same.  Hell, usually people are EXCITED to show newcomers around and teach them new words and share insider info about their culture.  Here,  we are TOTALLY ON OUR OWN with no sympathy.

To add insult to injury, if, after prying with all one’s might a simple conversation out of someone with a HUGE English vocabulary, every road explored gets a door slammed shut on it.  Now, I realize this is because English is a cold language and because they’ve not learned how to warm it up or pad harsh news, but it doesn’t change the shock of it.  So it’s WORK and takes great effort to not be shocked, dismayed, disgusted, and hurt when every effort at conversation is totally shut down with a conversation killing answer.  You just have to swallow your feelings, not hold it against them, and keep trying.  But some days it just feels hopeless.

Being with lower level language learners is helping me somewhat.  Because my lessons are about basic things, like what’s this, what’s that, etc.  I am starting to hear things in context because the co-teachers are translating.  So I’m hearing words stand out that get repeated. yogi and  chugi. The problem is there are too many of these, and I don’t get paid to have the whole class stop and review words I need reinforced.  But, every now and then, these old brain cells will remember a word.  At this rate, I might have a vocabulary of 100 more words by the end of the year.  I would learn more in a class and through memorizing, but they wouldn’t have any meaning to me, and I would immediately forget most of them.

I started formulating some ideas last week, and I’ve been happy to discover some others in the EFL field who must have beat me to it.  There’s one guy who has an entire program called Effortless English, which basically is all the ideas I came up with on my own but codified and fleshed out with materials.  The problem is, it’s for adults.  And the other problem is most EFL stuff is either for adults or geared towards early elementary.  But me, I’ve got low level English learners who are almost adults, who are having giggling crushes while dreaming about sex and worrying about their futures but still have one foot in video games.   There’s a serious void in the teen EFL market, one that I must fill somehow.

So I’ve started thinking about what I need to learn Korean and I’m trying to find ways to give my students that in English.  I wish we could all hang out more, actually, and I’ve missed them this week.  Doing R&D this week, I’ve been just appalled at the preponderance of dry, grammar-focused garbage western losers posing as expert teachers are putting out there.  It’s clear I have to make my own.  I’m down-loading a lot of videos and cutting them up and creating something totally different with them.  However, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do this.  I’d love to make my own videos, but my handycam isn’t reliable and turns all the images red without notice.  Actually, I’m happy to just use the blackboard, but I want a return on my investment so I don’t have to keep re-creating the lessons over and over.

2 thoughts on “R&D

  1. What the Peace Corps found to be the most effective in learning a new language was the “immersion technique” which, in your particular case is probably not applicable.
    Korean is very difficult. In fact, the US State Department considers it in cat 4, like Chinese or Thai.
    So don’t be too hard on yourself.

  2. Oh thanks, Chosunking!

    Most Koreans are under the impression that we can learn this in a year or two. They have t.v. shows with foreign college students conversing in Korean and that’s the yardstick everyone is held up against. (young people studying nothing but Korean full time)

    At which point, I ask them, “and how long have you been studying English?” The answer is typically anywhere from six to eight years for my students, to twelve or more for the adults I talk to. “And how comfortable do you feel speaking?” At which point I win the argument. I finish it off by telling them I’ve only been here a year and only studied Korean about four months. (btw, I wouldn’t recommend having private tutoring with a friend, because then you end up just chatting in English too much)

    Yes, that does make me feel better! I do need to find discipline and balance my life better, though. Hard to do with all this activist work.

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