봉투 필요 하 서ㅣ요?

(Translation: Do you need a bag?)

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No, this is not another blog listing the differences in shopping in Korea vs. in the United States. I apologize if that’s what you were looking for, but I’m sure there’s plenty of other sites out there that’ll be more accomodating.

Two weeks ago I started taking a course to learn Korean. One, one-hour, class a week, with a breakdown of one student and one teacher. So essentially personalized, weekly instruction. After toiling for a year plus with two different learn Korean textbooks, I’ve found the book approach works best with actual instruction. I mean, I can read what it says a word should sound like, but I’ll never know if I’m right without asking an actual Korean. And nothing will deflate your sails faster than constantly being reminded by the Korean teacher at your school that you are, in fact, wrong again.

(Just (half) kidding there, while it is depressing to be constantly wrong, Susan Teacher is super nice about it; as most Koreans are when they see you’re taking the time to learn their language. After so many decades of being taught and told that English is the way to a successful future, it must be nice to see a foreigner take interest in, and put personal sweat equity into, the country where they’re working.)

Though when I asked her for alphabet clarification (my teacher and the handout she gave me both said that P (피읖) comes before T (티읕), when my books were telling me the opposite. So I asked my Korean teacher who affirmed that the books are correct. Then laughed and said her two, maybe three(?) year-old son is also learning Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. So I guess in response to my tag (Are You Smarter Than a South Korean Child?), I guess the answer is – almost.

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Some quick takeaways I’ve come to realize in just two weeks:

1.) My teacher is super nice. Seriously, she was giving me high fives on the first day just to, I think, stop me from slapping myself in the head every time I missed an easy question. (To be fair to myself, the slaps were light – a friendly, “Hey stupid,” reminder slap.) As it stands, I’m not sure whose approach is superior, as I stopped forgetting what should’ve been forgettable in the first place. Either it was her lighter hand, not directed at my head, or my forceful, yet lovingly gentle slaps that brought the change on. The world may never know.

2.) I used to get all angry with my kids for never using punctuation in class. I’d wonder, do they not use periods in Korean? What about question marks? It turns out they do, but when you’re beginning to write in a foreign language, as I started this week (Week Two), punctuation is the last thing you think about. You’re so focused on making sure all (in my case) your Hangeul is correct that you forget the little things, like proper punctuation.

Hell, last night when I was practicing transcribing the phrases I not only have to memorize, but be able to write, I was messing up basic Korean words. The same easy phrases and words that have been the only ones I’ve known since living here! So essentially everything goes out the window when you’re learning a foreign language, which has definitely taught me to be more forgiving when working with my students.

3.) There’s seriously nothing more belittling than having another teacher explain to you the necessity of the aforementioned punctuation. First she reminded me (probably again) that I had forgotten either the period or the question mark. And she added that periods let the reader know that that’s where the thought ends. My God, I’m being lectured on something I’ve lectured others on! What have I become? Where did my life go off the rails?

Even on the homework I was practicing last night, I still found myself overlooking the punctuation. At least until I was rereading my work and thought, oh crap, I’d better fix that before teacher sees…

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