NOTE: I JUST REALIZED THIS NEVER MADE IT OUT OF THE DRAFT STAGE. ACK. BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. WRITTEN SEPT. 27.
I know that to those of you (and that is pretty much all of you) sitting snugly in your Western, English-speaking homes, my travails with the English program here probably seem amusing. Oh that Marcie, such a kidder. How bad can it be, really, you say. Ha ha.
So, just to give you an idea of the material I have to work with, here are some actual examples from the textbooks:
Every chapter has a “role play” component. Shakespeare it ain’t. From the 4th grade unit, Who is she? comes the reenactment of the Korean legend of Princess Shim Cheong, who marries the King and throws a banquet for the blind in order to find her long-lost father. Here we go:
Shim Cheong stands up with a surprised face when she sees her father appear.
King: Who is he?
Shim Cheong: He is my father. (Running to him) Father!
Shim Cheong’s father: Who is she? (he’s blind, remember)
Subject: She is Shim Cheong.
Shim Cheong’s father: Shim Cheong?
Shim Cheong: (Hugging him) Father!
Shim Cheong’s father: (Surprisingly, his eyes open slowly) Oh, Shim Cheong!
Shim Cheong: King. This is my father.
King: Nice to meet you.
Shim Cheong’s father: (His eyes are very wide with surprise) Nice to meet you too.
Gripping stuff, eh? And so realistic too.
The actual performances went more like: Whoishe?Heismyfather.Father.Whoisshe?SheisShimCheong.ShimCheong?Father!gigglegigglegigglegiggle.
Then there is this dialog, from the 6th grade lesson, “How was your vacation?” They must have repeated this two dozen times, yet when they actually had to write out a real sentence about their vacation, using the vocabulary words they spent four weeks on, they failed miserably. “I was go swimming. It was fun!”
Here’s just an excerpt from the book:
Jinho: Hi, Tan. Good to see you again.
Tan: Hi, Jinho. How was your vacation?
Jinho: It was great. I visited my grand-parents (sic) in Busan.
Tan: Did you go camping, too?
Jinho: Yes, it was fun. How was your vacation?
Must be read slooowly and stiffly, so they can unnderrrstaaand what. you. are. saying.
The books also include “culture lessons,” expounding on the differences between Korean and American/British culture, obviously from a Korean viewpoint of “the other.” Some of it is astounding and profoundly disturbing.
From “Individualism in America”: “Fundamentally, every human being has the same right and they believe that they have a freedom, human rights by nature. (sic)
“They want to protect themselves by not being bothered by any other people.” (!!! So, we’re all Unibombers now?)
“Thus, they have been trained in a way to decide what they want and what they have to do to get it by themselves in their young period. Accordingly, they use I, me, my and mine, but we don’t hear ‘We Americans,’ or ‘We British’ in their language.”
Um, I seem to recall “WE the people” mentioned somewhere, now where was that?…
I actually brought the above passage to the attention of one of my better English-speaking co-teachers and when I told her it was not true she was stunned.
“But, we are taught this from a young age about Americans!” she said. Man, no wonder the world hates us. Funny, they hate “us” collectively for being individuals.
But, Tuesday I led a dead simple exercise where the kids had to draw a picture of a person, from friend to family to sports figure, and then tell the class who it was. Three little girls drew me – they were so cute! This one was my favorite because I have smiley eyes – and I’m slim. Ha ha!
The rampant abuse and misuse of English continues to be a constant source of amusement, and you don’t have to look far to find the hilarity. Thursday this angelic 4th grade girl was wearing a long pink T-shirt with large glittery letters covering the entire front that read: “PEE ALL THAT YOU CAN PEE.” I’m not kidding. P, B, what’s the difference? None, in Korean, unfortunately. Just as there is no difference between r and l, k and g, p and f.
Sometimes the errors are due to pronunciation, but most often it’s just something lost in translation. Like this helpful sign in the ice cream section:
One day I was walking into a store with a perfectly average set of double doors, and was stopped by a sign by the push bar that said: “Your Hands! Watch Out!” I managed to enter and exit with both hands intact, so I guess it did the trick. And yet, there are no signs on buses saying, “Wild driver! Life in you hands take!” But that’s another story…