Saturday, June 30, 2012

Did You Know? (3)

Did you know that I recently found out that the word that is consistently translated as raccoon in Korean is actually referring to a raccoon dog which is a completely different animal (though, admittedly similar in appearance)?

File:Tanuki01 960.jpg    File:Raccoon (Procyon lotor) 1.jpg

Did you know that Koreans use scissors as a common utensil with dinner (quite useful)?


Did you know that the Korean language has a "P" (ㅍ) and a "B" (ㅂ) sound, but they are used differently at different places in the syllable?

Did you know because of this Korean English students sometimes say, "I like to eat crap" (crab)?

File:Gecarcinus quadratus (Nosara).jpg    Note: the other appropriate picture...not provided.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On Training 2

In one of the training classes today, we were talking about dealing with multi-leveled students in class.  At the very end of class:

Guy 1:  `Why doesn`t the education office just level the classes into appropriate levels?` 

I think this is a reasonable question.

Blond-haired 년 (an impolite term for a `girl`):  `Research has shown that if you tell a teacher that these are low level students then the teacher will treat those students like dumb asses even if they are really a mixed class.`

Me: `I taught at a private afterschool academy before public school and we leveled students.  They turned into quite decent English speakers.`

Blond-haired 년 (pointing her finger at me and face contorted with anger): `You`re why my students sleep in class!!!`

Wow!  Issues?  I didn`t know the question of whether or not to level classes was such a sensitive issue.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Training

I am off to be trained by YBM.  YBM is the number one name in English education in Korea.  It just so happens to be the parent company of the private institute that I worked at before public school.

It is also the company for which my friend, Amanda, happened to work as an editor about three years ago.  Now, as I remember it, she used to text and call me with questions such as:

Amanda:  `Matt, they wrote, `I want to gone to Japan.` They question my English all the time, but I know they are wrong.  This is wrong, right?`

She is not a stupid person, but doubt really does start to move into your mind after continuously being critiqued on your native language by non-native speakers (that seems like an odd statement, but `tis true).

But by far the most memorable conversation was about her duties as a North American cultural and `reality` (?) liason.

Amanda: `Matt, the artist drew a picture of a black girl with blond hair.  So, I told her that black people don`t naturally have blond hair.  The artist said, `Yes, I have seen it on TV`.  뭐야!!`

So, that is the background for my feelings about a training being run by YBM.

On a slightly different note, this the most number of foreigners I have seen in a long time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On Good Things in Korea (Food)

Sometimes, I feel like my posts are normally very negative toward Korea (i.e. my students are crazy or stupid, or someone made some stupid English language mistake, etc.)

But, those are not the only things going on in Korea.  So, here is a list of positive things about Korea.

Koreans make some kick-ass food.

Here are some examples (in no particular order):
1)  Live (well freshly-killed) Octopus Tentacles

You need to grab these things with your chopsticks (kind of difficult because they use their suckers to really hold on to the plate) and dip them in sesame seed oil.  Delicious!  Note: some people eat the whole octopus (i.e. not freshly killed (i.e. not killed (i.e. alive))), but I haven't done that.

2) Beon-daegi (Silkworm Pupa (maybe larva (it is hard to tell)))
File:Silkworm snack.jpg

The above kind is the street vendor version.  It smells like pee to me.  But, the kind served in sashimi restaurants is delicious.  It tastes and looks a little bit like a nut.  I almost made James puke after letting him eat them for 10 minutes before finally telling him what they were.  His gagging was hilarious.  I wish I had taken a picture.

3) Kimchi


This quintessential Korean food is Chinese cabbage mixed with salt, spicy pepper flakes, garlic, fermented (i.e. old shrimp), and sometimes other things depending on the recipe.  There are other types of Kimchi.  But, this type especially is aged well which promotes great bacteria for your stomach.  If you are health conscious, you should keep some in your refrigerator, but not too much because it can stink up your whole house.

4) Pat-bing-su

I mentioned this one in a recent post, but I will show it again because it is one of my summer favorites.

File:Korean shaved ice-Patbingsu-Nokcha bingsu-Cherry tomatoes.jpg

팥 (Pat) in Korean is just a sweet red bean that is used in a variety of Korean desserts.  The idea of eating beans for dessert takes a little bit to get used to.  But, the taste is fantastic.  And, it is cold which is very nice.

5)  Meat (Galbi, Bulgogi, Bossam)     File:Korean barbeque-beef-16.jpg

Koreans do a very good job with meat.  However, they are reluctant to use it as the main part of the meal.  But, I do whatever I want and play the stupid foreigner card because it's meat and it's delicious.

6) Ssamjang

                                    File:Korean condiment-Ssamjang-01.jpg

Ssamjang is a soy bean-based paste mixed with peppers, sesame seed oil, onions, garlic, green onions, and possible other things.  It comes in not spicy to very spicy varieties.  It is the best meat or vegetable condiment of all time.  I might consider putting it on a hamburger as the sauce.  It is delicious.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my meandering through one category of good things in Korea.  I am sure I will add some more in the future.

Friday, June 22, 2012

On Good TV

Unless you have taught EFL/ESL at home or in another country (especially in a for-profit setting), it is really hard to describe the atmosphere. But there is a really good Youtube series about the job. Though it is based in Japan, it is very similar. There are 8 episodes. It is called `English Teachers`. It is like the ESL version of The Office. Enjoy.

You can search for the remaining episodes easily enough on Youtube or just go to the show's website:

And, yes, the over the top guy who is introduced at the very end of Episode 3, I have totally met that guy, crocks and everything...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

On Unaskable Questions

During another speaking test today, I had planned to ask, `Tell me about the biggest animal in the world`.  Then I was going to follow-up with `have you every touched` whatever animal they said?

Me: Tell me about the biggest animal in the world.

Boy: I am the biggest animal in the world.

Me (thinking):  I can`t ask, `Have you every touched yourself?`

I moved on to the next part of the speaking test.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Did you know? (2)

Did you know that this letter, `ㄹ`, sounds like a combination between `r` and `l`?
Did you know that because Korean lacks a definitive difference between `r` and `l` there are many strange things you can hear Korean students say?
Did you know that Koreans love to eat lice (rice)?
Did you know that in the U.S. and Korea this year is erection (election) year?
Did you know that in Seoul you can see the famous Han Liver (River)?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On Asking a Native Speaker

Here is a cropped picture from a Korean Air ad announcing the introduction of direct flights to Nairobi, Kenya.  If you haven't heard about it, the problematic part is about going to Kenya to "enjoy...the indigenous people full of primitive energy".


Aljazeera does a good job, here, of summarizing the debate via twitter about the ad.

I want to say that it was just a simple translation error.  However, my Korean isn't high enough to tackle that issue.  Though, some comments on Aljazeera do point to a translation error.  But even if it is a simple translation error...just ASK a native speaker.

But, speaking of just needing to ask a native speaker.  We have this guy from late last year...

According to reports, the couple had told the angry guy, "니가 여기 앉아".  Basically, you can sit here.  However, the first word, 니가, sounds like "nee-ga".  It just means "you".  However, I have heard that word before and there is not a lot of difference between the sound of "nee-ga" and nigger.  But, even if you actually one hundred percent heard the same pronunciation of a curse word, when the primary language is not the language you know, then stop and...ASK a native speaker.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Did you know?

Did you know that the word for year and the word for bitch are the same in Korean?
Did you know that one of the words for 18 and the f-word equivalent sound almost exactly the same in Korean?
Did you know that said f-word equivalent sounds like the English word `civil` to Koreans because they have no `v` sound in their language?
Did you know that this blog post is finished because I don`t want to write anymore on my handphone (the Korean for cell phone)?
One more...did you that I am starting to forget which words are Konglish and which words are proper English?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Yes, Kimchi

Today, I was doing a conversation test with one of my classes.

One boy was sitting in front of me.

I asked him, "What does Choi Hong-man look like?"
 This is Choi Hong-man.
                                                   He is a giant Korean MMA fighter (He's like 7'1".)

Now, we had given them the questions a week ago so that they would have time to prepare.  And, I was planning to follow up the given question with an unknown question to really test their unprepared ability.  The follow-up question was this, "Do you want to meet Choi Hong-man?  Why do you want to or not want to meet him?"

So, back to the boy.  I asked him, "What does Choi Hong-man look like?"

The Boy: "Yes, Kimchi."

Me: "뭐야 (What the...)!!

And, now for something not completely different.  Choi Hong-man vs. Jose Canseco.  Yes, THAT Jose Canseco...

One more time...뭐야!

And, one more thing...if you meet a Korean person who has Choi for a family name, the name is pronounced "Chae".  It does not rhyme with Troy like the announcer did in the video.  It was a terrible Romanization that someone did a long time ago.  So, if you want to impress your Korean friends, say "Chae" instead of trying to pronounce it the way it looks like in "Choi".

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Guessing

First, a little background...

A lot of EFL students have few chances to actually ask questions in class.  Teachers are usually the ones who ask questions (which is not just a EFL problem, but whatever...).

So, anyways, I like to have a guessing game in class every once in a while to encourage the production of actual questions.  Normally, questions come across as "Teacher happy?"

The basic format of the guessing game is quite easy.  I have a picture hidden on a PPT slide.  I know what the picture is, while students don't.  They can ask any question they want (though, if they ask "how do you spell it?", I tell them I don't remember.  And, if they ask "what is it?", I answer "it is not a smart ass" :(...).  I answer the question and the first team that can say the phrase, "It is _____", gets a point.

Now that the background is out of the way...during one particular game, the teams were really competitive.  Each and every question was really important.

Here is how one question went...

Student 1:  "What color is it?"

Me:  "It's white."

Student 2:  "What shape is it?"

Me:  "Sometimes, it is a circle.  Sometimes, it is a crescent shape."  (My co-teacher explained that one in Korean.)

Student:  "Where can you see it?"

Me:  "It's in space."

Now, nearly everyone in the room knew what the answer was.  Before getting to the answer, though, I should say two more rules for all of my classes.  I keep a checklist of everyone who has spoken meaningfully (given an answer or asked a good question).  And, any student that has not spoken can raise their hand and I will always call on them first (I call them "new face" in class).  New faces can be a powerful weapon in a close game.  And, since the "new faces" are generally low level students, I always let the other students in the class feed answers to anyone on their team (or on another team if they want or they are too stupid to keep their mouth shut).

Nearly every student in class:  "Moon!"

As always, I scan the room to look for new faces.

So, a really quiet low-level new face on Team 1 is wearing a big grin.  His hand pops up.  He is the last new face for his team.

The nine other students on his team:  "Moon!  Moon!  Moon!"

The boy puffs up his chest.  He is ready to hit his homerun.

New face (big smile):  "Door!"

Me (mentally):  "Doh!"

Team 1: *groan*

"Moon" (문) just happens to be the word for door in Korean.

On Classifications

So, I love the website,  It provides a good source of news about Korea from a variety of sources, both blogs and newspapers.

And, I love science because it

Anyways, when we combine Korea and science.  We get this from Hankyoreh (it's in English), an online newspaper:


A tyrannosaurus footprint found in South Gyeongsang province in 2004.

The footprint has been concluded to have come from a new species of tyrannosaurus, so it was named Gyeongsookimi after its place of discovery.  Its restored picture was provided by the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage.


That is one mean looking rice-eating Tyrannosaurus.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Grammar

So, here is a tasty treat from Korea, 팟빙수 (pat-bing-su). It is shaved ice mixed with sweet red beans, almonds and rice cake. It is delicious and refreshing on a hot day.

However, what is not refreshing is what is written on the wall.

  Now, I will be the first one to say I make plenty of mistakes in Korean and my writing in English can be terrible (especially, if I don't double check it, which is quite common when I write blog posts).  However, I don't paint my bad Korean on my restaurant's wall.  And, this isn't a mom and pop is a chain.

I guess I should look at this as job security.  But, somehow it just gives me a headache.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

On Hope

First, I have to say that I am biased for Ron Paul.  He is my hero.  Well, if it is possible for an anarcho-capitalist to have a politician for a hero, he is it.

Now, of course, everyone knows he hasn't won any of the beauty contest for the GOP nomination for president.

That is okay, however.  Because getting delegates is the name of the game.  And, he has been succeeding in doing that.  According to, which tries to count the delegates that have been chosen at the state conventions, instead of randomly guessing what the delegate count is based on the percentage of votes in the state primaries (yeah, looking at you, moronic AP), here is the "real" delegate count (6/8/2012):

Romney: 1013
Paul: 229

1144 delegates are required for the GOP nomination on the first ballot at the national convention.  Romney still isn't there.  Even though, he "official" won when he took Texas a little more than a week ago.

Now, of course, it still doesn't look good.

But, let me just do some wishful thinking for a minute.  Imagine, that some (perhaps more) of those Romney delegates are actually a small, tireless group of the minority.  These Ron Paul supporters are dressed in wolves' clothing or even dressed in his own clothing.  

Romney supporter: "Hey, this delegate over here is a Ron Paul supporter, but, heck, he is a nice guy and wants a free ticket to Tampa in the summer.  Let the guy go as one of us.  He is, after all, bound to vote for our guy."

Imagine that this happened enough times to make the race competitive, but stealthy.  But, Ron Paul needs just a few more votes to make it more comfortable for him.

As various sources have shown (just to mention one: Doug Wead's, a Ron Paul campaign advisor, blog,, there have been a lot of underhanded tactics used to deny delegates to Ron Paul.

So, how do you continue to get delegates and take the enemy's guard down?  You surrender.

June 6th, 2012: As reported by USA Today, Ron Paul conceded by an email message that he doesn't have enough delegates.

June 7th, 2012: As can be seen on Youtube, Sen.Rand Paul (Ron Paul's son) endorsed Mitt Romney.

June 7th, 2012: As Politico says, "File this under signs the Ron Paul campaign is really, truly over: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul threw his support tonight to Mitt Romney."

And, here is where my wishful thinking thinks this is the greatest of political moves.  You can only pull this move once in your life (at least on a major stage).  And, I am not sure the timing was exactly right, but do you know what event begins on June 7th?

June 7th, 2012: The Texas GOP Convention begins.

How many delegates does Texas have?  155

Is it possible that 155 delegates can be won by playing possum?  No.  Not all of them.  But, is it possible that enough can be?  Maybe.

This is my blog about hope.  It is just to prove that sometimes (just sometimes) I am an optimist.