Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost in Translation

It's not hard to believe that we are constantly laughing at our student's attempts at English. I'm sure they are on the other end laughing at our attempts at Korean. I've been meaning to post about this for a while, so I have been randomly writing things down on post-its for over a month of some of the funny things we hear. And now it is time for a Lost in Translation Update!

It is so common for us to be walking on the streets, and random kids (sometimes adults) start talking to us. It is usually just "hello". Sometimes if there is a group of friends, one brave soul will say hello, then run back to the group giggling.

Andrew and I were on our walk to school the other day, and three or four tiny kids started talking to us. Now when I say tiny, I'm guessing they were about 5-7 years old.

"Hello! Hello!"

We responded with a friendly hello, passed them, and kept walking

"F*ck you! F*ck you! F*ck you!"

I turned to Andrew, "Are they saying what I think they are saying?"

"You bet."

They probably heard it in movies and knew it was English, but didn't know what it actually meant.


Every so often I go to get manicures at a place next to our school. I figure, in America most of the nail salons are run by Asians, so I'm at the hub of nail care in Korea. I walked in to the salon, and pointed to my nails and did a hand gesture for painting nails.

"Ahh.. mm..." and she rattled something off in Korean

"Moh lie yo" (I don't know)

"Ahh... poop stick."

"Uhhh... Mo lie yo"

She turned to a customer and rattled off korean. The customer turned to me and said, "Poop stick."

"Nay... poop stick," The worker added. (yes... poopstick)

"Uh.... Mo lie yo.... aniyo?" (Uh.. I don't know... no?"

"Nay... poop stick." (Yes... poop stick)

I walked out of there more confused than when I went in!


In one of my classes "dirty" was a vocabulary word. I usually say the word several times and the students repeat. After they pronounce it correctly a few times, I ask them what the word means. The three students sat there, confused for a while.

Suddenly Vicky smiled, 'Teacher. Poop. Poop is dirty."

"Well, yes, that is right. But what else can you think of that is dirty?"

"hehehe. Teacher. Poop. POOP! Poop is dirty!"

"Yes, Vicky... that is right. Can you think of anything else that is dirty?"

"heheeh. Pee. Pee is dirty. Pee and POOP! Dirty!"

The other two students sat there confused, they must not have known those words. She turned to them and said it in Korean. Now I had three giggling students, "HAHA! POOP! PEE! Poop and pee are dirty! DIRTY! DIRTY! DIRTY!"


The kids absolutely love playing Bingo. I give them blank cards and a list of vocabulary words they can choose from to put in the spaces. While calling out words, often the students get confused and they can't understand what I am saying.

I have a new student, Luke, who from the back looks like a girl. He has long beautiful wavy hair. He wears boy pants, and girl snow boots with his pants tucked in. He is missing several teeth and always smiles huge, exposing his holey mouth.

He must not know the word "spell" or "spelling" like my other students, because when he doesn't understand a word, especially in Bingo, he yells out something a little more unique.

This is how a usual episode of Bingo goes:

"The first word is log... log"




"L... O... G... log"


"Teacher, me yes!"

"Me, no," other students chime in.

"The second word is toad... toad..."




"T... O... A... D..."


"Teacher, me yes. Me yes."

"Teacher, me no."

"Me yes!" 



When checking some homework in an intermediate level class, the students had to define the word "wiggle" and use it in a sentence.

One student wrote: "I wiggle with my family"

Another wrote, "Get a wiggle on you!"

I love grading book reports and writing tests. These usually show our student's shining colors. Andrew and I have started making photocopies of our favorites. I will share a few with you:

Directions: Imagine you are a prince or a princess, and you have to get married. Write down some of the traits you would like your new husband or wife to have...

"If I am a prince, I marry a princess. My wife is very kind and pretty. But she is not funny. So, I am bores. We play the game. Then we are happy. And go to the camping with her. Then she love me. And me too."

(This next report is a writing test)

Topic: What are your three favorite playground rides?

There are many things you can do at the playground. Choose your favorite playground ride and tell me why you like those things. First "I like sea saw because go up and down. Go down is fast and fun. You like too. I think. Ha Ha and I like too!!! You and me play the very very very funny seasaw play woo. 

Second, I like pull-up-bar because fun and sport and game. I win a game you I know pull-up-bar finig fighting? I know? me this game very well. You too very well? Oh my god!!! You am me game start!!!

Finally, I like ladder wall because fun and jump down fast. Go down and foot is say ouch!!! It is fun. You like this too. I like the ladder wall too. you too? You too? Ha Ha!!! Good bye. bye bye~"

(This next one is also a writing test)

The student had to choose if he would prefer a traditional or modern wedding ceremony, and support it with three details.

If I were to get married soon, I would choose traditional for my big day. It would be held "in old palace on nearby beautiful beach in island. Because it look like romantic in great and then we do paragliding, seawalking and boat riding and eat lunch in seafood restaurant. We will wear king and queen crown and clothes. finish wedding ceremony we see Polynasian shows and dance. We eat shark's fin and Tuna in tomorrow in wedding day. We see how to polynasian live in island. We see polinesian people walk on the fire. We see center of polinesia trip (honey moon) and wedding center to be very fancy."

From a book report:
Directions: What was the plot of the story "The Terrible Tidybot"?

"he bought tidybot but he bloken remote so tidybot do higgledy home"

This next report, the student had to describe the animal they would like to have as a pet:

My Pet: Asiatic chipuck
Name: toly
Activity list:
    - take a turn
    - eat of rice

The last one is probably my favorite. The book report has a letter from the cows to Farmer Brown. The cows say:

Dear Farmer Brown,

The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets.

The Cows

She had to write a response from Farmer brown to the cows. She wrote:

"Dear Cows,

You have black and white fur and thick skin. So you are not cold. You need not electric blankets. I demand milk, or I will sell you. I wish you a good choice. 

Farmer Brown"

1 comment:

  1. Hi there Gina,

    I work in Langcon near Muakjae Station. We've been asked to go to an orientation this Saturday in Bundang although I've my suspicions that it'll be in Korean. I was just wondering if you and your fellow foreigners are expected to attend also? If you could mail me back at that'd be greatly appreciated. Thanks