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English + Korean = Konglish

English + German (or rather, Deutsch) = Denglisch

English + German + Korean = … Kongsch?

Yesterday and today I taught Eagle Reading (one class, I subbed for – yay extra cash for no extra prep work!) and two of the readings had reference to German in them. One reading, in fact (addition transition!), was entirely about Schadenfreude, or the feeling of pleasure one gets from the misfortune of others. And by the time we got to the reading that had a reference to the Autobahn, my Tuesday Eagle Reading class (for which I was a sub) guessed that I could speak German.

My class, however, did not. Because they are not as awesome as Nicole’s Tuesday IRE class (… *sigh*…) Although, today was one of their better classes. For my class, I wanted to play Avenue Q’s Schadenfreude but… I counldn’t cut it down to a length that was both illustrative and free of vulgarities… Oh Avenue Q. So I played this instead.

I’ve been encountering a lot of random German here. First of all (listing transition!), Quinn also speaks German so sometimes we’ll practice with each other. Second of all, there were at least two other people in our training group that spoke German (or some German). And there are random German signs here, mostly restaurants. Like the Garten Bier that’s across from the bridge I walk over to get to work. Oh Garten Bier… It’s supposed to be Biergarten…

Anyway, just thought I’d comment on that. And I’m reminded that… I’ve been ignoring my Korean studies again… But I did learn a new word today! Temple: sa, or in hangul:사. I might be visiting a (random) temple in Gangnam(강 남, by the way) this weekend followed and/or preempted by a trip to Butterfingers, which I keep hearing is a restaurant (also in Gangnam) that serves the best breakfast foods. Holy Buddhist French Toast, here I come!


Yesterday, I taught my Monday 4pm Bridge Reading class becuase it had been cancelled on Monday due to Lunar New Year. Afterwards, a bunch of the CDI and April teachers went out to a galbi (갈비) restaurant for dinner to celebrate Blake’s (the head instructor at April) birthday. Suwon is suppose to have the best galbi in Korea and this place was pretty delicious (and expensive! but that’s okay every once and a while).

After dinner, Maggie (the CDI faculty manager) and Jason (who works at Dongtan) said they were going shopping at Dongdaemun (동대문, meaning “Great East Gate” as Jason told us) in Seoul. Dondaemun is home to both the Dongdaemun Market and the Night Market, where you can buy all kinds of clothes and accessories. Quinn and I decided to tag along and possibly pick stuff up for cheap.

On a side note, Jason was telling us that Namdaemun (남대문, meaning “Great South Gate; also known as Sungnyemun -숭례문 – or “Gate of Exallted Ceremonies”) was apparently burned down in 2008 by some 69-year-old man. He burned down South Korea’s greatest treasure because, apparently, some land developers didn’t pay him in full for the land he sold them. And this wasn’t the first time he turn to arson to solve his problems – trying to burn down Changgyeonggung Palace… How is this guy managing to burn down Korea’s NUMBER ONE NATIONAL MONUMENT and a freaking palace?

Back to Dongdaemun! It was a neat little area and I wish I had brought my camera with me because the gate at night was pretty cool. We also drove by the bell they ring at (Solar) New Year. After sitting in traffic that shouldn’t have been there for a good amount of time, we eventually arrived at the Night Market, which is several streets of heavily packed yellow tents. Quinn and I got separated from Maggie and Jason pretty early on (yay for cell phones) so we ended up wandering over to Doota!, one of the department stores of Dongdaemun market.

SO. The Market. Jason had warned us it would be overwhelming for newbies and the night pretty sufficiently insulated us from being extremely overwhelmed but even in just Doota! … there was a lot going on. First of all, Dongdaemun market has 26 shopping malls. That’s not 26 stores – that’s 26 separate malls. With in each mall, there’s like… A LOT of stores…

Quinn and I wandered around Doota!, speaking German (we decided we need to learn the German word for ‘snazzy’) and marveling at the many-buckled shoes and that crazy sweater thing that zippers across the chest instead of down. I finally got a belt, which I’ve been putting off getting for it seems forever, for no particular reason. Quinn really wanted to get suspenders. I was pretty skeptical that we would find any but somehow, after looking at only two stores on the men’s clothing floor, we found them.

After that, we met back up with Maggie and Jason at Hello A/PM, another mall, where haggling was abound! Jason managed to get a ₩150,000 suit for only ₩100,000. Quinn (who I need to bring with me any time I plan to haggle because he’s pretty much vicious) was able to get a vest and jeans for a pretty great discount. However, it took so long to eventually get to that discount that I can’t remember how much the price was at the beginning. But the guys and gal at that stand of clothing were very friendly and excited to hear we were from the US and Canada.

To end the night, we all went back to the Night Market and picked up a couple of small things. Knowing that soon my sneakers will be giving out, I picked up a pretty cool pair of blue hiking boots (picture to come), which will hopefully come in handy when the weather starts getting nicer and I try hiking around the mountains of Suwon.

I don’t want to breath a sigh of relief, at least not until I’m standing on Korean soil, but the work part of my journey to Korea is just about over. Today I went with my dad to DC to apply for my E-2 Visa and take care of a few other things. The day started off a little rocky, but luckily it ended very smoothly… so I should be hopeful for the flight, right?

The metro stop closest to my house is Branch Avenue on the end of the green line. Unfortunately, Branch Avenue’s parking is… limited… When we got there all the parking lots were full except for the meter spots and the (many) spaces that were reserved before 10am. We got there at 9am and drove around looking for a parking space for 30 minutes, so I don’t know why we didn’t just wait until 10 to park because those spaces were set at $4.25. Instead, my dad decided to park at a meter spot and we ended up with a meter that ate a bunch of our quarters. Also, after putting all the quarters in, we saw that sign that said you can only park there until 3:30pm. Yeah… my Visa interview was at 2:30. There would be no way get back in time. It ended up being fine, we didn’t get a ticket or anything and a bunch of other people were still parked there, but still – why wouldn’t they let us park there after 3:30?

Also, a mini-rant about metro – What is up with the ticket prices? Seriously. When I was in Berlin I got a day pass for the U-Bahn for around 2 Euro. Between me, my dad and our parking spot, it would have been cheaper to just park in DC and we could have walked to all our destinations from a parking garage. So Metro: Shape up. You are not worth $15.

There was a major delay on the red line, but we were there so early to do other things it didn’t matter. We went to a company called Travelex to exchange my money for Korean won. Before I left the house, I thought about bringing my debit card but decided not to. A bit of a mistake. I haven’t personally exchanged money before, so I didn’t realize that if you use a credit card to get the money, there’s a chance they’ll charge you fees BUT if you use a debit card, they don’t charge you any additional fees (other than the ones you’d get anyway – which I bypassed because of the amount I was exchanging). Oops… I hope I fall under the case of ‘no fees’.

Another mini-rant about money exchanges. I do not like them or their fees. I can maybe understand a fee for using a credit card, because they have to forward you the money, I guess.  But when my dad asked if there would be extra fees if I just waited to get the money at the airport the employee said there would be… which is just silly… I don’t know. I just don’t think you should charge people to switch to another currency but then I guess it is a service and they have expenses and stuff. Plus, everything at the airport’s more expensive anyway. On an amusing note, my dad walked around for the rest of the day joking about being a millionaire because he had a million or so won in his pocket. I think his souvenir that I’m going to bring back for him will be a T-shirt that says “In Korea, I’m a millionaire”. I hope they exist.

We stopped at Borders to warm up (because it was freezing for a lot of the morning) and I tried looking for a good Korean dictionary or phrase book. They did not have one. I probably should have gotten those before now but I haven’t been able to find one I think is good. And since the Borders in Washington DC, the capital with diplomats galore, didn’t have a good selection, I don’t know that many other bookstores would. Also, I was disappointed to find that the 1,000 Place to Go Before You Die book did not have any sites from South Korea (or North Korea for that matter). Yet I saw pages for China, Japan, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia… Azerbijan… How does South Korea not have ONE place you should go see before you die? Seriously, they had 1,000 spaces. There should be at least one from every country in there… There were at least FIVE German castle in there. I think one of those castles could give up its space. Neuschwanstein can pretty much represent them all.

At the Korean Consulate, things finally started going very smoothly. I had to fill out a bunch of forms that were pretty much exactly what I had already filled out on other forms but whatever. At least I knew what to put. But then I spoke to the guy at the check-in window about getting my Visa early. I had talked to him when I called to set up the interview, and he said that the earliest I could get the Visa would be Thursday at 4pm. (Normally you pick it up on Friday) HE said that. When I asked him about that again today, he just kind of nodded and then wrote down on my receit that I could pick it up on Friday… So I asked him again, if I could get it on Thursday because Friday is too late. I would miss my ONLY flight that can get me there on time and I would miss the LAST TRAINING DATE OF THE YEAR for Chung Dahm and that would really suck. And he said Thursday would be fine and didn’t change the date on the ticket… I don’t know if he didn’t understand that I was worried about the date he was putting down or he just wanted to get me out of there or what but… I was pretty worried.

I had to wait about 45 mins for the interview, which wasn’t that bad since they did let me start filling out the forms at 2pm. There were actually a bunch of other people there interviewing for an E-2 Visa. I should have asked them where they were teaching (I knew they had to be going to be English teachers because the E-2 Visa, for teaching, is the only Visa that requires an interview for Korea – lucky us). The interview went really smoothly. She asked me pretty basic questions: why do I want to go to Korea (because experiencing news cultures is AWESOME), what experience do I have as a teacher (BOAT LOADS… but seriously, I’ve worked with kids A LOT and taught A BUNCH – not as a formal teacher though), do I have a place to stay (NO! Okay, I didn’t shout that, but I explained Chung Dahm would help me with it).

Then she asked me when I would be leaving. So I brought up the conflict with getting my Visa and my flight time. She seemed very surprised and was not at all expecting me to need it by 4pm on Thursday. Needless to say, I am glad brought that up. She wrote down on my receipt and her receipt that I need with the passport with a Visa sticker (Oh yeah, if you don’t know, you need to turn in your passport to get a Visa, or at least the E-2) on Thursday at 4pm. Actually,  it said AFTER 4pm… surely it means the same thing… right? I’m still a little nervous it won’t be ready on time, but I’m planning on getting there early on Thursday to remind them in case they’re taking their time or something. Ah, bureacracy…

After that, I called up the travel agent that was holding my flight and I officially booked it. I’m leaving for Korea on Thursday at 8:25pm (Yay!). Provided there is no bad weather. That’s the one problem with my flight. It and the connection at JFK in New York are the last ones of the night to Seoul so if I miss them… I’m stuck here ’til January. FINGERS CROSSED! If all goes well, I will be arriving in Seoul on Saturday at the horrible hour of 5:20am. It won’t really be horrible for me, but I have to call a representative from Chung Dahm as soon as I land and I feel a little bad about that… If I were him, I’d be sleeping.

Tomorrow will be my last post from America!

So I’d like to talk up Sogang University’s Korean Language program, since I’ve talked a lot about Rosetta Stone but also want to present other methods of learning Korean. I really like this website they have set up. It’s not really enough to use as a primary source for learning Korean but it’s been really, REALLY helpful for practicing reading hangul and for polishing up my Korean grammar. Of course, I’m only the first lesson on the Sogang program.

In addition to an Introductory Korean page, which basically introduces you to hangul, they’ve broken down their lessons into Novice Korea (levels 1,2,3) and Intermediate Korea (levels 1,2,3), and each level has 10 lessons. And each lesson has key expressions, reading, listening and vocabulary activities and grammar lessons. Personally I was drawn to the grammar lessons. Like I said before, I’ve studied German and German is a grammar heavy language so I think for me, being able to understand the finer points of Korean that I can’t learn (or haven’t yet learned) through Rosetta Stone is kind of like a safety net for me.

I’ve been going through the lessons (okay, really only lesson 1 so far…) and copying down the grammar lessons into a notebook so I can keep studying Korean even without my laptop. (Right now, that’s been a problem since all my methods of studying are computer based). On that note, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a graph paper notebook for writing hangul. The blocks make it a lot easier to get the 자모 (jamo – that is, letters) together and properly sized. I picked up this trick when I (briefly) studied Japanese. (Chotto nihongo ga hanaseru!)

Plus, the website is completely free. It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me so definitely check it out.

When I first got Rosetta Stone, a couple people asked me if the fact that I already know German fairly well somehow gives me an upper-hand in using this software. I didn’t have a really good answer for any of them at the time, since I had only just started using it and thus couldn’t tell. I have been thinking about it, though, and I’ve wanted to do a small post about it since benefits of other languages and is the program easy are the main questions I get asked.

First of all, I’m not fluent in German. English is my native language and the only one I’m fluent in. So I don’t have the advantage that bilingual/multilingual kids have, where their brain actually adapts through knowing extra languages and makes it much easier for them to learn new ones.

Second of all, although I love learning new languages, I don’t have any kind of gift for it like some people. I’ve known a couple people who can just hear a few phrases in another language and immediately have them down, or can mimic an accent almost fluently. I am not one of them. Well, except for maybe with the accent thing. I have a pretty good ear, which does help me, but it’s not good enough to offer me a great advantuage.

So those things said, I don’t really have a natural advantage that can work with Rosetta Stone and somehow let me excel at it better than other people. But I will say that studying German (and French and Polish) has definitely given me two tools that have really come in handy for focusing one what Rosetta Stone presents.

Tool # 1: I’m fairly sure this comes from studying other languages. I can pretty easily pick up a word if it’s said to me once or twice. I might not (and probably won’t) remember it in the long run if I don’t continue to use it. But I can repeat it and use it almost immediately. It’s from all those years of basically repeating what the French/German/Polish teacher just said, except with a different subject/verb/object. This comes in handy with Rosetta Stone because when they ask me to repeat something they just said, or to match a word that was just used with a picture, I can do with that pretty easily without fully knowing what’s being said. And then I’m able to master the meaning by using the word correctly enough times.

Tool # 2: Grammar. This is entirely thanks to studying German. If you are a native English speaker, you probably don’t have a great grasp of English grammar (unless maybe you went to a really good school… or are British. I feel like they might understand their grammar a little better than the rest of us.) If you study German for more than a year (for me, five years), you WILL and MUST learn grammar. The rules of German grammar are very clear cut and there are several aspects of grammar that you need to be familiar with in German that don’t matter as much (or at all) in English, like direct/indirect objects, verb placement, separation of phrases. I could go on. And although I definitely make mistakes, my German grammar is very good (and now my English grammar is too). Thanks to that, it was very easy for me to figure out how Korean sentences are set up (Where’s the verb? Where the subject? Do they use articles?) and that REALLY helps me learn new words. I don’t get stumped when they throw a new element in. I just pause, figure out what the rest of the elements are and I can pretty easily figure out the new one.

Those are the main advantages I think I have. But I still have to drill for hours like everyone else.