I had my first formal Korean lesson!
We covered some extensive vocabulary, but my teacher was patient and extremely thorough. Actually, I think I’m going to lift some of her techniques to use in my own classroom.
I just feel bad stealing from a seven year old.
Yes, my Korean teacher is in the second grade. And frankly, you wouldn’t believe this kid. She’s tiny—fine-boned and delicate—with a long black ponytail firmly secured by a parade of Hello Kitty barrettes. She smiles at 120 watts, and is far, far too smart for her age. I can’t manage her Korean name, so I’ve decided to call her Minnie.
Minnie attends the smallest of my three schools. We met in the cafeteria. She just walked up and started issuing Korean like a geyser pours water. When I couldn’t answer, she turned in frustration to the other teachers. They just about fell off their stools laughing.
“You can’t speak Korean, so she thinks you’re Chinese,” my co-teacher explained.
“Nope. American. Mi-guk.” I told her.
“당신은 미국인이야? 정말? 말해 봐요, 당신은 브래드 피트를 알 수 있습니까? 미국인들은 정말 햄버거 하루에 세 끼를 먹지 않습니다?”
“Sorry,” I gave her a big smile and shrugged. “I don’t understand.”
She gave me a look of intense dissatisfaction and left.
An hour later I was sitting in the computer lab wrestling with lesson plans when Minnie appeared at my elbow.
“코가 엄청납니다.” she said.
“Uh, yes. Probably.” I replied more or less at random. She frowned and wandered away.
Ten minutes later, she was back.
“코의 무거운입니다?” she waited. “당신은 심각하게 얘기 할 수 있을까?”
“Uh huh. Do you like animals?” I asked.
“오, 이런.” She left. But it wasn’t an hour before she appeared again.
“Shouldn’t you be in class?” I wanted to know.
She came over to my desk and poked at the computer keyboard. “네, piano 클래스됐다. 내가 할 수있을 때마다 나는 폐기.” She sounded thoroughly bored.
“Wait, did you say piano?” I was surprised to discover the word sounded the same in Korean as English.
Minnie jerked her head around in amazement. “Piano?” she repeated.
“이 말을!” She grabbed my hand and yanked me down the hallway.
“Wait, where are we…?”
She pulled me to a classroom where seven small children were jumping on chairs and screaming. A few of them pounded electric keyboards in a desultory manner with their feet.
“Piano,” Minnie remarked sagely.
The frazzled teacher looked less alarmed than resigned to discover she was down a student. I tried to return Minnie to her seat, but she tugged on my sleeve and issued cryptic commands in Korean. After a moment, the other kids began to notice me too. They hopped down from their benches and advanced in an ominously rowdy crowd. I smiled and backed toward the door before it became a riot.
I put in more work on the lesson planning, but I hadn't gotten far before school ended and Minnie was back. She walked in with a determined set to her little jaw.
“좋아, 그래서 당신은 말할 수 없습니다. 당신은 깨진거나 아님 멍청한 건는 나도 몰라,하지만 지금 당장 처리 할거야.”
“Don’t you have a mother?” I asked, but she had appropriated my English flashcards and was sitting crosslegged on the floor with the stack in front of her. She held up the first one.
“Dog,” I said.
“개.” She waited. “개.” She gave the flashcard a little shake. “개.”
“Oh, I get it. 개.”
She gave me a tight nod of approval and held up the next card. “고양이.”
And so we went, through the entire pile of flashcards. I thought it was a cute game, her drilling me on each new word and correcting my pronunciation. It was like she was a little teacher. Then she went through the cards again and wrote the Korean word on the whiteboard. Then she handed me the marker and made me find each word and circle it when she held up the card.
It was about then that I realized this wasn’t a game.
She kept up the lesson for an hour and a half. Then she pointed at the clock, restacked the flashcards, erased the board, turned off the lights, and led me down the hall and out the main doors. She delivered me to the parking lot where the other teachers stood around, apparently waiting for me (thanks for the heads up there, guys).
She gave me a waive and a last admonishment, “코 큰이며, 당신의 한국어 형편이며, 당신이 정말로 못생긴 조용합니다. 하지만 상관 없어요. 난 어쨌든 당신을 좋아해요"
Yeah, she’s small and kind of bossy. But I think I like her.