Day 646 - Imminent TOPIK. Army English Class, Korean Weddings

Just five more days until the TOPIK. I took a practice test the other day and scored a 71% so now I feel even more pressured to cram because there's the sssllliiiggghht possibility that I might be able to pull of the level 4. Maybe?

Today is also the first day that I'll teach a volunteer English conversation class at DY's Army base. I met with a handful of the soldiers last week for a dinner meeting, and they all seemed extremely excited about the class. Honestly, their commander wanted to pay me a good sum of money for the classes, but contractually and morally I couldn't accept the money. Instead we compromised that while I won't be paid, they'll cover all my costs to get to and from the base and every now and then take me out to dinner. Deal!

When I first came to Korea, I wondered how Amy*, ( whose blog I followed before I came to Korea, managed to get so many offers for private tutoring and little daycare/church group classes. She got so many that recently she quit her "regular" teaching job and now makes BANK teaching little "informal" style classes. (*Note, I think she's able to do so, visa-wise, because she's married to a Korean guy now and has whatever visa a spouse gets?)

But you really do start networking after a year or two in the country, especially if people like the way you teach. I gave a presentation at the F*bright spring conference in Jeju two weekends ago about teaching conversational English. My main point was that lessons should encourage confidence, first and foremost. I think as teachers, we tend to look at all the things the students CAN'T do, and try to make lesson plans about THAT. However, most of the native-speaker teachers in Korea only see the students once a week, so that's a grand total of 20 hours a semester. And THAT's assuming none of those classes get canceled due to testing/school trips/testing/random holiday/testing. So realistically, you're probably only going to see them for 15 hours a semester. Trying to "fill in" the holes in their conversational English is, most likely, fighting a losing battle. It's more productive for both you and the students to work with their strengths and give them the tools they could use in other aspects of their life, too. Problem solving, creative thinking, confidence -- these are things you can exercise in the classroom but also help them with English. (For example, circumlocution -- describing a word without actually saying the word -- is a skill that I've found many Koreans struggle with. How important and useful is that, though? And it doesn't depend on the English level at all. With my low level students, we did this lesson and used easy words like "mother", "cat", and "coffee".)


Went to Seoul last weekend with DY for his friends' wedding. Korean weddings are very different from Western weddings, and I don't mean the "traditional" Korean wedding. Western style weddings are really popular here, but they do it very... differently. I'm used to the "planning weddings involves many decisions and lots of planning and stress and lots of anticipation and excitement". But in Korea, you just pop down to the local "wedding hall" (웨딩홀) and pick out a package deal that includes everything from a buffet meal to the photography to the dress rental. All you do is point to the package you want (cheap - midrange - expensive, basically), pay the wedding hall, and show up on your wedding day.

I think that's why there's not as much pomp and circumstance attached to the ceremony. During the 15 minute ceremony, people walk in and out of the venue, talk on cellphones at a conversational volume, carry out discussions with each other, leave early to hit the buffet, or skip the ceremony all together and just head upstairs for the food. You also don't bring gifts for the newlyweds. They have envelopes at a desk in front of the venue where you're expected to drop money. If you don't drop some money (amount you give is written next to your name), you don't get a buffet ticket. There's no guest list or anything, anybody can show up and as long as you drop enough money at the desk, you get a ticket for the buffet. Very different from a Western wedding.