Wednesday, June 01, 2005

good Lord, Z!

This afternoon, I and another English teacher were part of an orientation session for students interested in our department's summer intensive program. I and my colleague had to lead a couple activities, including a tongue twister contest and a true-false contest. Students were timid at first, but they eventually got into it.

Z was there, and I felt so sorry for her because of what happened at the end of our spiel.

The games had ended, the Korean emcee had finished talking about the summer program in detail, and the time had come for a raffle of various prizes-- mostly textbooks and the like. We were giving them away one after another, and my job was to call out-- in English-- the ticket numbers of the lucky winners.

True to her delayed-reaction nature, Z suddenly realized that I'd called her number several turns ago. I saw her get up from her seat near the back of the small auditorium, make her timid way down the side aisle toward me, then stand expectantly at the edge of the stage.

There I was with my mike and my booming voice. There was Z, waiting for me to acknowledge her.

Not sure how to proceed, I pasted a huge smile on my face and asked Z solicitously, "DID YOU WIN?"

Z hesitated, then nodded.


"Forty-four," she whispered in Korean.


"Forty-four," she managed, this time in English.

I turned to my Korean assistant on the stage.

"DID WE CALL THAT?" I boomed idiotically. Z stood there, expressionless.

"Nope," my assistant said. "We called thirty-four, not forty-four."


Z noted this with a sad little nod, then turned and went back up the side aisle. Not stopping at her seat, she simply hitched her backpack to her shoulder and headed out the door.

God, I feel like such a shit. Her inability to comprehend spoken English (even when clearly boomed through a mike) led her to come to the front, where she then had to experience the humiliation of having misunderstood me in front of fifty or sixty of her peers.

There was nothing more I could do for the poor girl. Misunderstandings happen when you're learning a language. They still happen to me all the time when I'm speaking Korean. Perhaps Z will learn to be more careful in the future. I hope she gets heavily into listening comprehension drills, but somehow I doubt she will.

Our final drama class is tomorrow, Thursday. I'm curious whether Z will show up. I hope she will. It took guts to risk embarrassment the way she did today, despite all the psychological obstacles in her path. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that she's resilient enough to make it to class tomorrow.


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