Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Korean class!

I taught my first class of extremely basic Korean to five of my colleagues yesterday evening, from 5:30PM to 7PM. It was a fun experience, and I was pleasantly surprised by the applause I received at the end of the lesson. I basically ran through the rudiments of Korean pronunciation and writing by teaching the alphabet: how to pronounce the consonants and vowels, how to write two-letter syllabic clusters, what the proper stroke-order is when writing the letters of hangeul, and so on. Because my colleagues have linguistics backgrounds, I could throw around terms like plosive and affricate and unaspirated final consonant and bilabial stop and glide and voiceless and alveolar ridge and front vowel and back vowel.

Because my students were teachers themselves, they peppered me with intelligent questions as I taught. Some questions I could answer (e.g., why romanization styles are so varied); some I couldn't (e.g., how to explain typographical spacing between Korean words—a problem that I myself haven't yet solved). It was a welcome contrast to the quiet passivity of my Korean students; the latter often require a hard push before they'll produce anything. What was funny was seeing that, despite being adults, some of my five charges could be as distractible as kids, preferring to banter instead of concentrating on the work at hand. Because these were my peers, this chattiness was more amusing than annoying; I knew that even the slower students would get around to doing the work eventually. Other students, however, impressed me with their intense focus and hard work: they plowed right through my writing exercises.

I gave the students writing homework, and we've got enough material from that first-day packet to cover a second lesson. While I won't be teaching the class beyond November, I think we can get a lot accomplished by American Thanksgiving. Within another two lessons, my students ought to be able to (1) read their own attendance sheets (everything on those sheets is in Korean), (2) read subway and bus charts, (3) navigate basic restaurant menus, (4) write their own names in hangeul, and (5) use proper greetings and some other classroom expressions.

There's an official, campus-sponsored Korean class for foreign professors that will be starting up in late September. That class will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays; my own class was initially set to meet every Tuesday at 5:30PM, but from now on we'll be meeting on Wednesdays at 5:15PM to avoid schedule conflicts: some of my students want to take the official Korean class as well. I have high hopes that they'll have learned a good bit of Korean by the time they've been here a year. Time will tell.


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