Sunday, February 26, 2006

Moving from Linguistics to Language (a response to AJ)

A surprising number of learners here in Korea seem to do little but “study” languages. That is, they put a great deal of time and effort into memorizing lots of words and grammar rules. However, outside the classroom setting these learners tend to find it very difficult to communicate. What’s gone wrong?

여기 한국에서는 놀라울 정도로 많은 학생들이 언어들을 "study"하기만 하는것 같다. 즉, 많은 단어와 문법을 암기하려고 애쓰는데. 이런 학생들은 교실 밖에서 다른 사람과 대화하기가 어려운 것을 깨닫는다. 무엇이 잘못 된 것일까?

The most obvious answer is that they aren’t trying to learn communicative language skills, the kind most people use every day, let alone improve their communication skills. Instead, faced with another language, too many people (from any country) overlook their first language. The logic goes something like this: “It’s a different language (not to mention a different culture!), so it must be completely different from my own.”

가장 명백한 응답은 대부분의 사람이 매일 쓰는 대화 기술을 향상시키지않을 뿐만아니라 회화 기술도 공부하지 않는다는 것이다. 너무 많은 사람들이 (그게 어떤 나라든지) 다른 언어를 접하는 대신에 모국어를 등한시 한다. 말하자면 이런 것이다. “이것은 다른 언어다 (문화의 차이를 이야기 하는 것이 아니라) 그러니까 내 모국어와 완전히 다르겠지.”

I’d suggest that looking at the communication skills most people already have is the most useful way to start. An approach to communication skills might start by raising learners’ awareness of how they communicate on a day-to-day basis in their first language. (Some people are naturally more self-aware than others.) Looking at: how they interact with different people; how they use language; how they use grammar; how they actually use body language, maybe helping them understand how we keep at a comfortable distance when we talk;
what they talk about; how they recycle topics of conversation, falter sometimes, pause, use fillers; how they ask questions to confirm they understand; how they use intonation, pitch and speed, and how these reflect their feelings; how the language actually sounds, which is often different from how it looks on paper.

내 제안은 이렇다. 언어습득을 시작하기에 가장 좋은 방법은 사람들에게 원래 있는 언어기술을 찾아내는 것이다. 회화의 기술에 대한 접근은 모국어로 매일의 대화의 기술에 대한 자각을 높이는 것부터 시작하면 아마 좋을 것이다. (어떤 사람들은 원래부터 다른사람에 비해 자기자신을 더 잘안다.) 구체적으로, 어떻게 그들이 다른 사람들과 행동하고 표현할 것인지, 언어를 어떻게 쓸지, 실제로 문법을 어떻게 쓰고, 바디 랭귀지를 어떻게 쓰고 대화시의 적절한 거리를 유지하는 것을 이해할 수 있도록 어떻게 도울 것인지, 대화의 내용이 무엇이고, 얼마나 대화의 화제들을 "인용"하고 가끔 더듬거리고 잠시 중단하고 머뭇거리는 소리(음... 저...뭐... 등등)를 내고, 얼마나 이해하는지를 확인하기 위해 질문을 하고, 언어의 억양과 높낮이와 속도를 얼마나 적절히 사용할 지, 또 이것들이 어떻게 감정을 표현할 수 있을지, 문어체에 비해서는 종종 차이가 있는 언어의 실제 소리가 어떤지를 살펴보는 것이다.

It's far easier to build on this awareness than to try and teach all of these skills from scratch. And, importantly, any new skills they pick up will be a clear extension of their own selves, rather than something alien.

이러한 지식을 더하는 것은 ("from scratch") 아무런 기본지식 없이 그냥 이러한 기술을 가르치는 것보다 훨씬 더 쉽다. 그리고 중요한 것은 그들이 새롭게 익히는 기술들이 단순히 주입된 것이 아니고 그들 자신들에게 명백한 성장일 것이라는 것이다.

Starting Conversations

Hope these example conversations aren’t too clichéd!

At a tourist spot:
1: How’re ya doing?
2: Pretty good, thanks! Y’self?
1: I’m fabulous! Gorgeous day, isn’t it!
2: Sure is!
1: What d’ya think of this place?
2: Amazing, isn’t it! Been here before?

In a busy coffee shop:
C: Hi there! How ya doing?
J: I’m good, thanks!
C: Bit crowded in here, isn’t it! ’S like a cattle market!
J: Ya c’n say that again!
C: C’n I ask what ya’re having?
J: I’m thinking a latte would be nice. How about y’self?
C: Maybe the same. Mind if I join ya f’r a while?
J: Not at all! I’m Jake, by the way.

At a bar:
A: Hey, how’s it going? My name’s Adam.
E: Nice t’ meet ya. I’m Eve.
A: Good atmosphere in here, don’t ya think?
E: Yeh, I like it. It’s chilled.
A: C’n I ask where ya’re from?
E: Oh, d’you know South Korea? I’m fr’m the second city – Busan.
A: Oh, yes? I haven’t heard of it. What’s it like?
E: Well, there aren’t many sights, but Busanites c’n be quite friendly.

On the subway:
H: Hello there. My name’s Hyo-ri. D’ya mind if I ask where ya’re from?
B: Of course not! England, I’m from England. People call me Becks.
H: C’n I ask where ya’re going, Becks?
B: I’m on my way t’ PNU. D’ya know it?
H: Yes, of course! In fact, I’m going there myself. Mind if I join ya?
B: That could be nice!

NB. A number of the spellings have been changed to better reflect how the words are actually spoken in fluent English. Sometimes the odd spelling of English gets in the way of correct pronunciation; it can also impair your listening skills if you think a word is pronounced in one way when in fact it sounds quite different in fluent English.

Language Foci

~isn’t it! (falling intonation, to ask for agreement)

Heard of (it)? D’you know (it)?

What d’you think of…?
(Also good: What’d you say to…?)

I’m thinking…
That could be good/ fun/ nice/ interesting.

Can I (ask)…? Mind if I…?
(Also: Mind if I sit here?
-> Not at all/ Go ahead/ I’d rather you didn’t)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Two Jokes

From January's edition of Humanising Language Teaching.

The bus driver and Big John

One day a bus driver was in his bus when the biggest man he had ever seen got on. The giant looked at the driver and said, "Big John doesn't pay." Then he took his seat on the bus. The bus driver was only a little man and he didn't want to argue.

This happened for several days. After a week, the bus driver was beginning to get a little angry. Everybody else paid, so why not the big man? So the driver decided to go to the gym and start a course of body-building. He didn't want to be frightened of Big John any more.

A number of weeks later the driver had strong muscles and was feeling very fit. At the usual stop, Big John got on. "Big John doesn't pay," he said. But this time the driver was prepared for him. He got up and said, "Oh, yeah? And why doesn't Big John pay?"

"Because Big John has got a bus pass," the man replied.

The doctor's advice

A man was feeling unwell and he went to see the doctor. He went with his wife because he was a little worried. Afterwards, the doctor spoke in private to the man's wife.

"I'm afraid I have some bad news," he said. "Unless you follow my instructions carefully, your husband will die. Every morning you must give him a good breakfast and you must cook him a healthy meal every night. What is more, you mustn't ask him to do any housework and you must keep the house very clean. I realise it is a lot of work for you, but it really is the only way to keep him alive."

On the way home, the husband asked his wife what the doctor had said to her.
"He said you're going to die," she replied.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Back to the wall

With a much more humane work schedule this month, I'm finally finding the time to get back into the pastimes I've had to desert for the past few months. This afternoon I followed the steep road behind the local Carrefour up to Mt. Hwangmyeong Sports and Leisure Park [황령산 레포츠 공원]. The YMCA centre there has a simple but adequate climbing wall, which a friend introduced me to. Free use too, as long as you can put up with the youngsters downstairs practising their choreography to a never-ending loop of dance music.

Round trip on foot from work - 1 hour, plus an hour or so on the wall. I'll be heading up there more often, methinks. (Especially if the weather stops hovering around zero and warms up a bit!)

Korean name?

Yes, my Korean name is Yong Se-chan.
(Thankfully it's the same, no matter how you romanize it.)

After calling so many Koreans by an English name (far easier for westerners to remember), it's only fitting that I should reveal my Korean name. Most Koreans that I've mentioned this name to seem to think it sounds nice and gives a good impression, which is important.

The meaning?
龍 (용 룡, dragon) Yong, dragon, is fairly rare as a surname in Korea, but it does exist and I have in fact met someone with it. The choice was easy: the flag of Wales has a dragon on it, so...

世 (세상 세, the world)
贊 (도울 찬, help[s])

Because of Korean's subject-object-verb word order, the name in full means "[the/a] dragon [who] helps the world". A reference to my personal philosophy of being nice to others and also to my work as a teacher.

Written in Korean alphabet (han-geul): 용세찬

Written in Chinese characters (hanja): 龍世贊

Saturday, February 04, 2006

thee dickhead soh faar

From an intelligent article by historian Simon Schama on the decade referred to as "the noughties":

There was the teeny matter of the beginning of the end; of planet Earth, that is, the last chance of reversing the irreversible damage that has been done to the ecosystem, beside which all the rest of its problems were small potatoes.

Short of taking the current president of the United States by the scruff of the neck and dunking his head deep into the rapidly melting Arctic ice cap, what more did the Earth need to do to make someone listen to its cry for help? But this was the decayed decade, when everything that urgently needed to be done to reverse carbon emissions was identified, documented, articulated - and then systematically obstructed by the power that was disproportionately responsible for the damage. When the rest of the world shouted "Emergency", America chanted back "Growth".

The decade when coral reefs turned pallid and died; when Alaskan caribou butted their heads against pipelines; when what seemed like a marginal rise in oceanic temperatures translated into hurricanes that ate entire shorelines, was also the decade of the Hummer.