Learning a Foreign Language: Haksaeng, We Are Simpatico

Please note: I had to look up the Korean word (haksaeng) for “student.” I’m still not even sure if I got it totally right, since it was in hangul. But, I can read hangul sort of OK. At least, I thought I could.

Yesterday, I went to the Busan Global Center, in the National Pension Service building in City Hall (Subway stop 122 on the orange line), which hosts the Busan Foundation for International Activities. This is an awesome service for foreign residents of this fair city, which I hope more foreigners may look into after reading this.


It certainly helped me. At least, it helped me gain some new perspective. See, I went to take the placement test for the free weekly Korean language classes they offer. The classes run for about 6 weeks every couple months. The placement test period runs this week only. I had planned to go Tuesday, then Wednesday but, procrastination.

Maybe I just knew what the result would be.

I was an average student at best. At worst? Ehhhhh. And yet, here I am, teaching in South Korea. You too can rise from mediocrity, kids, if you only TRY!

But, taking that relatively simple (one of my more studious friends called it “cake.” Funny, I thought paper wasn’t edible), single double-sided test made me realize the only thing I know is I know NOTHING.

[This would be where the photo of my test score, 8 out of 100, would be located, had my camera not died again. Instead, you get this]

Yes, 8 out of 100. I believe questions were worth 5 points each. So, I think the guy who graded it felt a little sympathy for me when I wrote the hangul for milk (oo-yoo) without the little circles that have to go on top of the line thingies because hangul needs a vowel and consonant with everything, even if it’s silent. What the hell am I saying?

And that’s why I want to take the language course. But, I’ll be doing it from the ground level. Saturday afternoons, entry level. I’m not even at the level of the class in my school that’s near dead-silent, restricted to mostly listen and repeat. I’m the equivalent of the class that just graduated from Phonics, where I feel more like a babysitter than a teacher, because they don’t understand a word I’m saying, and the one kid took on the English name “Johncena,” because he likes the wrestler.

No wait, he’s pretty good. I’m nowhere close to him.

And that’s OK. Consider this a humbling, teaching moment. If you are ready for yours, consider joining the class. If you miss this round, there’s always more to come.

Kids, we are simpatico. So, no more torturing John teacher, OK? Oh wait, you’re still kids.


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