Monday, November 24, 2008

As I mentioned in the previous post, Konglish is the term used for words borrowed from English, but usually with their own uniquely Korean pronunciation.
Ironically, Konglish can make it easier for foreigners to communicate outside the classroom, and yet frustrating to communicate within the classroom.

Case in point: my middle school listening/conversation class several years ago. The text I was using contained thematic units with completely random vocabulary. One of the listening activities is to choose from several sentences the one which best describes a tiny black-and-white photograph in the book. I think the sentence in question was, "The woman is reading the label." Students didn't recognize the word, "label." After I explained it, one girl said, "Oh, LA-BELL." Of course, la-bell.

Same class, this time the word is "matinee." I explained that it's a movie showing or theater performance in the afternoon. No recognition. I looked it up in the English-Korean dictionary. The first Korean entry was met with blank stares. The students didn't understand. I carefully sounded out the second entry: mah-tee-nay. I almost slapped myself in the forehead as I reitterated, "Come on, guys, mah-tee-nay." "OH, MAH-TEE-NAY!" my class replied.

The biggest slap-myself-in-the-forehead moment was when an elementary school student corrected MY pronunciation of Hawaii. "No, teacher, ha-wa-ee!" Now I realize that her pronunciation is probably closer to the original, but being corrected by a ten-year-old on the pronunciation of a state in MY home country is a little ridiculous. American teachers are hired to teach American English, and if we want to mangle the pronunciation of our states, then so be it.

My friend Sara tells a particularly hilarious story (as all of Sara's stories are) of explaining, drawing, even pantomiming a parachute with no recognition from her students. Finally, she looked it up in the dictionary: Pah-lah-choot. Her students swore they didn't understand any of her attempts, but she suspects they were just toying with her.

Outside the classroom, if I don't know a word in Korean, I often try to Konglishize it: z becomes j, f becomes p, compound consonant sounds are separated (i.e. bl become bul), and often extra vowels are added at the end. It's amazing how well this works.

Some Konglish words, written as they sound:
ice cream: eye-soo-cu-reem-uh
cheese: chee-juh
pizza: pee-jah
hamburger: hame-buh-guh
steak: suh-tay-ee-kuh
coffee: cah-pee (sounds like copy -- so my students were always confused when I said I was going to make a copy during class)
vitamin: bee-tah-mean
bus: bu-suh
taxi: take-shi
motorcycle: oh-toe-bah-i (supposed to sound like "autobike")
cell phone: han-duh-pone (supposed to sound like "handphone")


2 Responses to “Konglish”
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All of this is so true! SO TRUE! Honestly, I was thinking about trying a different country to teach in in 3 years (yeah, I wish I could come sooner....) but you are making me want to come back to Korea with all the memories. And the language is so easy to learn too! Seeyousoonah.

You're off the hook on Hawaii since it's not an English word. Also, I understand it's pronounced ha-vye-ee.

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