Something terrible has happened at work.
Today I was sitting at lunch with a rare group of female teachers who don't speak much English at all, when I caught "Liz Sunsengnim" and tuned in. Korean book blank study blank. Hangul blank blank. [Hand motion for writing.] English blank blank blank speaking.
It's like a radio station that keeps tuning in and out from static. That's all I know to compare it to.
Three new sets of accusing eyes turn on me. In Korean: "You are studying Korean?"
I paused for a minute to process the question, translate in my head. Then, slowly, nodding.
Christ. They'd said something in Korean and I'd understood. Another one turns to me now, and much faster, in Korean: "Do you speak Korean?" or something close to that. Something about speaking Korean, anyway.
I shook my head.
The original transmitter of information shot me a look. In Korean: "A little."
Me, in Korean: "A little. Very little."
The rest of the afternoon, everything was in Korean.
The tables have finally turned, my friends. From here on out, I have a feeling it will be me stammering and stuttering, straining to understand, and asking everyone to repeat themselves.
Still, being spoken to in Korean is better than not being spoken to at all. And several teachers who have never even looked me in the eye before tried their hand at friendly conversation today. It's still really hard for me to catch exactly what's being said (even when I know they are slowing down and simplifying as much as they can), and even harder to come up with a response. But I think, ultimately, we're moving in the right direction. At least now I can be nervous, instead of absolutely everyone else.
It's lovely, though. I still use English greetings and goodbyes, most of the time. I'm perfectly capable of the usual in Korean, but I like saying "good morning" and "good night" instead. And now? Everyone else uses these, too, without any bashfulness whatsoever.
High school boy mob on the walk home soured the day only a little. Don't know why they have to be so aggressive. Too much testosterone at that age, and not a single clue what to do with it yet, I suppose.