Dearie me. Good ol' Liz has got to sort out a studying routine. You see, I haven't studied anything this way (memorization) since high school. My university education consisted entirely of reading, grasping concepts and putting concepts to practice in essays, term papers, poems, short stories. I'm good at that. I'm good at that because it's interesting, directly. While learning Korean is interesting, indirectly, in the sense that it expands my accessibility to the people and things around me immensely, with every word I learn, it is not directly interesting. At all. Well, the grammar is interesting, but then I'm not having any problems with grammar. In fact, as C leaned over to watch me perfectly reconstruct sentence after sentence in Korean on Tuesday, he muttered about how jealous he was. But he still had to remind me each time of the right vocabulary, the correct spelling.
I'm learning more and more names at work, and speaking more scraps of Korean here and there. The boys are ecstatic. This week I told a student that "shit" is a really, really, jinjja bad word. When I came out from work to see a line of second graders holding signs depicting the dangers of school violence and smoking (punishment for these acts), one particularly adorable student who just radiates trouble from his cute little face screamed out a greeting. I walked over and put a hand under his chin. "Look at this! Look at this face! Kuiyeupda!" And when another student asked me, with great earnestness, how I was yesterday, I showed him the paper cut on my finger and said, "Apeo." These are literally, as far as the students are concerned, the funniest things I've ever said.
It has to be said, I'm greatly encouraged by how impressed they are with the smallest things. Mutter one word in Korean, and I'm the smartest teacher ever. Also, as they pass by my desk and lean over to glance at my ridiculous mess of scribbled notes going in every direction (the result of C and I working through grammar concepts and ideas on paper), they'll look up at my stern, intent face and say, without fail, "Teacher... fighting! Fighting! You can do it!"
And as I make my way through the neighborhood in the evenings to go and meet C at the coffee shop, when I pass students standing on corners waiting for hagwon buses, they tell me they are going to study. "Me too!" I shout back. "Korean!" We throw our fists in the air together -- a display of solidarity.
I've only got five weeks left teaching my beloved third graders. I'll still see them around, but as the second half of the year rolls in, they've no more time for the native teacher, as they have to begin preparing for high school exams (which don't yet include a spoken English test). It's going to be awful to watch them leave in the winter. If I spoke enough Korean, I'd be able to write to them and keep in touch. By then, I'll be well into my second session. I wonder if it will be possible.