Friday, November 30, 2007

Are you worried about offending our Korean hosts' cultural idiosyncracies?

It could be MUCH worse.
A British woman teaching in Sudan is facing cries for her excecution for a cultural snafu. Though it is more likely that she will be held in prison for 15 days (more for her safety than anything else) and then deported (again for her own safety). What did she do? She allowed the children in her class to name a class bear that was part of a school project after a popular student in the class.
What's wrong with that, you ask? Well, that child's name happened to be Muhammed. And in a predominantly Muslim country under Sharia Law that is evidently a big no-no. It doesn't matter that it was the kids who named the bear OR that a child in the class has the same name. The teacher is responsible according to a large number of protesters; some bearing knives, pipes and clubs, that were gathered outside the prison where she is being kept and calling for her to be excecuted by firing squad.
This is just another case of radical Islam hijacking the religion for their own twisted agenda. They want to say how this infidel intentionally named an animal/toy after the prophet Muhammed when all she did was name it after a child who coincidentally had the same name at the request of the class. Lack of cultural sensitivity aside: she is not Muslim, how could she be expected to know the ramifications of such an innocent act and what do these radicals think that the prophet Muhammed would wish to do with this person. The real wonder is why would a co-worker decide to turn her in for it.
Of course, we do not know the real intentions of this woman. Perhaps, she really did do it on purpose and this other excuse is just a way to pull one over on the Sudanese authorities. Either way, does it really justify calls for excecution?

One thing we can certainly say about our Korean hosts: for all the faults we like to try and pin on them (justified or not). It could be much worse.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weekly G-Spot 1: Unraveling A and An

I decided to start a series of posts in the English vein. Each week, I am introducing the "weekly G-Spot" That is Grammar Spot (got you to look though didn't it). Partly as an exercise to keep myself fresh in it and partly as a help to some of my more dilligent students who are reading my blog. For the expatriate crowd: don't be afraid to read the G-Spot because there is a good chance you will learn something about English you might not have known otherwise. Or a way to explain something to someone that you didn't think of before. I'll try to keep in interesting for all. Please remember that I am NOT a grammarian and do not claim to know everything about the English language so take this information for what it is worth to you. Also, if you find that you would like to see something in particular focused on here, please leave me a comment and I will try to get to it when I can.
Cheers, fencerider.

This week's G-Spot: Unraveling A and An
Probably one of the most elusive aspects of English for anyone seeking to learn it as a second language is the proper use of 'a' and 'an' (indefinite articles). Here are the basic rules

1. Use a or an the first time you mention a person or thing in a conversation.

2. After you have mentioned it once, it becomes known to the interlocutor, you can then begin using 'the' to refer to the same person or thing.
A war is being fought in Iraq. The war had dragged on for several years.

3. They may only be used with singular countable nouns.
4. If you use an adjective with the person or thing, place the indefinite article before the adjective(s).
I drive an ugly, old, beat up Carnival.
5. If a thing is not singular (that is, if it is non-countable) then you should NOT use any article.
My favorite food is an Italian food.

What do 'a' and 'an' mean?
There are two ways I use to explain it. First, it is called an 'indefinite article.' Since 'indefinite' means 'not sure' we can say that it is used with something that the listener does not know about (until it is mentioned). Second, I find an easy way to explain the meaning of the indefinite article in context is 'one of many.' That is, in the universe there are many of this particular item, I am speaking (or writing) of only one of them.

When to use 'a' or 'an'?
If the following word's first sound is a consonant...use 'a'. If the following words first sound is a vowel...use 'an.' An important note her is that the letter is not as important as the sound as evidenced by words like 'uniform' which begins with a vowel but the sound of that vowel is /yu/ and the presence of the 'y' sound makes it a consonant (a uniform). The same applies for the use of an article in front of a silent letter like 'h' in 'honest' (an honest man).

1. a is also sometimes used to mean 'one' when used with numbers, fractions or measurments.
Then, add a half teaspoon of molasses.

Here's a link to a quiz on indefinite articles from the Internet TESL Journal

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wrongly Accused Blogger: Metropolitician joins the list

First it was ZenKimchi getting accused of things he didn't do and getting dragged through the inJustice system, now the Metropolitician is dragged into the quagmire. It reads like something out of a Stephen King short story...a true nightmare. Basically, minding his own business and he gets verbally and odiferously assaulted by a drunk adjussi and then when he calls the police to get the guy to quit bothering him....HE GETS ARRESTED because the drunk off his kiester Korean guy said that the M kicked him and left a bruise. M has been printed and booked and I would assume is in need of some legal counsel (though he did not specifically appeal for it on his blog).

Now, I'm not one for sticking up for someone when I don't hear both sides of the story, so if you understand Korean, you can hear the real B.S. in a recorded conversation with the mephitic sot. There are some real dire consequences if this conviction sticks so I certainly hope he can beat this wrap totally. Unfortunately, the ill-smelling inebriate does not appear to have any money and therefore can't be sued for the likely financial damage that M will need to keep it off his record.

My advice, M...get legal counsel now! Contact anyone you might know or who might know someone who is a high ranking police officer to try and help you take care of this before it gets out of hand.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why the Anti-Discrimination Law Must be Amended.

From the time I heard that the Korean Government was going to pass “Anti-Discrimination” Legislation I was skeptical; if not hopeful. How could a society such as this with such deep-rooted biases against even its own ever hope to pass legislation that would somehow protect those who need it most? Of course, my reasons for hoping for the passing of this bill were somewhat selfish. As a foreigner trying to raise a family in Korea I am keenly aware of the ways in which such a law could make life easier for me and mine.
But since I have been in Korea for a long time, I think I can sort of ‘step outside of myself’ a bit and challenge myself to find reasons why the government would choose to delete the 7 contentious items from the bill. It is said, to really understand someone you must walk a mile in their shoes. So, I am taking a moment to really try and understand, item by item, why it is necessary to remove these items from the Korean perspective. Prof. Gill Wonpyeong’s wise words (albeit something may have been lost in translation) have given me the necessary mindset from which to spew forth:

Family type –
Because it is important that we make sure that the people that we work for are only the most moral of people. We should not be forced to hire someone, regardless of their qualifications, if they are estranged from their spouse. It does not matter if a woman’s husband cheated on her and left her with 3 kids to feed, it must be her fault in some way and society must punish her for that by making it difficult for her to work a decent job with other decent people. This is particularly important in a society reaching a 35% divorce rate. In addition, we certainly don’t want to have to work with someone who comes from a broken family because we know that if someone comes from a family like that they must be messed up, crazy or both, regardless of their qualifications.

Nation of Origin
Businesses don’t want to pass this one possibly because they know that the ramifications would be far reaching in the area of employment. Employers would no longer be able to pay people differently based on the color of their skin….this would force many businesses to shut down because they simply could not afford to pay their workers. This can’t pass because that would mean that we would have to actually pay out a little more of our profits to those dirty-looking ASEANs. We have to keep their wages low to make sure that they will want to return to their home countries with the thanks that they were able to work in such a profitable environment. Never mind that they lost their right hand due to lack of a safe working environment. They should be glad that we gave them a chance to earn more money in a month than they could in a year in their own country. Also, we wouldn’t want to actually pay them enough money that they could live in the same neighborhoods and send their mongrel children to school with our own children.

I didn’t originally know that this would be included in the bill. If I had, I would have known right then and there that there is NO WAY IN HELL that we can allow this because we have to maintain the purity of our 5000 year language and its 400 year old script that is the most scientifically logical and greatest invention of the most auspicious king that ever lived. And we certainly can’t have foreigners demanding that they be made aware of their rights in the law in their own languages. That would make it impossible to railroad them into confessing and making sure that the bloated statistics that we feed to the newspapers about foreign crime on the rise are kept accurate. Of course, we must maintain our linguistic superiority at all costs.

Sexual Orientation
Prof. Gill may have neglected to mention a few important points in this regard. This item cannot stand because we certainly wouldn’t want to have to actually accept the fact that there are homosexuals in our society. We must make sure they stay in the closet. After all, if they were allowed to come out of the closet freely how terrible that would be for all people. How could we continue to work side by side with someone knowing that they might be after our ass after working together for 10 years? How would we even be able to enter the bathroom for fear that we might be raped by one of these animals? Of course, the women homosexuals should be protected because of the benefit they provide for the lonely working man’s need for a little girl-on-girl action. Unfortunately, if we allow that then we would also have to reciprocate and that would be disgusting. So we just have to keep it all in the closet.

Medical History
This is related to Sexual Orientation because there is a need to discriminate against those who are HIV positive. We must make sure that they die quickly, and alone and penniless, without taxing our medical system. We must also insure that those who have some history of even the most treatable of mental illness should be kept away from the workplaces. How can we work with peace of mind knowing that the person next to us might be transferring their neurosis to us through some sort of evil mind control?

Educational Status
This one is a little hard to understand. Why put this in there at all. Educational discrimination is the backbone of Korean politics. How else would you get to know the people you need to know unless you went to the same school? Passing this portion of the bill would mean the end of discrimination based on the school you attended and everyone knows that it would be bad for society if we couldn’t make sure that we all worked with people of similar caste.

Criminal Record –
Because regardless of the fact that someone has paid their debt to society, everyone should be able to feel free to make sure that this person returns to exactly the same place in society that they came from. We have to prove our theories of ‘once a thief, always a thief’ by forcing them into such destitution that their only resort is crime and then we can put them away for life.
There is also the problem that when the head of a family commits a crime, his or her family census register shows the crime and even a grandson of a living criminal should be forced to work in only the most menial of jobs, regardless of his skill or education because he must be made to pay for the sins of his patronage.

Finally, if this bill were to pass unaltered, the litigation would be endless. Koreans cannot be expected to just change their system of discrimination and bias that has existed for five thousand years. Korea really doesn’t want to become a global society. It would just be too much work. Anti-Discrimination is not in line with a number of the most basic tenants of Korean Society. For Koreans, it is natural to discriminate and examples of this train of thought are found in daily life. So, why bother to change it.

Note to the hopelessly stupid (and Prof. Gill, just in case he is more confused than I think he is): The previous was intended to be sarcasm.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dancing Flight Attendants

UPDATE: Evidently, someone either took offence or the girls just decided to take it off line because the video has been removed. Hope you caught it while it was still on. Its a little funny because there was some discussion about putting a higher quality video online in a hurry but I guess that never materialized.

Ok...this is just TOO good not to write about. There was some discussion on another blog (can't find it now) about the song "Tell Me" by the Wondergirls. Most of it centered around the fact that it made several people want to jump out of a window or made their skin crawl from watching the gyrations of 14 year old girls. Now, if you haven't heard this song yet then you must have been under a rock somewhere because even if you don't like Korean pop your students are probably singing it in the hallways along with the taxi and bus drivers and the ajummas in the market.

So, for those of you who refuse the video due to its parasitic qualities, some of my students in the Stewardess Training Department at my school just made a rather entertaining UCC video of themselves dancing to the song. I have the 'from-the-horses-mouth' scoop: evidently, some girls were messing around in their stewardess uniforms and one made a video and uploaded it to the Internet without telling the others. It has, as of this morning, more than 100,000 hits and rising. It is currently the most popular video on several of the search engines in Korea (search: 스튜어대스 텔미).
The young lady in the front of the group is a student of mine who takes a special early morning conversation class. She came in looking all depressed today because of the uploaded video. She just didn't want all the attention and had no idea that it would be uploaded. (I know, I had my doubts about the veracity of that at first. But after an extended discussion, I believe she honestly didn't know). At any rate, they are now talking about making a higher quality video to supplement the already popular download. I am still waiting for the real stuff to hit the fan as the day progresses. (updates to follow if any)
There appears to be two sides of the issue. Several netizens posted disparaging comments about the girls (Don't you hate trolls) and of course, as anyone would be, they are upset about some of them. There is some concern that the image presented in the video is not an 'appropriate' flight attendant image and could wind up hurting the image of the school.

I have to disagree, personally, I believe that it is perfect timing (almost too perfect) to attract attention to the school at a time when young high school stewardess-wannabes are deciding which of the few colleges and universities offering a training program they will attend. The girls were just having a good time before class and the roughness of the timing of some of the steps makes it pretty obvious that it was impromptu. There is nothing inappropriate about it and anyone who says differently is just a cantankerous, curmudgeonly old gasbag. I think its entertaining, I also think that the girls involved should receive kudos and maybe even a scholarship from the school for the free advertising and profile/image boost.
link is here

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Got Blacklisted?? Get Even!!

There has been a discussion recently on the Koreabridge Korea Job Advice Forums about a blacklist that has been posted by the Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association. This is a list of foreign teachers who for some reason have been deemed unworthy to get a job in Korea. The site is entirely in Korean and there does not appear to be any method for teachers to offer a rebuttal for what they have been accused. Teachers are listed by their full name, gender and country of origin. In the entries they even put their Alien Registration Card Number AND their passport number along with other personal information and their 'offence.' Attempts to have explanations or rebuttals added or to have names removed have seemingly been met with silence.
One teacher who felt wrongly accused and added to the list contacted the Job Advice Forum and was given several suggestions for places to go for help. The poster finally decided to go to the Seoul (Korean) Bar Association where they received help in English and a lawyer who was evidently gung-ho to prosecute the case. I'll post the note below for those who cannot access Koreabridge.
In the end, the teacher's name was simply removed from the list at the teacher's request. No law suit was filed and that appears to be the end of it for this teacher. However, there are many other names on that list. Some of those people may not even be aware that they are on a blacklist. So, if you are a teacher who thinks that you might have been put on a blacklist, then you should check out the site.

IF YOU ARE ON THE LIST: guilty of what you are accused or not, you can sue this organization for libel and according to the information below, you would NOT have to pay anything! PLEASE, Contact the Seoul (Korean) Bar Association. Directions are included in the post below.

From Koreabridge Korean Job Advice Forums:

i went to the korea bar assoc on monday afternoon - they have an english interpreter there from 2-5 pm on mondays - she was very very nice, very sincere the lawyer was adamant i sue and he wanted me to sue right then and there!! he wanted to sue the school and the website - !! wow i was so impressed but i told him i was worried it could affect me getting a new visa so we talked some more and he had his asst call the website owner - well, they just laughed and didn't take it serious that anyone would actually sue!! in the end, he convinced them tho, don't know what exactly was said (obviously) but my name is no longer on the site. but it's not over yet, there are SO MANY teachers' names on there - i can't imagine why some koreans think this is ok - it's NOT!! it's so totally bullsh*t i really hope more people hear about this so this guy has to take the website down, it's really ugly. oh by the way, if i had let the lawyer sue, i wouldn't have had to pay anything (really!) so it's definitely worth it to go there if you have a serious problem. seoul bar asso, mondays from 2-5; seocho station line 2; exit num 8, go straight take first (almost immediate) left, go about 30 meters, on the right there's a large stone building which is on the corner, the entrance is around the corner and actually says "Seoul Bar Assoc." in english.