Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shanghai Summary

How to get around in Shanghai:

I went to Shanghai for the World's Fair, and all I saw was the back of a lot of people's heads:

I'd like to say it wasn't that bad, but I can't. The lines were hours and hours long; in the evening it was better, especially after 8:00--I did get into the USA exhibition, but when I came out, all the restaurants were closed. Sigh. It was time to go home.

I stood in line for the Korean pavilion for 1 1/2 hours, thinking the entrance would be just around this one corner ... but when I got there, the rest of the line was exposed--at least another 1 1/2 hours of it!

So the Expo was a letdown (the USA pavilion didn't even have a passport stamp!) but Shanghai was awesome. The weather was great the first two days, but after that it rained intermittently, and always threatened. Still, the temperature was mild, and the taxis were very inexpensive, the subway cheaper than Seoul, but just as extensive, and my hotel very conveniently located.

I'm not much of a shopper, but this town had even me scouting around for bargains! Temples and gardens made for nice sightseeing, and Chinese restaurants everywhere meant great eating for not much money!

I put together some clips, added a few still shots and slapped on some labels for the video at top--I'm no Fellini, but it's a good summary of how to travel in Shanghai. (I'm planning to do a sort of Shanghai walking tour next.) You will note there are no buses in the video--this is because the buses are foreigner-unfriendly, moreso than the ones in Seoul.

Interestingly--well, fortunately, really--you must be a Shanghai resident to rent a car, so Hertz is out of the question. This is a good thing, because the traffic is positively lethal. In Seoul, people generally respect the traffic laws, and usually follow traffic lights, pedestrian crossings etc. In Beijing, I thought the cars were pretty good about it, though the bicyclists and pedestrians only loosely followed the lines and signs. The Shanghainese, however, are in open rebellion against the authoritarian pig-dogs of traffic control--the only law at a really busy intersection is that the biggest vehicle, or the one with the loudest horn, has the right-of-way. Every morning I was surprised not to find bodies heaped along the edges of the roads, though perhaps they have an early-morning squad to go round collecting them before most people get up.

Other than that, I found the Shanghainese very helpful and kind, though there was an unpleasantly high percentage of touts or mosquitoes about--especially on the weekend, espeically near subway exits, and especially around me.

Couldn't have put it better even if I knew what it meant!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Entborg Grows in Brussels

A 100-year-old tree in Brussels has been hooked up to a variety of sensors, whose output is oonverted by a specialized software program into Twitter tweets and Facebook updates.

Talking Tree - Making of from Tom on Vimeo.

The tree has its own homepage, too:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Street Scenes XI

Actually, only one of these scenes is on the street in Seoul, the others are inside a store, in this case the HomePlus near Gangseo sagori.

A common sight this time of year, as folks harvest and ripen their red peppers before turning them into gochujang.

Warp, wrap, what's the difference?! Why does it start with a 'w' anyway?

I'm not sure who or what a 'Petriot' is, but it makes me proud to see that an American city is the capital of them!

Yeah? Me too!

I almost bought this one, on general principle.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chuseok is Coming!

My school will be shut down all next week, as will almost all the schools I know about. This is a rare occurence, made possible by the timing of this year's Chuseok holidday.

Chuseok (추석) is a three-day harvest festival, similar to American Thanksgiving, in which the new crops are cooked up, special foods are perpared, and the ancestors are remembered.People travel to their hometowns, and visit their relatives. This year, Chuseok falls on Tues., Wed. and Thurs. Lots of businesses will shut down Monday or Friday as well, and some, including lots of schools, will close for both.

Seoul will turn from being a a loud, busy, bustling metropolis to a slightly less loud, busy and bustling one. With that in mind, JoongAng Daily put together a helpful list of contact numbers for foreigners:
The “120 Dasan Call Center” has English-speaking operators from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, to assist foreign residents in Seoul. Dial 120 and then three and follow the voice prompts.
“1339,” a 24-hour emergency medical information center, has English, Japanese, and Chinese speaking staff members.
The center can refer you to the nearest hospital or pharmacy and inform the 119 emergency service center. Just dial 1339.
In case of fire, call 119. If a receptionist cannot speak English, he or she will forward the caller to another receptionist.
For trains, the Korail phone service will book reservations for foreigners, but only if they’re Korail members. General services such as train schedules are available for nonmembers. Call 1544-7788 and press seven for English service.
For information regarding traffic on the highways, TBS eFM has English reports on weather and traffic every 15 minutes from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grammar Rocks!

Conjunction junction, what's your function?
Hookin' up words, and phrases and clauses!

These words, while not Baby's first, are an icon of American culture stretching back to the early 1970s. I suppose that if you ask Americans of my generation or younger, almost all could identify this song, sing or hum it, and list several more Schoolhouse Rock videos they enjoyed!

Schoolhouse Rock was part of America's all-too-brief commitment to ensuring that at least THREE minutes out of every hour of Saturday morning television would serve some educational purpose. ABC aired this delightful music video series, helmed by creative genius Bob Dorough, helped by George R. Newall and Lynn Ahrens; CBS did current events snippets called "In the News..."; um, we didn't get NBC where I grew up, so I have no idea what their idea of educational programming was.

There are a total of sixty-five three-minute SHR videos, with topics including math, science, American history, money, "Earth" and grammar. There are nine songs/videos that educate viewers about grammar and the parts of speech. The series has enjoyed a well-deserved afterlife in VHS DVD and on YouTube (I hope Dorough got rich first!), and there are numerous internet sites that share lesson plans utilizing the songs.

Well, none of them worked for me, since I teach high school boys, and most of the folks contributing lesson ideas are elementary teachers. I took the time to DL the Grammar Rock videos, and find a website where I could crib the lyrics ( I created a two-column document that students could use to read along ... BUT I still didn't have the activity that would turn entertainment into education for this set of students.

Now, one thing Korean high school students should know is grammar, right?! So, on that basis, I came up with my lesson plan. I will show them the videos in a grammatically logical order, they will watch the videos and record the key facts about each featured part of speech. I even created a handout:

As we watch the vids, I point out the definitions contained in the songs, reiterate a few examples, and let them fill it out. Definiton goes on the top line, examples on the second line. I realize this is pretty simple, but it's worked this week.

At the end of the lesson, students have a nice review sheet with definitions for nine of the parts of speech, plus some examples of each. Simple, but effective.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Food Court

The Gayang E-Mar-tuh has been in the process of remodeling for about a year, expanding upwards. The new Food Court is finally open, having moved from the ground floor to level 3. As you can see in the photo above, the Burger King and Baskin-Robbins are still with us, but alas! the Popeye's is gone, replaced by a 돈가스 donkaseu counter--that's schnitzel or breaded pork cutlets. This food court also has bibimbap (rice and vegetables), naengmyeon (iced noodles) and a traditional cuisine restaurant.

In a Korean food court, the Western-style restaurants work like usual--you walk up to the counter, place your order and wait for the counter person to put everything on your tray. But to eat Korean food, you first decide what you want by examining a glass case at the entrance containing models of all the food. Each choice has its name, the price and a number.

Once you decide what you want, you go to the cashier and tell her the number(s) of your choices, and tender your payment. She gives you a receipt with your order number on it. You find a place to sit and watch the digital display until your number comes up. Pick up your tray--remember to get your sucheo (utensils) as well; then enjoy.

The big news with the food court is the addition of an "Italian" restaurant called Spaghettia Classico. I was anxious to try it (I really like Korean food, but not for every single meal), yet I did not get my hopes up.

I ordered grilled chicken with mushroom risotto and a classic Caesar salad to go with it. Together with a glass of house white, the bill came to just under 30,000 W--quite pricey, but in line with what you'd pay in Itaewon, for example.

The presentation, as you can see, was quite good. And the taste, I am happy to report, was even better. The salad had the right amount of dressing, fresh parmesan grated by the server, and plenty of big tasty chunks of bacon. The chicken was delicious, and the big serving of risotto also savory, even if someone did get a bit heavy-handed with fresh-milled black pepper. Still, I happen to like black pepper.

This is the fourth installation of the Spaghettia Classico brand in Seoul, owned by Sun at Food, which is responsible for the Tony Roma's, Bistro Seoul and Mad for Garlic franchises, among others. The Spaghettia menu boasts pizzas, gratins, a variety of pastas and some steaks, so I'll be back to try some other items later. Losing the Popeye's doesn't seem so bad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

FC Seoul 4 - Daegu FC 0

I met up with my blogging buddy Charles of the Korean Literature in Translation blog to watch FC Seoul play Daegu. Yesterday was Foreigner Day at Sangam, which meant Section E seats, a beer and a hot dog from New York Hot Dogs & Coffee, all for 10,000 W (17,500 if bought separately). Pretty good deal, sponsored by 10 Magazine, one the better expat glossies.

I made some video of the game--finally managing to capture a goal on tape, so I uploaded the video today. Usually, I wouldn't put a soundtrack on, prefering to hear the roar of the crowd, but Charles and I are yammering away about every topic under the sun, and it was a bit distracting. The music is JFK by Teddy Duchamps Army, if you're interested. And even if you're not.

Incidentally, goals 2 and 3 were Big Fives.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today's Education Story

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

This is from a story in today's NYT (New York Times) titled Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits. Well, unless you knew that already, like say a music teacher, athletic coach ... or any professional educator who pays attention.

It turns out [gasp] that varying materials, techniques and learning strategies during the instructional implementation stage improves student learning outcomes! Can't imagine where I ever heard that before, unless it was in Gail Marshall's Teaching Methods course 25 years ago...

"Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits" is the webpage title of this story, but I see nothing really new or upending in it. Also, after the first several grafs, there's not much about study habits, and quite a bit about teaching styles. This despite the following quote:
“We have yet to identify the common threads between teachers who create a constructive learning atmosphere,” said Daniel T. Willingham, a psychologist at the University of Virginia and author of the book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” [...] But individual learning is another matter...

Okay, I'll get back to this in a moment, but "Why don't students like school?" Hmmm. Hell, why don't most adults like their jobs? Most adults more or less chose their line of employment, right? Do kids get to choose which classes to sit through? Do they get to choose which hours to show up, do they get paid at the end of the week? No, but adults do, and they'd still rather be somewhere else. What a dumb question!

And furthermore, who says students don't like school? I can't really answer this for the Korean system, as I simply don't know many of the kids I teach very well(communication problem); but back home, I'd say the vast majority of my students liked school well enough. All things considered. I haven't seen this guy's dumb book, but if someone sends it to me, I'll read it!

Anyway, the article goes on to describe a straightforward experiment whose outcome is more or less predictable to an experienced teacher:
The advantages of this approach to studying can be striking, in some topic areas. In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University of South Florida taught a group of fourth graders four equations, each to calculate a different dimension of a prism. Half of the children learned by studying repeated examples of one equation, say, calculating the number of prism faces when given the number of sides at the base, then moving on to the next type of calculation, studying repeated examples of that. The other half studied mixed problem sets, which included examples of all four types of calculations grouped together. Both groups solved sample problems along the way, as they studied.
A day later, the researchers gave all of the students a test on the material, presenting new problems of the same type. The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent.

In other words, learning something ("both groups solved example problems along the way"), relating what you are learning now to what you've learned before, dealing with new situations in which you must apply your past learning and your present learning ... why, it's almost like these guys invented Bloom's taxonomy! Brilliant!

Oh, wait. Someone already did that!

Next comes this gem of "education news": "When the neural suitcase is packed carefully and gradually, it holds its contents for far, far longer. An hour of study tonight, an hour on the weekend, another session a week from now: such so-called spacing improves later recall, without requiring students to put in more overall study effort or pay more attention, dozens of studies have found."

So, like, if those dumbass teachers would think of some system whereby they could make students (at least the ones who give a crap) study for a while, then also study for a while some other time, then study for a while on third and fourth occasions... Hey, I know! How about we test or quiz the students periodically through the the unit rather than just one time at the end, so they won't just cram all at once. Yeah, that might be something to upend traditional thinking ... that we've been doing for a millennium or two.

Another new thing that I thought I knew already but about which I was clearly in denial until the NYT came along and set me straight: testing is more than just a means of assessment, it is also a tool of learning!
[C]ognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.

Dammit! I clicked on this link hoping to find some useful information about new research into the human mind and how it learns, but I was sadly, and by now sarcastically, disappointed. Alas, this story doesn't upend a damn thing I know, but instead reaffirms some things I already knew, and have tried to apply for years. So I guess that's good, really. It's just not news. At least, to me.
None of which is to suggest that these techniques — alternating study environments, mixing content, spacing study sessions, self-testing or all the above — will turn a grade-A slacker into a grade-A student. Motivation matters. So do impressing friends, making the hockey team and finding the nerve to text the cute student in social studies.

Don txt me, NYT, L txt U

Bonus Photograph: The newest Korean beer offering, Hite Dry Finish.

Hite Dry Finish

Friday, September 10, 2010

Same Story, Different Day

As is so often the case, Kang Shin-who gets the wrong end of the stick and runs with it. Kang is the (English) education reporter for the Korea Times responsible for the [Exclusive] story in today's online edition headlined Taxpayers pay for foreign schools, for what?

Kang traces the monies, establishing that the government's claim, via the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, that "nearly 50 billion won in taxpayer money had been spent to finance the construction of nine international schools between 2003 and 2009" is a lowball figure. When real estate considerations are included, the figure rises considerably. Or does it?

Just one school, according to Kang, the Yongsan International School-Seoul, was "provided" in addition to 13 billion won, some 48 billion worth of land. Provided turns out to be a key weasel-word, as a visit to the YIS-S website indicates the school does not own the property (and is non-profit):
In June 2006, the school was selected by the Korea Foreign Schools Foundation to serve as the operator of a newly constructed, state-of-the-art school facility located in Hannam-dong. [emphasis mine]

So, actually, Mr Kang, we need to add that 48 bil back to the bottom line, and do some calculations about the lost revenue relative to other uses. But, let's move on ...
Whether such a huge sum of taxpayer money has served to attract more foreign investors or not is a big question.
Since the only reason Korea needs high-quality, modern, English-language education is to educate the children of weygookin CEOs.
But it’s a tall task to answer the question because foreign schools are reluctant to provide key information needed to measure the impact they have had on attracting overseas investment.
I mean, they have this in an Excel spreadsheet on the secretary's computer, but no one knows the damn password. It used to be Sparky, her dog, but she changed it after Gloria the Registrar put the Chippendale Dancers for her desktop picture as a joke.
A research team, commissioned by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, sought to find how many schools are educating children of foreign investors over the past years, but failed as they refused to provide the team with information.
Yep, no one provided any data on this, so Kang had to make up the following statistics he provided in the article:
Still, the research paper found that most of the foreign schools are crowded with “Korean students.”
According to the paper, 34 percent of YISS students were students with foreign citizenship as of last year. GSIS has 107 foreign students and 432 Korean students.
It also said that fewer than 10 percent of the total are foreign students at the Korea International School (KIS).

Hmmm. Let me look at this that you have written again, Mr Kang. So, your complaint is that Korean taxpayer money is being spent on these foreign schools when a mere 70 percent of the students benefitting from these programs are actual Koreans? Do I have that right? Instead of being outraged over 50 billion won, you should outraged about 14 bil?

But that point, valid as it is, is not my real objection to Mr Kang's "reportage". Early on in the "news article" he makes the kind of statement an editorial writer might make--and get pilloried for in most countries: the idea that our governments should treat us differently based on national origin or race or gender or sexual orientation.

It is one thing, a quite acceptable one, to question your government's policies, choices and expenditures--I am quite impressed with Korea's democratic ways. On the other hand, for a "professional journalist" to start with a bias against a policy, refuse to visit readily accessible webpages, fail to recognise the impossiblity of a school's ability to quantify it's value of foreign investment--that is not acceptable. Especially when one answer to to the "For What?" question is "over 70% participation"!

On the other hand, back in the US, the "Tea Party" asks Why are my taxes so high? when for almost everyone, taxes are lower than they have been in living memory. The highest marginal tax rate under Republican Dwight Eisenhower was 92%. Of course, you got more for your money back then.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Tale of the Teacup

This week in my first grade English classes (that's 10th grade to you and me) students have been learning some vocabulary and idioms related to weather terms. Idioms are crucial to becoming fluent in any language, so I sneak a few in as often as possible.

The idioms I chose included taking a rain check, dry spell, cloud nine, it never rains but it pours. And storm in a teacup. In over half of my classes, the word teacup got repeated sotto voce, to a general smattering of titters from the assemblage. I couldn't figure out why, and no one would tell me.

Until today.

A student put his hand at his chest and made a curving motion, like as to a woman's breast, and said, "A-cup, B-cup, C-cup ..."

... T-cup. T-cup! It just never occured to me--I guess I'm getting to the age where the intense imaginings due to hormonal imbalance are fading from memory. But, really, I mean, a T-cup?

Fortunately, I don't meet any first grade classes on Friday, I don't think I could get past that slide.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Korean beef small intestines experts

Another restaurant review! Why not? I eat three times a day, don't I?

I went with my colleague and friend Mr Hwang and his son to a very popular local eatery on Deungchon-gil about one block northeast of Deungchon station on line 9 (turn right out of Exit 1) called 한우곱창전문 Hanu gopchang jeonmun, Korean beef small intestines experts!

You can barely see fuzzy Hwang and son to the left of the photo. It may be the first time I've seen the boy wearing something other than a baseball uniform, since he lives and breathes the American Korean pasttime. You have to arrive at this tiny spot early (6:30 or so) or else very late, otherwise you will wait in line. Today's weather was spectacularly mild (after some months of boiling heat and humidity), so sitting on the sidewalk was definitely the thing to do. The aromas from the neighboring tables as we waited were delightful.

The meal here always starts with a bowl of 선지해장국 seonji haejangguk heated on your burner--that's oxblood soup. The panchan includes kimchi, of course (not pictured), marinated sesame leaves, raw liver and kidney cubes, and something which may be a part of a cow's stomach lining; marinated onions, salt-black pepper-oil mixture, and samjang are for dipping.

We ordered the modum (in full 한우모듬구이), which is a mixed or sampler platter, and it was awesome, 13,000 W per serving. In addition to small intestine, it includes liver, stomach, potato, garlic, onions, leeks, and some grass-like veg that Koreans seem to love.

After that was all gone, we got 복음밥 bokumbap, rice, shredded seaweed, kimchi, etc, fried up in the pan drippings. This is also tasty, and fulfills the Korean requirement for rice at almost every meal (including breakfast), though to be honest, I could live without the seaweed.

Mr Hwang's son seems torn becoming a baseball player and a chef, since he was very attentive and deliberate about making sure the food got turned when needed, delighted in serving me or his dad the perfectly done bits, and when the bokum came, made sure it was patted into a perfect shape, then scraped away the top so he could make the slightly burnt, crispy rice of 누룽지 nurungji.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Village Restaurant

Technically, that's 새마을 식당 saemaeul shikdang or "New Village Restaurant". The Saemaeul meme stretches back to the early 1970s when Korean strongman Park Chung-hee modernized feudal Korea by providing construction materials to villages to improve their infrastructure. Villages that made satisfactory progress were rewarded with even greater resources in an attempt (largely successful) to achieve a snowball effect of modernization. Saemaeul Undong, "new village program", combined with preferential government policies toward the chaebol, like Samsung, Hyundai, Haetae and Lucky Goldstar (LG), brought Korea roaring into the 20th century--albeit in the late 1980s.

Oh, sorry, this is a restaurant critique. Located on the main strip of Gangseo-gu cheong, just south of the GSG intersection, this restaurant is large, spacious, modern and popular. The menu...

... is inexpensive and varied. This was the second foray here by me and The Stumbler, joined by Kevin (from Yong-in training days) this time, and it was just as delicious as the first time. Even if we had to keep asking the staff to bring on more kimchi. Mind you, since we were seated at the last open table, it was admittedly busy.

We started with the sogeum gui (item #2 on the menu above), which means grilled in salt, but leaves out the cut of pork (shoulder?). We liked it so much we had more:

A few maekchu, a few soju and a lot of fun conversation later, we were ready for the next course: 열탄블고기 yeoltan bulgogi, thinly sliced pork slathered in a spicy but tasty sauce:

It fries up quick so you need to stay handy with the tongs, but the sauce is so thick it won't burn if you let the coals start to cool before cooking. Conversation, after all, is at least as important as the food, when entertaining with friends.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Education News Roundup

For most Korean high school seniors, the second Thursday in November is a RED LETTER DAY: the day of the College Scholastic Ability Test. It is not an exaggeration to say that many of them see it as the most important day of their lives--this one test, on this one day, determines which universities they can expect to get admitted to. Today's roundup starts with two stories on the subject.

1) A special committee of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced changes they will recommend to be made to the CSAT:
Major changes include reducing the number of test subjects by half and offering the exam at two different academic levels. Leaving out the second language and Chinese-character sections from the exam is also under consideration.

This is according to a Chosun Ilbo story titled College Entrance Exam to Be Held Twice a Year from 2014. The article makes no mention of the new dates, other than a reference to the fact it will be offered at two "levels".

2) Korea Times' Kang Shin-who, who often writes on matters educational, covers the same announcement, but makes no mention of the changes described by Chosun Ilbo. Instead, titled New English exam likely to to replace CSAT, Kang's coverage focuses on yet another attempt to finesse Korean students' English scores by writing a new "home-grown" test.
“Evaluation manuals for (English) speaking and writing have been developed and distributed to each school. Training sessions to improve evaluation specialty of English teachers is ongoing,” the ministry official said during the seminar.
Consisting of reading, listening, speaking and writing sections, the new exam will offer three levels of difficulty levels; grade 1 for adults and grades 2 and 3 for students.
During the probation period until 2011, the ministry will further study whether overseas universities will accept the test to be used to determine admissions.

3) Corporal punishment will be banned in Gyeonggi-do beginning in October, sez JoongAng Daily. "What has been considered an effective method of supervising and teaching students in Korean schools" will be replaced by Green Mileage, not viewings of the Stephen King movie, no, but a punishment and reward system. Gyeonggi-do is the large province that surrounds Seoul.
In Gyeonggi, students who were to receive corporal punishment will instead receive “knowledge and virtue-based punishments,” such as writing book reports, completing community service projects or doing extra assignments.
Examination of students' belongings without prior notice, regulation of hair length, verbal abuse and school violence will be prohibited. The teacher’s duty to monitor students' dress code and conduct of behavior at school gates will be removed. Measures will be taken to raise awareness of student rights and student councils will be given greater autonomy.

No mention is made of the rewards. “It will take two to three months to get rid of corporal punishment and for the new system to take effect,” said education office supervisor You Sun-man, in what may win the 2010 Award for Most Optimistic Statement by a Bureaucrat.

4) Over at Soap Opera College Sogang University, an embezzlement scandal takes a dramatic turn, as the DongA Ilbo headline puts it. A (unnamed) professor in a (unnamed) department of the university was apparently caught dead-to-rights in misusing more than 100 million won, and submitted his resignation. However, during the university foundation's audit, it was learned that the chief accuser had lied and suborned perjury. From the article:
The accusing professor said, “Students of the (accused) professor said he embezzled research funds by using their bank accounts and confirmed that he had an inappropriate relationship with one of his students.”
In the investigation, however, the students denied this. One of them with whom the accusing professor claimed to have a conversation said, “The (accusing) professor asked me about the embezzlement case but I didn’t acknowledge it and have no knowledge of an inappropriate relationship.”
“The (accusing) professor made the threat that something unfavorable will happen to me unless I handed him a copy of the bank book (used for embezzlement).”...
A faculty member who knows the relationship between the two professors well said, “They graduated from the same university and have been on bad terms with each other,” adding, “When (the accusing) professor discovered the other’s alleged embezzlement, it seemed (the accusing) professor conducted a secret investigation and made the charge against (the accused) professor out of jealousy.”

5) A recent Korea Herald story purportedly about how Education [is] important to Singapore’s future turns out to be a thinly veiled advertisement to entice Koreans to send their children to the island nation for their English immersion studies. Indeed the only person interviewed in the story is Singapore's Tourism Board Director, Clement Goh. The only other source is a Guardian article from 2009.

Still, Goh has all the facts and figures about Singapore's fine education system, which is totally in English. However, his statements that all teachers use "Standard Englsh" must be taken with a grain of salt. Singaporeans do better than Koreans, surely, but most speak an accented English that mixes Hong Kong British with native consonants, like the soft 'r'. In fact, just as Koreans have Konglish, Chinese have Chinglish, etc, Singaporeans have Singlish.

I am not saying that Koreans who want their kids to have the English immersion experience should not consider Singapore. I'm not even saying the Herald shouldn't write an opinion or a viewpoint article suggesting they should.

But I am saying that they shouldn't write such a piece and pretend it is about how education is the key to Singapore's future.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cultural Differences

Saturday was my first Public Speaking class at Yeouido Girls H.S. I mentioned this a week or so ago, so I don't blame you if you don't remember. I understand I was selected because I'm an excellent teacher (of course) and because I have the background--I hold a BFA in Theatre/Speech. I accepted, reluctantly, being loath to give up a perfectly good day of the weekend, because the money is quite good. And I really want the opportunity to teach a class full of outstanding English students.

The format is this:
1st hour: A Korean teacher teaches solo
2nd hour: I teach public speaking and debate, with the first teacher as my co
3rd hour: I teach public speaking and debate, with a different teacher as my co
4th hour: the second co-teacher works solo, mainly doing review, journaling, etc
We decided the co-teachers will switch so that neither one is always early or late, especially considering the 4th hour is pretty easy, teacher-wise, and the first hour is, well, early.

I have worked up a pretty good curriculum, based on college PS curricula and lecture notes I have found on-line. Why re-invent the wheel, right?

My first activity was the riddle game. I have previously prepared a bunch of riddles with their answers in a Word document table, riddle on the left, answer on the right. I cut the riddles into strips and then cut the answer away from the question. I pass these out, two riddles and two answers to each student. BUT, you get the answer/punchline to *someone else's* riddles!

So, a student reads a riddle. Whoever has the answer (or thinks they have the answer) reads it. Laughter ensues. This is a jolly good icebreaker since personalties emerge and everyone laughs.

What does this have to do with cultural differences, I hear you asking. Be patient, I'm getting to that. The thing is, of course, that many riddles are laguage-specific. This is intentional on my part. Even the co did not get this one:
Q: What do you get when a T.Rex bites your arm?
A: A dino-sore.

I'm not saying that's just totally hilarious, but a person with an adequate grasp of English should at least appreciate that "saur" sounds like "sore", and sore means "hurt". So, that's not really my fault.

However, there were acouple of perfectly fine English riddles that fell flat on their face because I forgot or was unaware of cultural differences. Fore instance:
Q: What did the envelope say when the man licked it?
A: Nothing. It just shut up.

In Korea, gummed envelope flaps are a recent and rare phenomenon. To close an envelope, the Postal kiosk provides a few glue sticks, along with scissors, pens, that sponge pad to wet your fingertips, etc. No licking envelopes here!
Q: Did you hear about the guy that ran into the screen door?
A: He strained himself.

Okay, partly the failure of this one is language, as "strain" has several meanings (crucial to the humor, natch), but it's mainly because they don't have screen doors here!
Q: What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup?
A: Anyone can roast beef...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hi-Mart, the Magnetron and Me

My rival blogger and supervillain (who calls himself "Literaryhero" in a textbook example of irony) Andy has been bragging on insufferably about his cool new digs and his cool new work computer, blah blah blah.

Well, I just got a new microwave oven and a nice stand to put it on, so there, Literaryhero! Er, here:

It isn't actually new, but it's new to me. It belonged to S. and D., my Canadian friends who live in the building. They are moving back to Newfoundland at the end of the week, after living in Seoul for five years.

One of the great expat rituals is giving away/selling your shit that you can't take with you when you move. I had claimed the microwave a couple weeks ago. How much? "Whatever you think is right." I hate that.

So I dropped by Hi-Mart to price them out. Looking around downstairs, I saw the rice cookers, convection ovens and the electric fry pans. So I asked the nearest clerk, "Microwave?"

She looked at me like I have two heads. I hate that. Now, the Korean word for "microwave" is "microwave". Actually, it's "mic-uh-rowabe-uh" (마이크로웨브) but give me a freaking break.

I found the mic-uh-rowabe-uhs upstairs, where the no-frills model was about 70,000 W and the next one up was 95,000 W. Now, this was at Hi-Mart, which is an appropriately-named store if ever there was one.

So I gave them 50,000 W for the whole apparatus. In addition to the microwave itself, the stand has 1) another flat surface to put stuff on, 2) a drawer to accumulate junk, and 3) a cabinet below, which is now my liquor cabinet.

Nice folks that they are, S. and D. threw in a spare extension cord and some left over liquor. Now I gotta run to E-Mart and buy some microwave food.