Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thursday seminar

My uncle recently mentioned in an email that I hadn't posted in awhile. Sorry about that, but honestly, sometimes I don't have anything interesting to add, and usually I just forget, or wait until it's really late and I don't like writing super gibberish (that's even more gibberish than usual!).

On Tuesday, my boss mentioned to me that I would have to attend a mandatory foreigner seminar on Thursday morning. Apparently there is one of these every year, but my last boss didn't make me go (and he didn't make the girls who work there now go this year either). I think the main reason for these is to keep tabs on the foreigners. Public school employees don't have to attend. Before they start teaching, and randomly during the year, they get other training things they have to go to. We don't get that. We generally get thrown immediately into teaching.

I had to get up early and get to the university on the other side of town by 9:30. Being a person who likes to be on time, meant I was there a little before 9:30, not knowing that the seminar didn't start until 10. Luckily I knew some other people and was able to chat while I waited. Right before we went in, a girl I knew from last year, who now lives in Geoje, showed up. We sat next to each other and caught up during the program.

While we waited for the program to start, they had an episode of Tom and Jerry playing on the big screen at the front of the auditorium. After about 15 minutes, the program started. The first speaker was the head of the English department (I think) at the university. His English was really good and his topic was about the differences in speaking and the difficulties of teaching English to Koreans.

I actually found this part somewhat interesting. We talked very briefly about word order, the fact that Korean doesn't have articles, and some phonetic differences. One of the ones we talked about the most was the "bright" L and the "dark" L. I had never heard of those terms. He said the bright L is the l sound in "love" or "letter". Basically when L is followed by a supporting vowel sound. The dark L is l sound in "jingle" or "bell" or "film". So when it is followed by a silent vowel or consonant. Emily (my friend) and I debated this, because we were saying that it's really the preceding vowel that controls the sound. Either way, the "dark" L sound is difficult for Koreans to pronounce because they don't have this sound in their language.

He also briefly talked about some customs and how we shouldn't be offended when asked personal questions because that's typically Korean. He said that asking "Did you eat" or "Did you have lunch" is a polite thing to say. It is kind of a greeting like "how are you?" and is based on the fact that 50ish years ago they didn't have enough food, so asking if someone ate was a way of checking up on them.

His talk ended and we had a short break. Then we went back in and got to watch a video about Korea and things you can do, and of course Gangnam Style. Then we saw 15 minutes of college kids dancing. Seriously. (The best part starts about 2 minutes in when the guys start break dancing).

After the dancing, another guy got up and read from the materials for 20 minutes about immigration issues and what documents you need etc. This information is only helpful for people BEFORE THEY LEAVE their home countries. Also, this is stuff the hagwon owners should already know as they are the ones who really have to deal with immigration.

As he was talking, staff workers walked around and handed out forms. We had to fill them out with the name of our school and our names. After he finished the immigration talk, we got to leave. They stamped the forms, kept one end and we had to turn in the other to our bosses. Apparently last years was much longer, so I got out lucky. For some reason, I didn't feel that lucky. Oh well, it could have been worse :)

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