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Dealing with the Language Barrier
« on: June 23, 2011, 07:18:45 am »
Let's face it, most of us don't have a clue what is being said around us on a daily basis. My school even make me attend teacher training seminars designed for all the teachers, which is entirely in Korean.

So how do you deal with the language barrier? Recently I have taking to blanking it out, just focussing on the paycheck at the end of the month. I do recognise the odd word or sentence but there is only so fast I can learn Korean.




  • summerthyme
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    • July 10, 2010, 05:02:32 am
    • Waegwan, Chilgok, Gyeongbuk
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Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2011, 07:23:13 am »
I've been teaching myself Korean, and the music and PE teacher at my school have been helping me a bit in exchange for helping with their English.  I also use an online translating tool to translate EVERYTHING I can get my hands on -- every cool messenger message, everything posted on the school website's calendar, etc.  For the most part, I can figure out if something is going to happen before it actually happens, and I can ask my coteacher about important things like supposed trips or dinners.

Other than that, I just try to float along and smile at everyone.  I'm at the point now where I realize that I don't really need to know everything that's happening around me.
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Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2011, 08:19:19 am »
i find that the more i teach, the better i am at focusing on what someone is saying.  but i'm also getting better at ignoring people too.  before, i never thought that was a skill.  but really, you can just block out all the jabbering.  maybe headphones would help you out.

my korean has progressed this year, and most of the time when i can understand some of what people are saying, it bores me to death.  a lot of it reminds me of 'After you, my dear Alphonse!' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphonse_and_Gaston
basically, i have nothing in common with most of my office mates.  and i'd much rather be outside than sitting under flourescent lights in the middle of the day.  i'm not made to sit in an office.   the point is, maybe its not just the language barrier,  but maybe something else, too.  failblog helps in the lower times, but also just leaving my desk, and the office, and walking around the school is pretty nice, too.  find a way to shake things up, and i'm sure things will get better once you do.


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2011, 08:56:03 am »
Don't worry about it. You have a few choices. You can sit there with a blank look and a smile(like me for the past 4 years. I'm here to help them improve their English, not learn Korean.)

You can choose to learn Korean(recommended, but don't ever let them know you can speak it and understand, you will be treated differently. Reading and writing impresses them though) I've heard that Rosetta Stone is the best software to learn the fastest.  Should you choose to learn it.

A possible way out of the meetings is to constantly ask your co-teacher to translate during the meeting. Eventually, they will get tired of it and tell you that you don't need to go anymore. Not guaranteed, but worth a shot. ;)
If you teach a class that has all special needs kids with only the physical ability to move their hands up and down, then you'll be fired because they all gave you checks instead of circles.


  • bhwung
  • Veteran

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    • April 01, 2011, 08:05:04 am
    • Busan
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2011, 09:09:07 am »
Why not use this opportunity to turn something from a negative thing into a positive thing?  I've been quietly studying Korean on my own, and recently I've started writing to my coworkers and coteachers in Korean.  They are very impressed and seem a lot more friendly towards me.  The language barrier can work FOR you not AGAINST you.  :D


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2011, 09:27:37 am »
i forgot to address the teaching seminars.

my school told me about them and i made a terrible face, like being forced to make my own feces, and a second later they told me that i didn't need to go.

there used to be department meetings that i was required to attend, but they were so boring, they would last for HOURS, i think my utterly bored behavior finally got through, and now i don't go to them anymore.  keep in mind that at first i tried to be polite during these meetings, i tried not to show how bored i was.  but in the third hour, sitting at school when i could be at home doing laundry for the next day, eating food, i completely lost my composure.   i think i even put my head down on the desk.  these meetings were all in korean. at the end they'd have to take even more time to tell me the important bits, which usually didn't seem important at all.

on the plus side, you could see their insistence that you go as including you with themselves.  that's much better than being excluded, in my opinion


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2011, 03:13:32 am »
Learn Korean.

easy question, simple answer.



Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2011, 11:02:43 am »
Study Korean, then practice what you've studied with Koreans.


  • yeti08
  • Super Waygook

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    • July 03, 2011, 12:58:29 pm
    • Anyang
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2011, 11:12:31 am »
Learn Korean.

easy question, simple answer.

For someone that plans on only being here a year or two I wouldn't waste your time.  After you leave Korea when will you EVER use your casual knowledge in a dying language that is used in 1.5 countries?  (North is only half a country in my mind).  Learn the basics to get you through your days, but wasting hours on studying something that doesn't interest you will only be a waste. 
On an opposite note if you plan on sticking around some, it wouldn't hurt to study a bit. 


  • lasoro70
  • Veteran

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    • November 24, 2010, 12:14:01 pm
    • Western USA
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2011, 12:34:03 pm »
Learn Korean.

easy question, simple answer.

For someone that plans on only being here a year or two I wouldn't waste your time.  After you leave Korea when will you EVER use your casual knowledge in a dying language that is used in 1.5 countries?  (North is only half a country in my mind).  Learn the basics to get you through your days, but wasting hours on studying something that doesn't interest you will only be a waste. 
On an opposite note if you plan on sticking around some, it wouldn't hurt to study a bit.

A dying language? Just because a language is used in only "1.5" countries means that it is dying? Since Finnish is only spoken in one country (maybe a little bit in Sweden), does that make it a dying language? Be sure to pass this on to all the hundreds of thousands of people speaking Korean in the US, Canada, Europe etc.

Yes of course, who in the world would study something that doesn't interest them? It's all up to the individual and what your priorities are. If you come to Korea and just want to make money for a year and get out, why bother learning Korean?

However, I have met a good amount of teachers that are really interested in learning Korean (even though they'll probably never use it again when they go home.)  It all comes down to individual personality and priorities really. I think any bit of knowledge about the language in the country you are living in (even if only for a year) can help you on a daily basis. Personally, it wouldn't matter what country I moved to, I would be interested in learning the language even if on a rudimentary level. But if you don't care to learn, so be it. The Native Teacher I replaced this past year told me he regretted not taking the time to take learn Korean. He seemed to think it was a missed opportunity to learn something new (even if he would never use it again.) Interestingly enough, his Facebook profile states that he "knows" Korean.

I've been taking Korean lessons for the past year (free lessons once a week) and I have been able to use what I have learned with mostly positive results. No, it doesn't help me out during staff meetings but I am definitely become familiar with many of the phrases and words used on a regular basis. So, even a little bit of language knowledge can make things seem less isolating.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2011, 12:45:09 pm by lasoro70 »


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2011, 12:37:24 am »
Even if you plan on being here for just one year, you should try to study Korean.  It will make that one year more pleasant, not just because you'll be able to say stuff, but because people will see you're taking an interest in their language and their culture and respond more positively to you.  It also gives you a bit more insight into Koreans, especially what Koreans go through when they try to learn English even if you have learned other languages before and where they'll have problems.  Studying and learning Korean helps that "I'm here to teach English" thing in this way, so if you're here for that, study Korean.

There's really no downside to studying Korean.  You can do it for free, so you're not wasting money.  Tons of free material online.  You can do it in your spare time, so you're not wasting your time.  Those "deskwarming" hours make good Korean study time, but you can study on the bus/walk to work every day easily.

And, who knows, you might stay another year.  And another.  And another.  And another.  And another.  It happens.  The sooner you start studying Korean, the better off you'll be.


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2011, 12:30:40 pm »
Where do you start btw? I know how to read signs and banners but the words mean nothing to me. Are there lessons available at school?


  • Davey
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    • February 01, 2010, 01:36:20 pm
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2011, 02:16:39 pm »
Where do you start btw? I know how to read signs and banners but the words mean nothing to me. Are there lessons available at school?

While you're out, you can use your phone's dictionary to find out what the words mean. Of course, you'll have to learn how to type Korean on your phone, but it really isn't that difficult to figure out.

Do a search on this site and you'll find a thread that recommends which books to study from. The first book you should learn from, in my opinion, is "Korean Made Easy for Beginners."



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  • katsy3g4
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    • August 20, 2011, 05:14:36 pm
    • Seoul, South Korea
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2011, 05:29:07 pm »
If you've lived in a foreign country before, the discomfort of not knowing what is being said on a daily basis is reduced a bit. For me, it just makes me more motivated to learn Korean and try speaking with those around me. Be it ordering from a restaurant in Korean or asking for directions, I find it's great motivation.


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #14 on: August 21, 2011, 10:32:29 pm »
I think studying Hangul makes a huge difference, you can actually find restaurants that you are looking for :D


  • lorabora
  • Waygookin

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    • May 05, 2011, 09:44:05 pm
    • south korea
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2011, 02:12:37 pm »
You probably understand a portion of  how your student feels when you're teaching english in your class.
If you're in another country, try to learn the language. They will respect you more if you do and will be very impressed.

Take korean class or have videochat tutoring sessions with someone who can teach you korean in exchange for english.


Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2011, 10:03:32 am »
I need to quickly learn some restaurant vocab as getting up and pointing to things on the wall seems just a little rude.


  • wilger
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    • August 31, 2011, 09:49:56 pm
    • gwangju
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2011, 10:13:14 pm »
Some one passed on this number to me 02-1330.  I used it when my landlord came over and I didn't understand him.  I called the number and thy translated for me.  Turns out he wanted to fix the screen on my bathroom and laundry room!


  • Jozigirl
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    • May 03, 2011, 07:37:47 am
Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2011, 10:52:16 pm »
I need to quickly learn some restaurant vocab as getting up and pointing to things on the wall seems just a little rude.

Learn to read Hangeul so that you can say what you want.  Pointing from your seat might be a bit rude but if you go over to the board to point, it's not really a problem and some servers find it less frustrating too. 


  • Canonite
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Re: Dealing with the Language Barrier
« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2011, 07:22:02 am »
I couldn't care less...this is going to sound horrible, but I have absolutely no desire to learn Korean. I'm here for another 6, possibly 18 months and then I'll never use it, outside of the peninsula, it's a thoroughly useless language.

I think it's incredibly rude when my so-called "coteachers" (there's no co-teaching going on here...they don't even show up to my classes) talk ABOUT ME in Korean right next to me, or when just the English teachers go out for lunch and 99% of the conversation is in Korean, but hey...as long as the cheques clear, they can do whatever the hell they want and I'll do my own thing.
*click*