I’m way behind on writing up the seven of nine days of winter camp I’ve taught so far . . . I have pictures of the guys doing stuff, and stories galore . . . but for now a small story will have to do.

Oh, before I get to the story there’s one other interesting thing that happened today at camp.  The students I’m working with are NEW freshman–technically they’re still middle school students right now–and the Korean education cultural organization of the winter break period threw me a curve ball today.  Let me explain.

The winter break is not a consecutive block of time off from school.  Korean students go on winter break and then after about 5-6 weeks they come back to school for 2-5 five days, and then they go on ‘spring break’ . . . yes, that’s how it works.  Don’t ask me why they don’t just finish up EVERYTHING school related before they break at the end of December so that they can have an uninterrupted vacation–err, cough! cough! I mean winter classes time–they just don’t do it that way.  The students and teachers all come back to the school for a few days to do whatever it is they do, and of course have a graduation ceremony. (In fact, one might say that there is no such thing as a ‘vacation’ in Korea for students.   The teachers give the students winter and summer homework assignments–yes, I just said they give them HOMEWORK during the ‘breaks!’)

What does all this have to do with my winter camp?  Well, today I had SIX students in my class, SIX!  Originally 25 had supposedly signed up but I have only been getting 16 or 17 every day.  I altered my lesson plans accordingly and things had been going well up till now.  The thing is I had been told (yes, shocking, I was told this would happen a week ago by my co-teacher–yes, she is that AWESOME!) that some students might not be in my classes this week because of graduation ceremonies but for some reason it didn’t register in my head that this would actually happen . . . but it did.

Anyways, losing 10 students is not actually that big a deal.  It’s especially not a big deal cause the remaining six are actually the ones with the best attitudes and who have been trying the hardest.  Yes, I pretty much won a kind of teacher lottery! Woohoo!

Alright . . . . let me tell you my story about winter English camp Konglish . . .

Today the guys brainstormed topics for the demonstration speech they’re going to have to perform on video tomorrow.  Before setting them loose to choose their own topics we did a group brainstorming of possible topics to help them get a sense of what I wanted them to think of.

Not only is the demonstration speech a great exercise for the guys to practice their English speaking skills in general, but it also focuses on gestures, body posture, intonation and stress.  In addition to all these things I really love that it gets them THINKING about the English language content and delivery on their own (for the most part).  Unlike the robotic language learning styles of listen and repeat, and memorize a script until you can mindlessly recite it whenever the right triggers are given (A: How are you? B: I’m fine and you.–BARF!) the demonstration speech requires a degree of language learner autonomy if it is done well (I’ve given them a rubric which I’ll be using to evaluate them with, and which they’ll get back when they’re done).

Anyways, today while working on writing out the language they’d be using for their particular demonstration speech two different conversations came up.

The first was when I spot checked one guy’s “How to take a shower” speech script.  He had written “shampoo and rinse” but not in the normal usage native speakers of English think.  He meant to say “shampoo and condition” or “shampoo and then put conditioner in your hair.”  We chatted about the two different ways of using “rinse” and that unfortunately the Konglish way had to be fixed otherwise no native speaker of English would have a clue what he meant if he used the word that way outside of Korea (or inside, for that matter). It’s amazing how Koreans, who are generally very concerned about the RULES of using English, can take a verb and make it a noun . . . and BREAK A GRAMMAR RULE!  Shocking . . . okay, I’m being VERY sarcastic right now, lol.

Update: Argh . . . and this is why teaching English in Korea is NOT an easy job.


5. an act or instance of rinsing.
6. the water used for rinsing.
7. any preparation that may be used on the hair after washing, esp. to tint or condition the hair.
8. an act or instance of using such a preparation on the hair.

OHHHHHHHHHHHH! Julianne and I were just talking about my blog and “rinse.”  She told me that in England they say “shampoo and rinse” in the sense of “shampoo and conditioner”–argh.  I guess I’ll be doing some backpedaling tomorrow in class and explaining that I didn’t know about that.  I will say, though, that most if not all Korean English students want to know American English so the error on my part is negligible.

Update: Okay . . . ‘negligible’ error has now been upgraded to eating a part of my foot tomorrow when I explain my error to the students, and then talk about cultural differences in usages of English.  Oh well, nobody’s perfect (though I can try, dammit!)

Alright, now back to the second part of this story . . .

The second conversation about Konglish involved another student’s demo speech script, “How to wash your face.”  This chat revolved around the different types of vocabulary for towels and how these words are used in everyday life.  This student had been using “wash towel” in place of “wash cloth” in his script.  At this point my co-teacher joined the conversation because it was about a very particular usage of English words, lol, and most if not all co-teachers love engaging in nit-picky discussions about the rules of usage for English.  I should elaborate further and say that my co-teacher for this camp is fantastic, and that he was not being an English-Nazi (also known as a Grammar-Nazi) when it came to his contributions to the discussion, and for this I was extremely grateful because it can be really draining on me as a teacher to have to be polite, patient, and tactful with a co-teacher who is possessed by either of the two demons I just mentioned . . .

Getting back to ‘wash towel,’ I explained to the student that in North America we say ‘wash cloth’ when the action is ‘washing your face with a small piece of towel-like material that you wet and rub with soap.’  Suddenly the rest of the class was all quiet and interested in the discussion, and other guys began asking questions and also talking about this in really fast Korean, lol.

I then went on to say that if the word for a piece of cotton material is used in a drying situation it is a ‘towel,’ but that if the piece of cotton material is being used for washing with soap and water it is a ‘cloth.’  Apparently some Koreans, nobody in the class really put a number on how many, use hand towels for washing–wow, lol.  The general consensus of the class, however, was that most Koreans probably use a wash cloth in the same manner as English speaking people do.

And that’s my story.

Yesterday I attended my high school’s graduation ceremony and took a lot of pictures.  I’ll try and do a blog about that soon.

I’ll leave you with a teaser–can you figure out why this student is wearing a black jacket with a skull on the back while accepting an award for academic excellence? Lol . . . I’ll bet you’re surprised by the reason.