Names and Other Words

Happy Lunar New Year! Calling it “Chinese New Year” would probably result in the reneging of my visa. If there is one thing Koreans hate, it is a suggestion that their culture is not their own. You could say the same for all cultures I’m sure, however, for historic reasons, Koreans seem to have a particularly impassioned response to the insult.

I spent my New Year’s holiday in Seoul, and I can’t wait to tell you about it! However, whilst I’m letting myself process that adventure, I thought I’d pass on some cute teaching stories. It’s been a hard couple of weeks dealing with bureaucracy, yet everyday, all is forgotten, as soon as I step into the classroom. So much so, that I’m starting to wonder whether I might want to become a primary school teacher in Australia – we’ll see how I feel in 9 months time.

On Names: 

I never thought they could bring so much joy. My wild imagination had always hoped there was a secret naming dictionary that those born without an “English name” used to determine something phonetically similar; like how Heather becomes ヘザー (Hezaa) in Japanese and 해더 (Haedeo) in Korean – or sometimes 해인 (Haein) or 해진 (Haejin), depending on the student.

Alas! This wonder does not exist.

Hazaah! The responsibility falls to me – the crazy foreigner.

Not wanting to cause too much grief to my students in their older years, I usually choose the bland names of my friends – there are now Cams, Claires, Charleses, Brians, Andys, Amys, Aimees, Jasons, Tims, Chrises, Bens, Elanors, Alexes (both male and female), Lynnes, Lexes and Rexes (or is that the same student?) all running around the same school. I really hope some of them are housemates one day. They will never know how odd it is, yet I am left smiling thinking of an apartment full of a conglomeration of names from my past.

I’ve been fortunate enough to not always have to rewrite my students’ birth certificates. When students take the initiative to name themselves, well… it is constant source of entertainment. There’s:

Jelly – who isn’t sure where  her name originated.

Cena – after the wrestler, because he too is unusually large.

Hook and Peter – who are best friends and claim to have never seen Peter Pan.

Peter has since changed his name to Hawk.

Oh and Lucy. Who isn’t happy with Lucy and changes her name every week. For admin purposes I’ve stuck with Lucy, however I think her last suggestion was Prairie. As in, “Little House on the Prairie”.

There is a running joke going around the academy about my own name. Heather – they’ve got that one down. Mary – marry? merry? eh… same thing. Aitken, is a little harder, even in the western world. At home I can get Atkin, Atkins, Aytoken. In Korea, I am known as …

Heather Ate Chicken.

Needless to say, I’m terrified of them finding the evidence:

We Ate Chicken (Whitken?)

On Grammar:

I’ve had the “good fortune” to correct my students workbooks of late, which has lead to some private chuckles and subsequently odd stares from my students. My favourite came about when reading about a dog’s visit to the vet and subsequent need for pharmaceutical attention. The question “What did the dog get?” … The answer should have been something along the lines of “The dog got a shot” or “The dog got an injection” or “The dog got some medicine”. To my  joy, my students used their lack of grammatical knowledge to become murderous psychopaths:

“The dog got shot”

“The vet shot the dog”

“The vet was shot”

“The vet was shot of the dog”

“Doctor gets shot”

“The vet [is] shooting the dog”

“The dog is shot getting [an] injection”

On Vocabulary:

I discovered a new gem today. Better than “hand phone”, “cider” (which is actually just lemonade) or “glamorous” (a voluptuous woman). This, my friends, is Konglish gone wild!  In a fantastic game of inter-cultural Chinese whispers (or whatever the politically correct term is) my students have come to believe that the word for a “toilet” is a “bathroom”. Not the room in which one uses the facilities, just the facility itself. My students were quite shocked when I dismantled this falsity and some refused to changed their sentences, later gasping in disbelief once they had looked it up themselves.

A part of me worries I’m being racist… that I’m rude laughing at Konglish. However, my student’s  get their own back quite often, and have managed to get me to pronounce Korean words incorrectly for days on end, just for their own amusement. So really, when it comes down to it, language is hilarious, and my concerns are quite unnecessary.

I will leave you today with this wonderful question, that I am yet to answer:

“Teacher, what is poetry? Why is there poetry?”

Oh students, how simple you try to be, and yet, how deep you are.

6 thoughts on “Names and Other Words

  1. Lyndy

    Well I guess most teachers at some point crack up to answers to really really innocent questions, and Sherryl will definitely back me when I say English was not the second language of the student. Rock on words! Go linguistics! Long may it cause confusion and laughter. Gorgeous pic.

  2. OK, here’s my feeble attempt.
    A poem is a word picture that you make for yourself. The writer gives you their words and you make the picture or the emotion (this is what I tell little kids).
    William Carlos Williams has some short simple poems you could use:
    Or this one (makes a good writing exercise too – to get them to write notes as poems):

    Or a simple image:

    This is a longer one –
    Probably too long for your students, but he is actually writing about a Breughal painting so if you found the painting you could pick bits out of the poem and talk about what words he uses and why.

    There is lots of literary analysis about these but you don’t need to worry about that – give them the poems, read them through a few times and then just talk about them and the words he used and the images!

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