What I Would Have Said

This week’s Friday Five question is mine:

Okay, without giving any context at all, what are five things you’ve really wanted to say to people in the last month, but haven’t said. Don’t give context, just give the thing you want to say.

Right, quotations out of context. A quick note of warning, for those of you who read this blog and also know me offline: don’t assume the quotation is in reference to you. It probably isn’t, since most of these quotes are directed at people who don’t read this page.

Another thing to bear in mind: most of these seem like negative comments, but hey, is that surprising? We usually don’t hold back on the positive things we think, because they’re not the kind of thing one gets in trouble for saying openly to others. Whereas, the negative things we tend not to say in order to keep out of trouble. So yeah, I should put a warning here that I’m generally pretty happy with my life, I don’t hate Korea, and I don’t hate teaching in general, but there are a few points of tension in both areas, and you can see them clearly here.

  • What I wanted to say: Get the fuck out of my office. If you really have no idea why you failed last semester, then you’re a moron. I emailed you the reason why, I explained to you last semester. YOU NEVER PRACTICED OR PARTICIPATED IN CLASS. DURING EXAMS YOU SAID A GRAND TOTAL OF FIVE WORDS IN ENGLISH. YOU GAVE ME ATTITUDE CONTINUALLY, AND NEVER DID ONE SCRAP OF HOMEWORK. YOU SUCK. AND YOU EVEN LIED IN AN EMAIL, HOPING I WOULDN’T CHECK WHO YOU WERE, TRYING TO GET ME TO CHANGE YOUR GRADE! WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM ME? Next time you want to pass a class, dip-shit, try studying and doing your homework; and now, showing up regularly doesn’t get you a passing grade. Showing up regularly gets you 10% of your grade. Now get out of here, and don’t show your face again unless you’re looking for your new English teacher.What I actually said: Sort of the same thing, but a fair bit less harshly… though I did kind of tell him off, in a polite way. It was all in Korean, but too long to recount here. Politer, but still stern. I can’t brook a liar, nor someone who tries to trick me into changing his grade.
  • What I wanted to say: Listen, I know I’m supposed to respect you and all, you being an older male and this being Korea, and I was trying to give you a fair and even chance, honestly, I was… but what you just said is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever fucking heard. Why do you take it upon yourself to judge me, to put me into a slot as “typical Westerner”, when you know absolutely nothing about me? Is it my haircut? My clothing? My glasses? What is it about me that told you so much that you are magically able to judge me by my cover? As far as I’m concerned, talking to you is a waste of time, because you’re an idiot. And by the way, you’re teaching my friend Korean in the most complicated, convoluted method possible. If this is how you teach English, I feel sorry for your students. Why not try teaching him something he can use, and in a way that he can actually remember, like, say, a medium-polite form instead of the form one uses with his grandfather? Korean isn’t actually that hard a language, until idiots like you start teaching it; then it becomes incomprehensible and unlearnable. Do my friend a favour: STOP trying to teach him. You’ll do more damage than good. And quit judging people by their damned appearances, Mr. Wise And Learned Ajeoshi Who Works In A Hakwon.What I actually said: Really? And why do you think so?
  • What I wanted to say: Wait a minute, I want you to think about your question. Because you know, usually when people in Korea hear that I have a girlfriend, they ask the same first question as you did: “Is she Korean?” Now, let me tell you the most important things to me about my girlfriend. She’s strong. She’s very intelligent. She’s pretty independent. She has a great sense of humor, and a fairly sharp critical mind. She’s traveled enough to know how very backwards your question seems to someone like me, and she’s also intelligent enough to understand the larger social ramifications of that problematic attitude as applied to the future of this country, given your likely dependence on immigrant workers in the future. Because, you know, they’re going to be coming. Koreans aren’t reproducing enough and nobody wants the crappy jobs, which is why unemployment is already so high here; and you’d better not expect those immigrants to be celibate or single their whole stay, or not to mix with Koreans. You’d better just get over the whole one-blood myth and racial purity fetish, as she has done.Back to my girlfriend… let’s see, she reads philosophy and some fiction in her spare time, she is a fiercely intelligent person, and yet she is also humble and patient with people who aren’t. She understands, as you obviously don’t, why I think your question is ridiculous, and why I think the answer is unimportant in the larger scheme of things. But while she would be more sympathetic to your backwards provincialism, more patient with the strange looks she gets on the streets when with me, more forgiving of your hang-ups, I am not. Yes, yes, I know you’re not being outright racist, just ignorant. I know it’s mainly a lack of exposure in real life, as well as some propaganda in the school system and from your upbringing. But I got over the propaganda and ideology I encountered in childhood, so I am quite sure you can too. Come and join us in the 21st century, where race and nationalism is not the main defining factor of human life. Where race is not the first question you ask about another human being.

    And yes, she happens to be Korean. So what?

    What I actually said: I think she’s from the moon, actually. Heh heh. Yes, an E.T. I think. Ahem. Any other questions? About the test?

  • What I wanted to say: Listen, if you guys don’t start studying for exams, doing your homework, and paying attention in class, most of you are going to fail. You’re not in high school anymore, you’re certainly not in elementary school, and to be honest you’re my worst class. I personally don’t care whether you do well or badly, but I have set my bar for this class at a certain level, and I think it’s a reasonable level for the class. I warned you at the beginning of semester that it’s a difficult class, but you didn’t listen. So you need to work hard. If you don’t show some serious effort and some improvement, I have no reservations about failing all but a few of you. Got it?What I actually said: 공부를 해야해. 숙재도 해야되. 비디오도 봐. 안 보고 숙재를 안하고 새로운 단어 공부를 안하면… F 받다.

    (And then I wrote a big red F on the board for effect, in case they were wondering what I meant. I think the majority of them understood, but for some reason a third of them giggled in amusement anyway. Let’s see how amused they are when the F is on their report card.)

  • What I wanted to say: Learn some fucking hangeul, would you? Or do you think this is America? Korean’s hard, but it’s a lot harder if you don’t fucking try.What I actually said: Yeah, Korean’s hard. But it’s not that hard.

I have two runners up, as well. But I’ll put them in the extended entry:

  • What I wanted to say: Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s the Japanese name of that food. Dokdo woori Dang. Whatever. Can’t you find anything to talk about besides Japan? Because it’s getting on my nerves. And if you hate Japan so much, stop wearing your hair Japanese style, reading Japanese comics, buying anything from any company with Japanese stockholders—oh, wait, that includes a lot of Korean companies, dosn’t it?—to say nothing of Japanese products, including any CD put out by Sony, oh, and forget about eating anything with hot peppers in it since the Japs brought those over here, too. Now, please shut the hell up.What I actually said: Well, I know that the word “Dori” means chicken or bird in Japanese, but we all know that “닭도리탕” (Tak-dori-Tang) is the name that everyone uses for that dish in Korea. If I say “닭매운탕” (Talk-Maeyoon Tang), people will think I am crazy. Right? Nobody calls it that, right? Or, okay, some people do, but most people aren’t so infantile that they need to politicize every tiny trace of Japanese presence in Korea in an effort not to get over the past, right? I mean, plenty of people call it “닭도리탕” (Tak-dori-Tang), right? So don’t lecture me and correct me on something I fucking know is common usage and far from incorrect. You class-disrupting wanker!
  • What I wanted to say: Listen, kiddo, stop worrying about the language and start worrying about the men. They’re going to be all over you, and if you’re as naive and romanticist as you seem, you stand a good chance of being pregnant by the time your trip to Europe is over and you find yourself back in Jeonju.What I actually said: Uh, no, I don’t think you need to know French in France. Just use English. And always go around with another student so that you can work together to make yourselves understood. Okay? Buddy system. Trust me. It’s the best way.

4 thoughts on “What I Would Have Said

  1. Well, you’re much better at it than I am, but…

    I’m qualifying it with “that” hard because of the following:

    #1) My expectations of foreigners living here are relatively low. Get a little facility with survival Korean. Figure out how to answer taxi-driver questions. Learn how to count. Learn how to count past ten. Learn how to be polite (enough). Preferentially cultivate sustained sexual contact with people only if you plan on also initiating verbal communication at some point. Things like that.

    And #2) I don’t think learning Korean is as difficult as mastering some other things, like reading and using formal logic tables or higher mathematics; it’s not as hard as pulling off a flawless triple bypass surgery; it’s nowhere near as hard as figuring out a game plan for the colonization of the galaxy (or just out little neighborhood within it, the solar system). And all of these things, people do. People do these things. Plenty of Koreans force themselves to become fluent in English. So it’s not that hard. It’s also not that easy, unfortunately.

  2. On #1)You’re absolutely correct. But some of us needed a kick in the pants to get started. I remain grateful to the friend who gave me the one I needed.

    On #2)You’re correct here, too, but learning Korean is the only one of those things I’m doing. However, the next time I’m tempted to whine, I might remind myself that “Hey, this isn’t nearly as hard as performing a flawless triple bypass.” And it certainly isn’t as hard as reunification.

  3. Ah, but like with reunification, I do know that language study goes nowhere unless there is a real will to move forward, instead of lip service and a secret desire to keep the status quo, no matter how uncomfortable it might become at any moment.

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