This is a short post I’ve forgotten to put up many times over, so now I’m finally doing it.
For a long time, one of my most commonly-used sarcastic remarks has been to wish someone Merry Christmas. To those who claim that Koreans don’t get sarcasm, I tender my disagreement. When used sarcastically, most students understand exactly what I am saying. It doesn’t matter what level they are, or what their sense of humor is like. In a low-level class, one’s first use of “Merry Christmas,” in a sarcastic sense never fails to get a round of laughter. I’m sure it helps that people know the phrase even when they can’t speak English beyond “Hello” and “Goodbye”, of course. Maybe it’s sarcasm that’s over peoples’ heads that they don’t “get” easily. I don’t get a lot of sarcasm in other languages, either.
Anyway, at my old University, I started using the phrase quite early on. The vast majority of the students were very-low to low-intermediate level, and I found comedy was the quickest way to set them at ease and connect with them without switching into Korean. But this had a funny effect. A co-worker once told me he walked past some students in the hallway, who were all teasing one guy, and that one of the phrases used to tease him was a sarcastically said, “Merry Christmas!” This was amusing to me, of course, because it was an unintended effect of my teaching. I’d said “Merry Christmas” to make a connection, and unfortunately instead of students retaining “I have been working at 7-11”, what stuck was my offhand sarcastic use of a familiar phrase.
I have no fear that this will happen where I am now, as the students I’m dealing with have much better English. But they, too, get a kick out of it when, after telling them something especially nice or especially onerous, I end with, “Yeah, Merry Christmas!”
And by the way, I still use comedy a lot to keep classes lively. But I also add in honesty, which is also very useful, as long as students’ English is high enough to follow what I’m being honest about.