Thursday, March 5, 2009


Since I am an English teacher, I spend a lot of my time teaching new words. So today I thought I would teach a word to my blog readers: Logorrhea. Literally, it combines the root for word(logos) and excessive flow (as in diarrhea). It is a word used to describe uncontrolled talkativeness and a certain symptom of schizophrenia. Lately, I seem to have come down with a bad case of logorrhea.

I don't spend much time with other foreigners. At school, I am the only native English teacher. There is another part-time English teacher, a Korean woman who speaks excellent English, so we have become friends. But most of the time I speak part English and part Korean with the other teachers. This has really helped me learn Korean. I won't say I have improved dramatically, but I am to the point now where I can carry on a semi-coherent conversation using mostly Korean. That is, as long as it is about simple subjects ('what did you do yesterday?'). These conversations, I have to admit, are mostly in broken English, but the teachers humor me by letting me speak Korean and correcting some mistakes. I am so glad I took the time to start learning Korean before I came. I recommend learning the alphabet (한글) and some basic expressions to anyone thinking about coming (ahhem, tom...).

Outside school, a curious thing happens when I meet other foreigners. I want to chat. Actually, I know it is not just me. Whenever two foreigners are in the same area, it is as if no other people were around. You can ignore the Koreans, but if you pass another foreigner at the supermarket, it borders on rudeness not to say hi. This makes it incredibly easy to meet people. Almost all foreigners here are young English teachers, so you automatically have something in common. Usually a quick chat will lead to the exchange of phone numbers and an invite to a bar crawl or something. People almost go out of their way to be friendly, and that is a good thing. I imagine the feeling is similar to that of members of an oppressed minority or an ethic community. Solidarity, north American diaspora! Solidarity, 외국인!!!

But back to logorrhea. When I finally have a conversation with foreigners, after days of verbal semi-isolation, I find myself just talking, and talking, and talking. After so much frustrated communication, the easy flow of words is a relief. But I suspect that the way I talk is changing. I heard a story recently from a fellow foreigner who met an old friend. The friend had been in Korea for about a year and had decided to make the most of his experience by immersing himself in Korean culture. He was learning Korean and all his friends and his girlfriend were Korean. Sure, English teachers like me make our living speaking English. But this is 'graded English'. The kind of English you use to talk to people who do not speak English. It is not easy at first, but you get used to using simple sentences and simple words. Grammar is secondary. An indefinite article here and there is sacrificed for the sake of communication. Apparently, it was shocking to see how this friend's way of speaking English had changed.

I don't worry much about that. Thankfully, I know plenty of foreigners to speak English with. And even if my English suffers a little, it is worth the new skill I am developing-- the ability to speak clearly and concisely. That is a skill I can use!

1 comment:

  1. We should skype sometime soon. I miss you, Graham! You can practice your English with Cary and me. On the flip side of losing your English, coming home fluent in Korean is going to be such a perk.
    By the way, I thought of you yesterday when walking out of my office and realizing that a Korean take-out place is right across the street.