Here at Captain and Clark we often talk about the silly things the our Korean students used to say. You can click here and here for a sample of those little gems. Today’s post is going to be a little different. Instead of focusing solely on what our student’s used to say, today we’re going to reveal some of our crazy Korean mix-ups as well. Hope you enjoy!
Your school colors are WHAT?
One of my most memorable moments occurred a few months after we arrived in South Korea. I had a one-on-one lesson with Becky, age 13. She had her handheld electronic dictionary that she’d use in case she had trouble translating a Korean word into English. On this particular day we were discussing her school and what she thought of having to wear a school uniform. She told me that she didn’t mind them, but that she hated their colors. I was intrigued and asked her what colors her uniform was. She started rapidly typing in her dictionary and after a few seconds she said, “Our uniform colors are gray and… gray and sodomy“.
Um, what?! I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped and I couldn’t help but let out a little laugh. I asked her to check her dictionary again. Just like the first time, she said “sodomy”. I ended up grabbing her dictionary and taking a look for myself. Well, she was right. She had typed in 남색. There were a few words that followed, but the first translation was, in fact, sodomy. Turns out, 남색 means both sodomy and indigo. Not something you’d ever want to mix up!
Not something I’d put on my tortilla chips!
Now, while our students might have flubbed a few English words here and there, they weren’t the only ones who were guilty of translation mix ups. We made more than a few ourselves. One of my personal favorites? Mexican food! I was teaching my middle school class about the wonders of Mexican food. Me? I’m a huge fan. Give me some chicken chimichanga, quesadillas, or a plate piled high of nachos any day. I was singing the praises of Mexican food to my class when I mentioned the simple deliciousness of chips and salsa.
The room exploded with gasps and laughter. I just assumed they were laughing at my insane love of Mexican food. “Yes” I shouted enthusiastically, “Chips are so good when you put A LOT of salsa on them. The salsa just tastes so good”. By this point my students were keeled over in laughter. Sam, one of the best students, finally calmed down enough to explain. 설사, pronounced sulsa is the Korean word for diarrhea.
I just spent ten minutes of class crooning about how much I love to eat chips and diarrhea.
I wanted coffee, not a punch in the face.
We made this mistake frequently during our first two months in Korea. Being from Seattle, we obviously need our daily coffee fix. Luckily, Korea runneth over with the caffeinated delight. We had found a few local coffee shops that we loved and had our new Korean friends teach us how to properly order coffee. For the first three months we’d go up to the barista, all proud of ourselves, and say, “Kopi juseyo” (코피 주세요). The baristas would always look at us a little funny, but we just figured it was because we had ridiculous Korean accents.
A few months later we were telling our Korean friends all of the Korean words and expressions that we knew. We told them that we were getting along fine and could even order our own coffee. “KOPI JUSEYO” we exclaimed. Our friends erupted in uncontrollable laughter. Apparently we were supposed to say “kuhpi” (커피), not “kopi” (코피). The whole time we had been asking for bloody noses, not coffee.