498th post – Last day as English language teacher

Today is my last day as an English language teacher, after more than eleven and a half years at a language college, provincial government high school and university in South Korea and language colleges in Australia. I am making this move for a wide variety of reasons, related to the ESL sector in general (an Australian student visa requires attendance at classes for 20 hours per week, so most teachers are engaged for 20 hours per week, and there is very little opportunity to advance to a full-time position), the college and colleagues (some classes at some colleges are run as courses – the students start at the same time, do the course, and finish at the same time, but our English classes have been ‘start and finish when you need to’, and I’ve had to share a small office with up to four other people of various degrees of loudness in various languages, as student of various degrees of loudness in various languages come and go), the students (who have different levels of English, life experience and personal and study backgrounds, some of whom attend way less than 20 hours per week, and come and go, use their phone, chat in their own language or sleep when they are there), and myself (basically, dealing with all of the above, and commuting). 

Through English language teaching, I’ve lived in South Korea for two periods totalling three and a half years, met my wife, travelled to Hong Kong and Japan, met all kinds of other people in South Korea and Australia, gained my masters degree (and may yet go on to doctoral study), attempted to learn Korean (하지만 아직 잘 못 해요), developed a serious hobby of photography and started this blog. On the other hand, I’ve had to largely give up my other serious hobby of classical choral singing. (I can and will return to that, but it remains to be seen whether I will ever again perform at my peak.) So now it’s time for a change. From tomorrow …

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Trains of thought, revisited

I have previously written (here, scroll down to the last paragraph) about a little mental game which I (and apparently some other people) play with the carriage numbers on Sydney’s trains – the point being to make the four digits of the number total 10 using any standard mathematical process.

A few days ago I travelled in carriage number 6472. I quickly figured out (6 x 4) – (7 x 2) and (6 – 4) x (7 – 2), which seemed neatly and satisfyingly symmetrical. Is there a general pattern here? No and yes. In the second case, 4250, 5361, 6472, 7583 and 8694 all equal 10, but in the first case, 4250 equals 8, 5361 equals 9, 6472 equals 10, 7583 equals 11 and 8694 equals 12 (which is another pattern of its own). So these two equations are equivalent only when the first number is 6. I’m sure there’s a way of proving this mathematically, but my skills are too rusty.

Sydney and Nepean

(long but hopefully interesting) The Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers circle the Sydney metropolitan area and surrounding countryside to the south-west, west, north-west and north. I live in a suburb on the banks of the Nepean and last weekend went photo-hiking to four lookouts about 20 minutes’ drive south of here, in the small part of the greater Blue Mountains National Park east of the river. An online friend from Canada commented “Your Nepean is a lot more photogenic than ours” – “ours” being a major suburban centre of Ottawa, Ontario.

The former British colonies, big and small, are strewn with names commemorating places and people from Great Britain and Ireland, alongside names from other colonial powers (most notably Spain, France and the Netherlands) and indigenous names. Canada and Australia both have a Sydney and a Nepean. (And a Toronto – Australia’s Toronto has a population of about 5000; Canada’s Toronto … doesn’t.)

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death by overwork (no, not me)

From How your job is killing you by James Adonis in the Sydney Morning Herald (I try to avoid giving free publicity to companies, but I’ve got to credit my sources):

The Japanese have a word, karōshi, to describe people who work themselves to death. … In China the word used is guolaosi. … South Korea, too, has a term for this pervasive condition: gwarosa.

A little bit of linguistic knowledge shows that those are actually the same word, in the pronunciation systems of those three languages. Japanese and Korean have borrowed a large number of words directly from Chinese, and have also created new words themselves from Chinese characters.

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Korean movie – A melody to remember, revisited

Twice last year I saw the Korean movie 오빠 생각 (o-ppa saeng-gak, Thoughts of my older brother or Thinking of my older brother, titled in English A melody to remember) once in a cinema in Korea (without English subtitles) and once on the aeroplane returning to Australia (with English subtitles), and blogged about it here and here.

I occasionally browse through a language bookshop in the Sydney CBD. Some months ago, sometime after I returned to Australia I saw a book called something like Korean Songs and Stories. One of the songs is Thinking of Older Brother, which provides the title, but not the story, of the movie. (The song dates from the Japanese occupation; the movie is set during the Korean war.) The background to the song is:

During the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945), eleven-year-old Choi Sun Ae’s brother went to Seoul to buy shoes and never returned, inspiring her to write these lyrics. The cheerful music – written by Park Tae Jun – may seem like a strange contrast to the sad words, but during the occupation the Japanese prohibited songs that were negative or depressing in nature. Having a relatively “happy” melody was a way of masking mournful sentiments.

I didn’t want to buy the book for one song (though I might have been able to make use of the other ones), so I surreptitiously took a photo of this song. Unfortunately I can’t credit the editor and publisher. I am posting this now, some months after finding that book, because I’ve just been sorting through old photos.

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lookout v look out, wildlife v wild life

We drove to a small town in the Blue Mountains famous for its autumn leaves. On the way, I saw a sign which might have said:

LOOKOUT

PEDESTRIANS

ABOUT

which makes sense in the Blue Mountains. The second one definitely said:

LOOK OUT

PEDESTRIANS

ABOUT

Just as we were leaving the small town, I saw a sign saying:

WILD LIFE

I guess to those living in a quiet mountain town, everything else seems wild.

Trains of thought

I’m back to spending large amounts of time sitting on Sydney trains. Three trains of thought (haha!) arose recently.

Throughout the carriages are a number of posters advising of good behaviour on trains, usually in rhyming couplets. One which is not a direct rhyme is:

Cover your cough
or sneeze please

This is undoubtedly meant to be ‘Cover your (cough or sneeze) please’, but the line break means that it could be interpreted as ‘(Cover your cough) or (sneeze) please’ – that is, instructing us to sneeze.

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