Em in Asia!

My Experiences Living and Teaching in South Korea



Articles are hard. Think about it. Why do we say “I ate a cookie,” but we say “I ate pizza?” Or “Who’s that? Oh, she’s the Queen of England,” “Who’s that? Oh, he’s a teacher.” Don’t even get me started on “Let’s go to Seoul” vs. “Let’s go to the store” vs. “I want to go shopping, let’s go to a department store” vs “I’ve always wanted to visit the Washington Monument.” They’re all places, for Pete’s sake.

The point is, articles are easy for (most) of you reading the blog because (most of) you are native speakers of English. It’s intuitive for us, but for many people learning English it’s one of the most frustrating parts of writing – because many languages, Korean for one, don’t have articles. There are “rules” about when to use the definite, indefinite, and zero article, but they’re not hard and fast, and there are are so many exceptions that you have to wonder why we bother.

As I mentioned before, I spend two weeks teaching students articles. It’s… definitely not their favorite. Every time I put 관사 (article) up on the board, the class collectively groans, and there’s always at least one student who melodramatically drops her head into her hands and fake sobs.

It’s the week before midterms, so we’re doing a review game in class. Students are broken into groups of 4 or 5 and have to answer questions and “bet” points. If they are right they receive the number of points they bet, and if they are wrong they lose that amount. It’s been going over pretty well. One of the questions was “please fill in the missing articles in the following passage: I saw __ bird. __ bird was in __ tree. I sat on __ ground under __ tree.” In order to get the points, they had to get every article right.

Every. Single. Group in 2.5 answered this question correctly. That’s 27 kids, broken into 6 groups. When I asked them why they chose those articles, one kid promptly rattled off “Bird – unknown. Bird – known. Tree – unknown. Ground – Unique. Tree – Known.”

So proud of my kids right now.

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안녕하세요! My name is Emily and when I started this blog I had received a 2010 – 2011 F*lbright grant to teach English in South Korea.  I then decided to apply to renew my grant, so I am now staying in Korea until July 2012. This blog is not an official F*lbright Program blog, and the views expressed are my own and not those of the F*lbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

I graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Philosophy Pre-Law and Classical Civilizations, and found myself 3 months later teaching English at SGHS. The town that I taught in, SG, is a small town of 12,000 people, an “읍” (eup) rather than a “시” (shi – city), and though it was sometimes hard teaching in such a small town I really enjoyed the unique experience of being the first foreign teacher SGHS had ever had. I lived in the largest part of the county which is significantly bigger (40,000 people) than the town the school is situated in, but is also considered rural by Korean standards.

During my second grant period (2011-2012) I decided to change schools and I currently teach at CPHS which is located in an even smaller town than previously, in Jeollanamdo.

This blog is meant to serve as a reflection not only of being a Native English Speaking teacher in Korea, but also of living as a foreigner in rural Korea.