Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'm a little rusty.

My wife and I got back from South Korea nearly 5 weeks ago. We've been using Korean every day, but it's usually just bits and phrases we'd normally use (such as 진차 or 종말 [which both mean "really"]). We aren't speaking it, nor are we surrounded by it all the time like we were in Korea.

Thankfully, however, Koreans have cornered the market on dry cleaners in America, which means that, at a bare minimum (assuming I end up working in a professional environment) I'll get to speak Korean to a Korean at least once a month. Well, I got just such a chance on Tuesday. My Korean's started to get a little rusty, though, so I didn't exactly rise to the occasion.

I talked with the lady at the front a little bit about our time in Korea, and she got very excited. She was surprised that we didn't live in Seoul. (That is surprising, actually. Most foreigners want to live or work in Seoul and over half the country's population lives in the Seoul metro area. 20% of Koreans live within the city limits.) I was also surprised that she wasn't from Seoul. She and her husband are from Gwangju, a city in the southwest of the country -- on the complete opposite side from Sokcho, where Aubrey and I lived. We chatted for a little bit, and then I said goodbye in Korean. I used the really formal form of the word, too, to impress the 아주마 (ah-ju-ma, which means something like "lady"). I was pleased with myself.

Until, that is, I left the dry cleaners. Five or six steps out I realized that I'd said 안녕하심이까 (annyeonghashimika), which is a very formal way of saying "hello." If I'd wanted to say "goodbye" I should have said 안녕기계십시요 (annyeong-gi-gyae-shipshiyo). I'm a language dork, so this mistake irked me me. It also bothered me to look like a bit of an idiot by saying "Hello" and then walking out the door. (It reminded me of things my students in Korea used to do.) Oh well. I guess I'm a little rusty.

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