Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lost in Translation

 Image from Google Images

There are a few things that I say in English that are often misunderstood or misinterpreted in Korean. As one would imagine, this can cause confusion (and sometimes frustration) with people I'm trying to communicate with. Some examples are:

  • When I say "no" (in English) in sounds like "noh" which is "you" in Korean. So if I see a student rocking their chair or doing something that he/she shouldn't be doing and I say "no!" it's sometimes thought that I'm saying "you!"

  • In South Africa, "ja" - pronounced 'yah - is "yes" in Afrikaans. However, in Korean, "yah" is a pretty rude expression to say to someone. It's like an aggressive "hey you!" So I have to be careful not to use this too often.

  • When I say "where?" (indicating that I need a location), some people think I'm asking "why?" because "why?" in Korean is pronounced as "wae" or "where" (without too much 'r'). For example, the other day, a conversation I had with someone went something like this:

Him: What time work finish-y?
Me: 4:40pm
Him: 5pm downstairs office meeting. My car together go.
Me: Where?
Him: Keun-yang (meaning just....)
Me: No, 'oe-di?' (meaning where?)
Him: Your house.

In other words, he was trying to tell me that after I'm done with work, I should meet him downstairs and he'd give me a ride home. When he said we'd go together in his car, he thought I was asking "why" instead of "where".

There are a few more that I can't seem to think of right now, I'll update this post again as it comes back to me.

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