Friday, April 30, 2010

What the ... language barrier?!?!?!?

Encountering a language barrier is a common problem in Korea. Of course, it is one people should expect to meet after all it would be moronic to expect every Korean to be able to understand English. Unfortunately that isn't the language barrier I am talking about today. I am talking about the inability of some Koreans, especially taxi drivers, to understand their own language.

This is something that I have encountered since my 1st year in Korea. You say something in Korea, often something so simple a Korean child should be able to understand it, and they give you that clueless look and just can't understand you. I would have to say it happens with at least 25% of the taxi's I have taken over the years.

Case in point today. Stig and I met downtown for lunch. I grabbed a cab to get to work. On the way the clouds darkened and it started to spit rain. I figured I would get the cab to drop me off at the front door since I didn't have an umbrella, and it is EASY to find. One right turn. Go straight a block. Stop. Right is very easy to say in Korean. As is turn right.

So we are heading for the spot to turn right. Well before we get there I tell the taxi driver to turn right in Korean and point right. He keeps going straight. There is still time. I tell him again, more forcefully, again pointing right. He drives straight toward the light. I say loudly RIGHT. Too late we are through the light. He pulls over after the light.

I ask him if he speaks Korean. (I usually carry my phrasebook with me just in case.) He seemed offended by the question. I told him that I had said turn right 3 times and he didn't. He gave the blank look. I said in English rightuh turnuh.

You could see the light bulb go on from his feeble brain. It was a pretty dim bulb. "Ah. Rightuh!"

"Yes, you stupid son of a bitch. Rightuh." I made him give me the change and walked the 2 blocks to work. Luckily it didn't start raining.

We are talking some seriously stupid fucking people if they can't understand simple directions in their own language. Why the kimchi should we even bother learning the Mongol tongue if they don't understand it? They understand "rightuh" "leftuh" but not the Korean for it?

And I know some of you apologist and Koreanphile assholes are thinking "Well you are saying it wrong. Your accent is off." To you I say go fuck yourselves. My pronunciation of those simple words is spot on. Years of practice have seen to that. If it was something more complex you might have a valid point. Some Koreans just don't understand their own language when a foreigner uses it correctly, just aren't paying attention, or deliberately play dumb for shits and giggles.


  1. I'm sorry that I just found your blog now. I too have been in Korea almost now years and know how you are feeling about leaving. It's not the matter of moving, it's the matter of leaving.

    But, I would like to say that after so much time in Korea, I still have trouble communicating in KOREAN!

    Case in point, the other day, I was at Emart and asked a worker where the raisins are, in perfect Korean. Not a difficult sentence to make or understand. She kept pointing to the grapes (as if I couldn't locate grapes in a food store!), and I kept repeating, raisins! gunpodo! raisins!

    To no avail. I wanted to cry. Is my accent that bad? I've heard worse accents than mine. I give up. I'm glad to hear that you have the same experiences after almost a decade in the the ROK.

  2. It is frustrating at times. :)