Coming to a new country and not knowing any of the language can be frustrating. Here are some of the big milestones I’ve accomplished since coming to Korea:
Week 0 (July):
– Managed to catch a bus from Seoul to Daejeon and meet up with my friends before starving to death.
– Can say my friend’s address in Korean and catch a taxi home on my own if necessary.
Week 1 (August):
– Can successfully navigate the subway in Seoul alone….although the stops are all written in English too, and I have a travel card I can top up.
– (Can’t read or write)
– Can order coffee or tea with the Konglish name (Korean pronunciation of English words), as well as beer and soju.
– Can navigate a familiar bus route on my own using my travel card.
– (Still can’t read or write, still haven’t eaten a meal alone)
– Can read consonant characters and a few vowels.
– Have picked up on a few Korean words and phrases.
– Can tell everyone my height in Korean.
– Am getting really good at charades.
Month 1 (September):
– Can properly greet, thank, and say good-bye to people using the correct level of politeness.
– Can read, albeit slowly and often without understanding what I’m saying.
– Slowly learning a few more phrases and getting used to using them every day.
– Am really, really good at charades.
– (Names are so, so hard to remember, you guys…)
– Can communicate with Korean guys when we go out to clubs.
– Have a pay-as-you-go phone
– Have a Korean bank account
Month 2 (October):
– Can count! Able to talk about prices and buy things, say the names of months, and order numbers of things.
– Can comfortably read the menu and order food in a restaurant. Learning more and more Korean foods.
– Can hang out with my coworkers outside of school and have a great time, despite the language barrier.
– Know half of my kids’ names.
– Can understand when people are talking about me and can interject with where I’m from or my height (it’s always one of these two, and typically the latter).
– Have a real phone….and have to keep answering calls from the previous owner’s number.
– Can order furniture and other things online from Korean websites.
– Can use the public transportation system to get anywhere in the country.
Month 3 (November):
– Can order food for delivery over the phone.
– Can communicate with the mailman over the phone and tell him to put packages in my boiler room if I’m not home.
– Have gone on a real date with a Korean guy who speaks minimal English.
– Bought a car. Can use my Korean GPS and can navigate the highways and tolls.
– Can go shopping and an special order sizes to ship to the store.
– Can drop off dry cleaning and communicate pick up dates and times.
And now we’ve reached December. I can do the majority of these things relatively smoothly, but I’m still thrown by random phone calls or anything that deviates from the conversation I’m expecting. Now I know how Korean’s feel when their every day English conversations deviate from the dialogues they’ve learned in class!