Friday, February 5, 2010

The Korean Language Barrier

My lens was focused on the old Korean man. He was talking to my father, I thought of taking a candid. But suddenly, he turned to me and asked

"What are you doing?"

"Uh...I'm sorry?"

"What are you doing?" The man asked again with a serious face. I heard him the first time but I just wanted to be sure.

"Taking your picture?" The man gave me a puzzled face. In my mind, I thought ‘is it illegal to take pictures without permission here? Wait, I’m not in North Korea am I? This is the democratic South!’

"He's doing medicine" my dad said

“Ah, like father like son, good, good!” he laughed

So that was what he meant. Having just eaten the most bizarre food ever, now I just heard the weirdest way to ask what I’m studying. But that's Korea. Their English can be quite confusing. Like earlier we went to a bread shop and I asked the shopkeeper: "What's this filled with?" The girl looked at me, took out her cell phone in a rush, and started typing. ‘Okay, I’m asking a question here and this is the best time to message her mom?’. I didn't really mind, but as I turned away, she called

"Mister, mister"



“What?” I asked. She looked at her cell phone, and said the weird word again: “Pain-eppol-jem”

That was when I realized, she was actually looking through the dictionary in her cell phone. It was ‘pineapple jam’. She was talking about the bread filling. So, as I said before, that’s Korea.

The old man was a doctor, a friend of my dad. He invited us for a lunch at a Korean cuisine restaurant in downtown Seoul. So we had all these weird foods with weird names served in front of us: Kimchi, Kimbap, Kongbap, Bibimbap. The only food wasn’t there was ‘Bapbi’, (thank you).

At the restaurant. The old man at the back was the one I was talking about. See his serious facial expression as he looked at the camera?

My sisters were all excited since the foods were similar to the ones in their favorite Korean series: Boys over Flowers. For me, the only familiar food was ‘Chap-chai’ because it’s all over Indonesia: Cap cai ayam, cap cai daging, cap cai cumi, you name it! So we ate all of it, took more pictures (now I know that it is legal), and went back to our hotel.

The next morning, we went skiing. At the counter where we got our skiing gears, was a young woman. My sisters thought she looked a lot 'Chiang Jinn' from Jewel in The Palace series. I saw some of the episodes on NTV 7 and I had to agree. Anyway, we asked whether there will be a transport for carrying all these gears to the skiing spot. I thought she understood, but suddenly she took a snowboard on her shoulders, and began walking towards the exit. Did what we just asked translate into ‘hey you should go skiing now’ in Korean? But then, before reaching the door, she turned and walked back to where she had started. She was looking at us the whole time she was walking. Not looking towards where she’s going, like a crab, can you imagine that? Then, she said:


‘What ok?’ I thought

“I think she meant we should return the snowboard after using” my sister suggested

“No, I think she meant the snowboard's not heavy, we can carry it by ourselves” I said

Then she did the motion again, to the door, and back again.

“I think she‘s actually a crab cursed into a human. Like in Little Mermaid, just this time Ursula sent Sebastian the Lobster”

After awhile, she pointed out the window, towards a signboard which reads: Starhill Ski Resort: 100m.

We understood. She was trying to say that the skiing spot is near, we don’t need a transport for all the gears, and we can just walk there. Oh, Koreans, I had a great time in your country, especially playing charade with you guys =D

At Gyeongbokgung Palace. Probably the place where they shot 'Jewel in the Palace'


Melor said...

i feel like i were there when i read your story.beautiful.thx for sharing,bro.

Yusri said...

sronok nyer dpt g korea....

ayu Darwilla said...


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