Extra! Korea

October 27, 2010

Korean in Will.i.am’s video makes sense. You listening, K-pop?

Filed under: languages, music, rapid cultural change — extrakorea @ 11:10 am

“Check It Out,” the latest video from Will.i.am (a member of the Black Eyed Peas), features Korean written in hangeul, the Korean alphabet.

According to some reports, the Korean actually makes sense. Perhaps he got inspiration, or even proofreading, from when he worked with Korean girl group 2NE1.

Here they are meeting Will.i.am for the first time.

Here they are working on a song in his studio.

“Ke$ha and Lady Gaga will be jealous for this song. … Cool, like Korean fashion. Like foreign. … Like Europe, that’s not foreign. Korea is foreign. You can’t even read that writing. That’s how foreign that sh** is. … People will say, ‘You know that song, you know, with Will.i.am and the girls from Korea, you know, 20 … 24-what? 24-Anybody? No, 2NE1, the song …”

Looks like he sees their “foreignness” as an advantage, and that he definitely had help with the hangeul.

So, if he could have hangeul that makes sense, then there’s little excuse for professional Korean artists to produce things like this:

I wanna gossip girl
I wanna gossip, sexy and pretty
listen boy 1,2,3 go!

everyday 도도하게
everybody 바라보게
항상 stylish하게 나나나나
언제나 자신있게
모두들 미소짓게
어디서나 Spotlight

kill hill 예쁜 높은 구두에
hot pleats skirt
cherry color lip gross

짙은 sense mascara에 흩날리는 머릿결
pretty, sweety, sexy

I do wanna say wanna say wanna say wanna say
날 보는 eye stop it

See the complete lyrics here.

July 16, 2010

Those inadvertently funny “English” slogans

Filed under: humor, languages — extrakorea @ 4:44 am

This is a bit of an old article, and I’m not sure if it’s been posted before by another blogger (I don’t think so), but it sure is worth the read, largely because of the interviews with two experts on Korea, Michael “Trod Underfoot by Samsung” Breen and Tom Coyner.

He [Breen] said the Dongjak district of Seoul tags itself “Lucky Dongjak,” but his first thought on reading that was, “Where’s the casino?”

“If Dongjak’s main industry were gambling, that would work well. But as it isn’t, I can’t quite see what it’s for,” Breen said. “Similarly, what can we make of Namwon, City of Love?”

He pointed out that the main mistake local governments make is to copy others. He said the effect of Dynamic Busan copied from Dynamic Korea and Yes Gumi copied from Yes Tokyo is to say, “We are not original.”

Coyner offers analysis.

Tom Coyner, president of Soft Landing Korea, said the strange use of English may possibly be due to it being categorized into three target consumption groups; domestic, international and foreign tourist.

“In the category of domestic consumption, the use and misuse of English is of little consideration to the local marketers who come up with these catch phrases.”

Coyner claimed the primary consideration in the category is how the English words resonate with the local population who may have a fundamental but inadequate grasp of the language, as seen from Super Pyeongtaek and Hi-Touch Gongju.

“There can be linguistic or pedagogic connections between certain English words and corresponding Korean words, cultural points, etc. that are totally lost on most native English speakers,” he noted.

Coyner said such examples are not only found in product advertising, building names, but also with local government promotions of towns and provinces.

He believes the most controversial of the three is for international consumption.

The management consultant said often prestigious and expensive international specialists are employed, but the specialists are overruled by the bureaucratic desire to “localize” the international expertise.

“This may be done out of a desire by local bureaucrats to privately boast that they came up with the final slogan,” he said.

Coyner claimed, if not out and out weird, the choice of English words associated with a place’s slogan often seem rather arbitrary, such as Colorful Daegu, Ulsan for You, Happy Suwon, and Nice Jecheon.

He said, sometimes, punctuation is hoped to make the difference ― particularly when employing an exclamation mark as in “New Start! Yesan.”

As for foreign tourist consumption, he said while these examples were attempts to be helpful, they were made without asking foreigners to review signage or even checking a dictionary before ordering the signs to be made.

And the coup de grace:

“When wrong, at best they can be humorous, and at worst, they may convey a sense that the country is made up of yokels.”

(emphasis mine)

Is anyone (in a position of influence) listening? Frankly, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The desire to brag to one’s friends in the same bureaucracy, “That’s my slogan!” probably outweighs any concern about making one’s country look like a bunch of yokels.

July 13, 2010

Konglish-teaching robot is an epic FAIL

Filed under: education, idiots, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 9:35 am

The New York Times brings us the story of Engkey, a robot with a Konglish name.

Enter Engkey, a teacher with exacting standards and a silken voice. She is just a little penguin-shaped robot, but both symbolically and practically, she stands for progress, achievement and national pride.

She won’t stand for progress or achievement if she’s a failure.

“Not good this time!” Engkey admonished a sixth grader as he stooped awkwardly over her. “You need to focus more on your accent. Let’s try again.”

“Accent”? We all have an accent; which one depends upon where we’re from. While “accent” can also mean “stress” (as in syllable, not syllable), the word “stress” is used more often, especially in pronunciation text books. And also, what is the student saying wrong? A good teacher should be able to give feedback so that the student knows what they’re doing wrong and can self-correct.

Engkey, a contraction of English jockey (as in disc jockey), is the great hope of Choi Mun-taek, a team leader at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Intelligent Robotics.

So that’s why the robot has a Konglish name.

“How can I help you today?” Engkey said.

“Do you have any fruits on sale?” the student said.

“Wow! Very good!” Engkey exulted. She sounded a fanfare, spun and raised her left arm for a high-five. A screen on her chest showed stars grading the student.

Uh, Engkey? How about actually answering the student’s question (e.g. “Yes, apples are 20% off today.”)?

Still, Engkey has a long way to go to fulfill her creators’ dream. The robot can help students practice only scripted conversations and is at a loss if a student veers off script, as Yang did during the demonstration.

“I love you,” the boy said to appease Engkey after he was chastised for a bad pronunciation. Engkey would have none of it; it was not in her programmed script.

“You need to work on your accent,” the robot repeated.

So the robot responds to everything that’s not in its programming with the same stock answer? It responds to grammatical errors, incomplete sentences, inappropriate responses, etc., with the same criticism of the student’s pronunciation? That is so inadequate as to be almost criminal.

And anyone who’s worked with kids, or even just has been a kid, can see where this could go.

* * *

Engkey: How can I help you today?

Student: I’m just looking, thanks.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: There’s nothing wrong with my accent.

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

Student: You not a very smart robot, are you?

Engkey: You need to work on your accent.

* * *

Actually, one kid was thinking exactly the same thing as I.

When Yang said, “I don’t like apples” instead of “I love apples,” as he was supposed to, Engkey froze. The boy patted her and said, “Hello, are you alive or dead?”

And look at this public relations spin:

Even though they are little more than fancy toys, experts say, these robots prepare children for a fast-approaching robotic future.

If they “are little more than fancy toys,” as they admit, then how do they prepare children for the future? You prepare kids through education, and toys don’t educate.

Here is the most damning bit:

An independent evaluator of the trial noticed that Engkey required the constant presence of a technical operator.

If it requires the constant presence of a technical operator, then that means that there has to be two people working the classroom, just like now. The only difference is that instead of two teachers, there’s a teacher and a robot operator, which brings me to something earlier in the article:

Over the years, this country has imported thousands of Americans, Canadians, South Africans and others to supplement local teachers of English. But the program has strained the government’s budget, and it is increasingly difficult to get native English speakers to live on islands and other remote areas.

Since you will still need two people who will have to be paid, then how do these robots help ease the supposed strain on the government’s budget? Instead of paying a foreign teacher, you’ll be paying a Korean robot operator. This reminds me of a great quote by a guy (his username was Billybrobby) who used to post on Dave’s esl cafe (before it became pretty much useless).

“It’s no coincidence the Japanese and Koreans are working hard on building robots now. Their aversion to co-existing with people from other countries is so great that they’d rather co-exist with robots.”

Here’s a honest evaluation:

“Engkey has a long way to go if it wants to avoid becoming an expensive yet ignored heap of scrap metal at the corner of the classroom,” said Ban Jae-chun, an education professor at Chungnam National University.

You said it.

Dr. Choi said his team was racing to improve the robot’s ability to recognize students and to discern and respond to a student’s voice amid noise. It is also cramming Engkey with more conversational scenarios.

That’s all? How about programming Konglishbot to respond to not respond to grammatical errors with admonitions about the student’s pronunciation?

This all reminds me of this teacher’s comment:

I’m currently teaching in South Korea (and yes, there are always job openings… though less than usual, with the recession on). I teach at two public elementary schools, one of which is on the extreme outskirts of the city and only has 46 students. For some reason, this tiny school got an English robot called the Cybertalker, which uses voice recognition and some kind of face recognition to tailor pre-made conversations to students. The only time I’ve seen the thing turned on was in the frantic lead up to a school inspection, when my English classes were cancelled in favour of registering all the students in the system and trying to make it perform for the school board officials. Even with days of practice, the students couldn’t make it respond – even the almost fluent teachers couldn’t make it recognize their English. These are the crappiest teaching robots in existence. A Speak and Spell would be more useful.

Read the blog post by Brian that I got this from. It has a lot of information, links, and thought.

This makes me think of a post that I saw over at the ROK Drop blog regarding how to make an efficient army. (What follows is a paraphrase from my recollection, so it could be very inaccurate.). The priorities should be: training, then leadership, then fancy equipment, not the other way around. Give fancy guns to poorly-trained soldiers, and they’ll panic when they’re under fire, rendering the fancy toys almost useless. By contrast, give mediocre guns to well-trained solders, they’ll keep cool under fire, know what to do, and do it. In the same way, give fancy toys to poorly-trained (or untrained) teachers, and they’ll just waste the students’ time in an amusing way with lots of bells and whistles. Give a well-trained teacher something that’s not so sexy (e.g. textbooks), and they’ll be good to go. Unfortunately, the Korean public school system is trying to save money by letting go or hesitating to hire the most-qualified foreign teachers, and keeping, hiring, and seeking the least-qualified foreign teachers. Back-asswards.

April 7, 2010

Another phrase you can’t use in class anymore: “She’s gone.”

Filed under: education, languages, music, youth — extrakorea @ 1:04 pm

As Brian (formerly) in Jeollanam-do has noted, once an English phrase has been used by K-pop artists, it ceases to be a tool of communication, and becomes an instrument of triggering widespread epileptic seizures in the majority of your students. Examples: “Please tell me the answer,” and, “Try it one more time.”

One of my students decided to disappear during break time. Despite the fact that I am a foreigner (and therefore stupid), I noticed. Pointing to the vacant desk, I asked the girl whom she had been sitting next to:

“She’s gone?”

Cue mass hysterics.

It’s a song by G-dragon. It’s not one of his big hit singles, but it’s gained notoriety for being accompanied by, at his concert, a video in which he stalks and murders some girl.

Actually, the song itself is pretty decent. Unlike most Korean rappers, he doesn’t do the staccato monotone that I dislike so much. And if you read the translated lyrics, you can see that he’s trying to have a kind of Eminem’s Stan-style twist at the end.

February 18, 2010

Oy vey! K-pop schmucks sing schlock called “Mazeltov”

Filed under: humor, languages, music — extrakorea @ 2:07 pm

After massacring the English language through Konglish, K-pop is evidently moving onto other languages, since a boy band named ZE:A (no, I don’t know how it’s pronounced either) sings a song called “Mazeltov.”

I just threw up my bagels and shmeer. Those schmucks have some chutzpah to sing schlock like that. Oy vey.

February 17, 2010

Updates on pop star’s epic FAIL at English

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 1:15 pm

We have updates on a pop star’s recent epic FAIL at English.
First, you can see all four parts of the episode with English sub-titles (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four)
Second, we have a screen capture. Show it to your students who are overly dependent on their electronic dictionaries and who think that said dictionaries are infallible. Tell them, “Don’t become like this.”

And guess what? At the very end of Part Four, we learn that they’re going to go to register at an English hogwon (private education institute). The hilarity may have only begun.


I was right.

February 14, 2010

Pop star’s English FAIL: “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.”

Filed under: celebrities, humor, languages, technology — extrakorea @ 11:44 am

First, some background information: Jo Kwon, of the boy band 2AM, and Ga-in, of the girl group the Brown Eyed Girls, are playing the role of a couple on the reality show “We Got Married.” Such couples are given various challenges that they have to overcome. Today’s challenge was the fearful and difficult task of … meeting a foreigner.
When they first see the foreigner, an Afghanistani student, through their electronic peephole, they’re thrown into a panic. They slowly begin to get more comfortable, mostly because Kwon uses his iPhone to look up conversation questions. When Kwon goes out to buy some snacks for their guest, Ga-in tries her hand at iConversation, resulting in her telling him, “I want to kiss you and take a dump on your chest.” That’s some epic FAIL right there. You have to wonder who wrote or proofread those dictionary entries? The fun starts around 4:00 of Part 1 and continues into Part 2.

December 30, 2009

Hiring Indians really is about paying teachers less

Filed under: education, languages — extrakorea @ 6:23 am

First and foremost, I must point out that the writer of this story is Kang Shin-who, whom Brian has accurately described as Korea’s worst journalist, because he has put words in people’s mouths, among other things.

So now we know that we have to take a large grain of salt with this story, which continues from news this past November that the Korean government was thinking about hiring teachers from India. Immediately, there was speculation as to whether this was to put more qualified teachers into classrooms, or to save money by hiring teachers from a developing nation. Well, it looks like those questions have been answered:

Officials at the city and provincial education offices, which are in charge of hiring native English speakers, formed a consensus that they might not give Indian English teachers the same wages given to other native speaking teachers.

[ snip ]

“It would be tough for Indian teachers to compete with other native English speaking teachers, unless they take lower salaries,” he added.

Officials are taking the “I really don’t want to, but circumstances are forcing me” line, but I’m sure that they’ll be happy to pocket the difference.

December 13, 2009

Genetics Study: All East Asians probably migrated from Southeast Asia upwards

Filed under: languages, science — extrakorea @ 11:26 pm

The Korea Herald has an article about a recent study, published in Science magazine on Dec 10, that indicates that all Asians migrated from Southeast Asia upwards. It contradicts theories that there had been multiple migration flows from both northern and southern routes.

The analyses proposed a model in which ancestors of today’s Asian populations arrived first in India before migrating to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. From there, it suggested groups traveled north, mixing with the populations already living in these regions.

This accordingly suggested the ancestors of Koreans, Chinese and Japanese to be the latest to settle in East Asia. The study also revealed no meaningful genetic differences between the three ethnic groups, which together make up 1.5 billion people.

The study’s conclusions are supported by linguistic studies.

Scientists also disclosed the corresponding relationship between genetic ancestry and language groups.

“Our results show that genetic ancestry is strongly correlated with linguistic affiliations as well as geography. Most populations show relatedness within ethnic/linguistic groups, despite prevalent gene flow among populations,” they wrote.

The study found that, as expected, individuals who were from the same region, or who shared a common language also had a great deal in common genetically.
(from the BBC)

This study has been described as “[T]he first comprehensive study of genetic diversity and history of Asian populations”.

Dr. [Edison] Liu [executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore and president of the Human Genome Organization (HUGO)] said that it was “good news” that populations throughout Asia are genetically similar.

This knowledge will aid future genetic studies in the continent and help in the design of medicines to treat diseases that Asian populations might be at a higher risk of.

And the discovery of this common genetic heritage, he added, was a “reassuring social message”, that “robbed racism of much biological support”.

June 29, 2009

Korean English teachers study English at institutes to prepare for English-only classes

Filed under: education, languages — extrakorea @ 2:21 am

The Korean government plans to have English classes in public schools to be taught entirely in English by the year 2012. In preparation, some Korean English teachers are taking English classes at “hogwons” (education institutes).

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