Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Magic Day

I love the movie Lost in Translation. I it saw again on TV here a while ago. Although it's set in Japan, there are many cultural references in the movie that only now make sense to me. The norebangs, the tamborines, the miscommunications. Every day I encounter things that make me scratch my head or laugh....

One day, I was talking with one of my middle school students in a conversation class. I asked her about the different fish I'd seen in the markets here and what they were. There are some really cool looking fish I wouldn't mind eating and there are some that I hope I've never put in my mouth. I asked her what the long silver fish were I'd seen. She tried a few different Korean words on me but eventually grabbed a dictionary and showed me the word "ribbon". Ah...a ribbon fish - that's a cute name. Then I asked her about these creepy rock-like flat fish with two eyes on one side of their head. She again looked thoughtful and showed me the dictionary. She was pointing at the word "crotch". I was pretty sure this wasn't the name of the fish. I'd worked at Red Lobster for 3 years in college and I never served crotch while working there. I smiled a bit and shook my head at her. She thought some more and then showed me the word "sole". There are probably some foodie snobs out there that would say sole tastes like crotch but I don't think she was one of them. I don't think I'll ever eat sole again. Not because of it's new nickname but because of it's looks. I only like to eat good-looking fish.

Misunderstanding? Yes.

Today, Jason had his students answer some questions he'd written on the board. One of them asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" A student wrote, "When I grow up I want to be a hedgehog."

Misunderstanding? Lost in Translation? Hmmmm....I'm not sure yet.

A lot of Koreans seem to embrace anything and everything English. The kids in school wear clothes with English phrases on them that they don't understand, the government is pushing for English immersion classes in schools, and many Korean products have English taglines on them. For example, I bought a package of panty liners the other day and the tagline is, "Enjoy your Magic Day". I know there's that backwoods joke that goes something like, "Don't trust anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn't die." - but I don't think that anyone really believes it's magic or even mysterious anymore. As a warning though...I think I'll use that phrase in the future. If I say that I'm having a magic day maybe you should just steer clear of me.

Lost in Translation? Yes.

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