Expat Life: What Do Farmers Do?

Black pigs of Jeju Island.  They are largely unrelated to this post.  

Teaching a foreign language always has its amusing moments. I've been teaching (off and on, with breaks for child-rearing) for around 20 years now, and have enjoyed some of my very best belly laughs   as the result of entirely innocent comments made by my students during the course of instruction.  Today's laugh, however, was one of those reminders that living in another country affects everything - even those classroom bon mots. (Note:  you will probably really only find this funny if you've lived in Korea, but it's a great illustration of how even a straightforward discussion about farmers is not as simple as it sounds when you are dealing with a group of kids from various international backgrounds.)

Scene:  4th grade class of English-learners in an international school in Seoul.  Topic of discussion is community helpers - specifically, farmers.

MsCaroline:  So, how do farmers help us?
Various students:  They grow vegetables! They grow rice! They grow corn!
MsCaroline:  That's right.  And some farmers also raise animals that give us food.  For example, some farmers raise cows.  Cows give us...(expectant pause while kids think)
Students (in chorus):  Milk!
MsCaroline:  Yes, and some farmers raise chickens, who give us...(pause)
Students: (in chorus):  Eggs!
MsCaroline:  That's right! Chickens lay eggs!(getting ready to up the ante with some higher-order thinking skills and congratulating herself on her pedagogical technique) Now, there are also some farmers who raise pigs.  What do we get from pigs?
Student: Samgyeopsal!**


** Samgyeopsal (삼겹살; Korean pronunciation: [samɡjʌp̚sal]) is a popular Korean dish. Commonly served as an evening meal, it consists of thick, fatty slices of pork bellymeat (similar to uncured bacon).


Trish said…
I laughed...once I'd clicked through! At least they know what it's made of. Not sure if kids here would automatically say bacon!
MsCaroline said…
Trish - Actually, I hemmed and hawed about how to write this - if I'd given the definition for samgyeopsal up front at the beginning of the post, I felt that I was ruining the punch line for the people who knew what it was. On the other hand, it's not very funny to have to go to Wikipedia before you can laugh at a joke! You see now how difficult this foreign culture humor thing is!
BavarianSojourn said…
Brilliant! And they would be right! I am currently reading my foreign language children The Twits. It is very hard to keep a straight face at some of the expressions they are pulling as I read the book! :D
MsCaroline said…
Emma- yes, they were right - but it was so spontaneous and sincere, I couldn't help laughing right there in class... I was really just expecting them to say 'meat' or (if they were really good) maybe 'ham' or 'bacon' - certainly wasn't expecting to hear that!
I love Roald Dahl - hadn't thought about 'The Twits' in years - think I'll use it! Thanks for the idea!

Popular Posts


Show more