The QiRanger Adventures

Come on Eileen

with 16 comments


Shhhhh, be very, very quiet…

Well, not really, but when I snapped this picture early this morning, Jo was still asleep in the loft. I’m hoping that she continues to sleep in every day, since just prior to her coming out to Korea, she had a little cold and with us being outside (and her not being acclimated to the cold) it has come back. So this week, she has two jobs… 1) get well and 2) to help plan our vacation week that starts on Saturday.

I’m really looking forward to the vacation, since I’ve not had an opportunity to really spend some quality time with her, since I’ve had to work. Furthermore, once I end my vacation and start the new year, I have Winter Session classes that last most of January, so that will severely cut into our couple time.

That aside, I’ve had a funny run-in with one class this week regarding name pronunciation. It’s one of the things that really drives me crazy sometimes when working with a Korean Co-Teacher that doesn’t have perfect diction. (That’s a whole other topic, since Korea is looking to hire more non-native English speaking teachers for the classroom.) To date, some of the more memorable failures of these Korean English teachers have included:

  • Fil-im: How many of my co-workers pronounce the word film. Thus, a whole new generation of Koreans are learning how to incorrectly say the word.
  • Portpolio: One of my students mentioned in class that she was jealous of another student’s portpolio, and it took me a minute to grasp that she meant portfolio. When I corrected her English, she told me I was wrong, since her Korean Teacher had told her the word portpolio. It really put me in a tough spot, since I needed to correct her pronunciation without making her other teacher look bad.
  • Ger-um: This one comes from a co-worker who later found out this was how the Korean Teacher pronounced Jerome.
  • Ezmurda: This came from the same teacher as the above. She had no idea how to say Esmerelda.

So in one of my classes (that is co-taught with one of the above teachers), I was going through the attendance list. When I got to one student, I was promptly met with, “No, Teacher. Her name is Ellen.” Okay, I thought, no big deal. The computer system must be wrong. When I got her test paper, I learned that wasn’t the case. The computer system was correct, but the Korean Teacher mispronounced the name. On paper, the student’s name is Eileen, but the teacher pronounced it Ellen.

So now I have to deal with that issue now, since the student wants to be called Ellen, but spell her name Eileen. I really need figure out what to do here because if it goes unchecked, there’s no telling what other errors may present themselves down the road.


Written by Steve Miller

December 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

16 Responses

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  1. That would be a tough situation, I think you’re going to have to have a talk with your co-teacher. The name thing is interesting, I’ll bet many Koreans are gonna have a tough time with my name, considering that sometimes even English speakers pronounce it improperly (some people say “Morris”, which is the Anglicized version of Maurice, I figure if I’m going to have a French name I’m going to pronounce it properly).

    I’ve heard of some English teachers having to do classes for the co-teachers at their school to help them with their language abilities. Maybe that’s something that your school should implement, it would help everyone in the long-run, even if it means a bit more work.


    December 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    • I’ve had some conversations before with co-workers… it always ends with something along the lines of, “Oh, I made a mistake, please don’t mention it in class.” This of course creates a conflicting teaching environment (not an interpersonal one, but pedagogical one). In this instance, I wrote on the board discussing the difference between Ellen and Eileen.


      December 15, 2009 at 1:15 pm

      • What letters do you find Koreans have trouble with in general? I know Chinese have a lot of trouble with the letter R.


        December 15, 2009 at 3:33 pm

        • R/L – The same character in Hangeul represents both in English. Woo P/F/B/V – The same character in Hangeul represents both in English.


          December 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

          • Interesting! I’ll have to remember that, thanks.


            December 16, 2009 at 5:54 am

  2. I’ll take my jobs seriously, my love!
    I find those mispronunciations adorable especially from kids. 😉


    December 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    • yup, I know you will!!!!!

      Yeah, mispronunciations from kids are cute!


      December 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm

  3. Man, it is funny how I have struggled to UN train my Kazakh wife english words taught to her by a native Russian speaking English teacher. Not to mention her hard time with any TH word. I invented a tounge twister to help her…this that and the other timothy likes the weather.


    December 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm

  4. Along the same lines here in JP, R/L…. F/H, stuff like that. Some names are almost impossible to say… like my niece’s name is Kyra…but it ends up sounding like “Killer” in Japanese… uh oh…


    December 16, 2009 at 7:27 am

  5. Oops…Hope Jo is feeling better…I forgot to add…


    December 16, 2009 at 7:28 am

    • She’s on the mend. Just has the rest of the week to really reel it in so we can vacation in peace!


      December 16, 2009 at 8:00 am

  6. Yes, I got the Dexys Midnight Runner reference there. (Or maybe it wasn’t intentional BUT knowing you, it probably was)……anyway, that does put you in a tough spot. The whole “honor” thing, saving face etc….makes this correction much harder to deal with. However, if the purpose of being there is to teach English then I think you need to find out what the acceptable way to “add clarity” to those pronunciations that does not disgrace the originating teacher. If you mispronounce a Korean word do the students correct you? There must be someway to have your correction come off as a positive learning thing versus embarrassment. The joys of teaching in another culture.


    December 17, 2009 at 8:39 am

    • I’ve found a good way to deal with the situation. As far as students correcting my Korean… that really isn’t an issue, since we only speak English in the classroom.


      December 17, 2009 at 11:18 am

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    Theo Heinzerling

    January 8, 2010 at 5:48 am

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