Hello! Have you ever heard of YoonLab? YoonLab is an institute offering Korean language courses and cultural programs near Manchon Station. The language classes run small, pursuing strong interactions at the pace of the learners. The cultural program tries to approach Korean history and culture through outdoor activities and field trips.
When I first opened this institute, some people wrote to me saying, “Hello, Mr. Lab”. Also, when people visited my office to register, they asked their friends to call the police if they did not come back in time. These days, however, their messages start, “My friend gave me your contact information,” and, “I have recently moved to Daegu.” People also show me pictures taken at the Gyeongju Museum, or present me a bookmark with the ‘Smile of Silla’ design, a roof tile carved with a smiling human face which was the basis of my Facebook profile photo and institute logo.
Looking back on the last several years, there have been a lot of stories, more than enough to write a book. The people who were calling out, “여기, 여기” (Here, here.) to the taxi driver can say confidently, “만촌역에 세워 주세요” (Please stop at Manchon Station). The people who just pointed their finger at the menu pictures can say, “김밥 주세요” (Gimbap, please). They recognized that, “전전 출발” means “the bus is two stations away”. However, this pride and self-esteem is frustrated by the tricky pronunciation of ‘사요’ (I buy), ‘싸요’ (It is cheap), ‘커피’ (coffee), ‘코피’ (nosebleed), and ‘카피’ (copy) , and ‘걸려요’ (It takes time). Likewise, in grammar points such as “친구가 많아요”. (I many friends) without the familiar English ‘have’.
There are many episodes that still make me laugh.
There are many episodes that still make me laugh. A middle-aged learner who was struggling with particles such as -은/는, -이/가, seriously said, “Can I omit the particles because I am old?” She was referring to the special feature of Korean culture which shows respect towards the elderly. People also told me some words and expressions that their students used in class, such as ‘노잼!’ (It is not fun), ‘헐!’ (What?? Aw, man.), ‘죽을래?’ (Do you want to die?), as well as ungrammatical English such as “Hello?”, “And I…”, “Eat medicine”, “I’m playing computer”, “Teacher, solo?”, “On weekend, I played.”, “I have many homeworks.”, “Teacher, your head cut”, and “Teacher, my hand is very sick.”
...there are about 17,000 people who received an E-2 visa to teach English in Korea.
Beginning in 2000, with the change of Korea-US relations, I participated in the Head Start Program and taught Korean language and culture to USFK officers at Keimyung University. Since then, I have been continuing connection with foreigners. According to the Immigration Statistics, there are about 17,000 people who received an E-2 visa to teach English in Korea. Those who have moved in this globalization era need friends and information for a stable life in a new place. In the future, I would like to develop various cultural programs as well as Korean language courses to support them and help them to know Korea and create a network among other foreigners and with Koreans.
Parting is one of the things I do not get accustomed to even if I have experienced it many times. It is very difficult to make and maintain classes because of learners’ short-term contracts and long trips during vacation times. However, while saying goodbye, I still wait for people, because I remember the moments that their Korean improved when they visited my office with their parents, and that they have kept in touch even after leaving.
The Director of YoonLab