Friday, January 28, 2011

Communication ~ Korean Style

The lack of clarity and confusion that too often results when speaking with Koreans never ceases to amaze me. I used to think maybe something was just lost in translation, but Clark assures me this is not so and that it's an unfortunate sociolinguistic phenomenon. Korean language is just far more non-specific than English and, in my experience, Koreans do not share in the western definition of "logic" or "time".

To illustrate, here are two telephone conversations I had this week with two different recruiters calling about p/t work they wanted me to do. Keep in mind that these are REAL conversations (transcribed to the best of my recollection) with REAL people:

Conversation A
R: Hi. This is XXX from XXX. I have a job. It's on every Saturday. Do you want it!?
Me: (chuckling) That's it, a job every Saturday? Is there anything else you can tell me about the position?
R: It's on Saturday. Every Saturday. It's ongoing. You tutoring woman 1:1. So, do you want it?
Me: (chuckling slightly harder) You still haven't told me very much. Where is it? What's the schedule? How much does it pay?
R: It's in Suwon, of course. (oh sure, of course, how silly of me not to have intuited this. my bad.)
Me: Uh-huh, and what time on Saturday is the class?
R: Time? Oh, flexible. (hmmm...does this mean I can pick numbers out of a hat?)
Me: Is it just one hour a day? Two? Three?
R: It's not decided yet.
Me: I see, well maybe you'd better call me back after it's decided.
R: Ok. Thank you. I'll call you back later. (when you get your head out of your butt?)

Conversation B
R: Ms. Harrison? Hello. I'm looking at your resume now and I'm impressed by your experience. You have a lot of corporate and university experience.
Me: Yes, I've been teaching for more than 10 years.
R: So, it says you live in Suwon. Do you still live in Suwon? (no, I moved to Busan, but thought it'd be cute to write Suwon on my resume)
Me: Yes, I'm in Suwon.
R: How long have you lived in Korea? (is he really looking at my resume because the answer is there in black and white)
Me: From my resume, you should see that I've been here 6 years. I'm married to a Korean.
R: Oh really!? You have F2 visa? (ok, there's no way this guy could actually be looking at my resume)
Me: Are you looking at my resume?
R: Yes.
Me: Well, my resume says I'm an F2.
R: Ok. Good. Very good. The client wants to meet you before the class starts. When do you have time this week? (he's calling on Friday afternoon)
Me: (laughing) This week? The week is over, I'm afraid. It's Friday afternoon, you know.
R: But the client wants to meet you before the class. They want to have a class starting Monday. (perhaps you should've thought to call earlier?)
Me: Well, I'm sorry. It's already the end of the week and I'm not available on the weekend. If the client has Skype, I'd be happy to talk to them that way, or you could give them my number and they could call me.
R: No, no. They want to meet you.
Me: Like I said, I'm not able to meet this weekend. I guess you'll have to try finding someone else. Sorry.
R: Ok, I will talk to the client and call you back. Can you meet Monday?
M: Yes, I'm free on Monday.
R: But the class should start Monday.
Me: Yes, I know. I'm available to start the class on Monday. (why am I always trying to circumnavigate conversations like this?)
R: But you should meet them. So, you're free to meet them on Monday or Tuesday?
Me: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
R: Ok, I'll call you back. (please don't!)

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