Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Living in an International Community

Living abroad in a completely, and by all sense of the word, foreign country is an experience, challenging and exciting. However living with an international group adds an even more interesting twist on this not so conventional situation. As I have mentioned before, I work at an English camp. Many teachers who come to Korea work at either private institutions or public schools, but my school is entirely different, unique one might be so bold to say. There are four floors, well maybe five if you include the basement. There are classes and offices on the first and second floors. The third floor is living quarters for the students who are staying for the week, referred to as "the hotel" by the students. The fourth floor is where the staff live, both the Korean staff who are in charge of discipline whom we call the "guardian angles" and the English staff (non-Korean). When I taught English in Chile the volunteers consisted primarily of Americans. There were a few Aussies and Canadians scattered throughout, but the large majority by far were Americans. At this school, however that is not the case. There isn't a strong majority on any nationality. We consist of 5 Americans, 6 Canadians, until recently 5 from the UK, their numbers are down after the departure of a couple who ended their contract, 2 South Africans and 2 Kiwis (New Zealanders). And although we all share the same language, there are some differences in culture among some of the groups. This bowl of culturally mixed fruits could in some instance be a recipe for an outrageous fruit bomb. ( How do you like the silly metaphor which makes no sense?) But surprisingly, there has yet to be an explosion, or even two much spoilage. In fact, I would say, that considering that we live in such tight quarters, working, living, and spending our spare time together, it is miraculous that we get along so well. One of the reasons I was drawn to writing this post was to pass on not only some of the new an interesting things I have learned through living here, but also the different uses of English from the different countries.

Do you recognize this flag? Can you name the country it represents?

If you can, you are better educated than I am. The first day here, one of the teachers had this flag drawn on his nametag.
"What flag is that?" I asked
"Why does no one recognize this flag? It's the English flag?" he responded light-heartedly, but flabbergasted by our lack of knowledge about his country's flag.

So there you have it, that is the flag of England. Are you confused? I was. I always thought the English flag looked like this:Nope, this is the Union flag, often referred to as the Union Jack. This flag represents the United Kingdom. Maybe I didn't pay attention in geography, I take that back, I know I didn't pay enough attention in geography, but I don't remember going over the difference between the UK and England. In my mind, they were the same. I thought it strange that there were several names to refer to the same place, but I had never really questioned it before coming to live with Brits.
Ok, so here is the difference.
England is not the United Kingdom. England is a country in the United Kingdom. I realize that some of you may be thinking at this point, "man is she dense, of course England and the United Kingdom are two different things" but I am hoping that for those of you who were unclear about this as I was, this will help explain things a bit better. England is shown below in Green.
The United Kingdom, however includes, Wales (not spelled with an 'H' as I had previously thought), Scotland, and Northern Ireland (not Ireland). I didn't know there was a division between Northern Ireland and Ireland and I have even visited the country. Of course I had heard about the IRA, but like I said, I didn't pay enough attention in geography obviously. So the United Kingdom is a unitary state made up of four countries which are all run by the same government, Parliament. Queen Elizabeth is still considered head of state, however she is more of an icon than an actual ruler. But however iconic she is, she is still head of state of the 53 Common Wealth countries including, but not limited to Canada, Oceania (Australia, and New Zealand), South Africa, the Bahamas, etc.
Great Brittan is not the same as England, nor as the United Kingdom, rather it refers to the Eastern Island where England, Wales and Scotland reside. It also includes some of the surrounding smaller islands. I find it all very confusing.
One of the Brits (anyone in the UK can be referred to as British however it suggested that you not call an Irishman a Brit) is from Wales. Welsh and English are the two languages spoken in this small country.

Okay, enough of the England, UK, Great Britain lesson. If you are still interested in learning about the complexities of this unique grouping, I suggest you click here.

On to the interesting terminology of the English language. Before I start however, I would like to point out that everyone of the countries represented here is under the common wealth besides the USA. That means that much of the terminology for these countries is the same. Ex: "the lu" is used in both South Africa and in England. Therefore the category for British terminology will be unproptionately large.

UK termonology

Uni- (pronounced 'You knee') refers to University. It is confusing for other countries when Americans talk about 'college' because college to them is something entirely different than a university. It is equivalent to a prep school before University.

well- this adjective is used in many different contexts that we might use 'so' or 'very' or 'really' in place of. "that is well funny" "she is well fit" (fit in this context means HOT or attractive)

sorted- "I've got it all sorted" - a problem has been sorted out.

can't be bothered- I can't remember if I used this phrase before coming to Korea, but it is a phrase I use all the time now, and that everyone seems to use with regularity. Another version of this phrase is "I can't be asked" Ex: "I can't be bothered to work out today." Basically admitting to laziness hence why I use it all the time.

get on- "get along with" is our equivalent. "How do you get on with her?"

geezer/bloke/mate- all a term referring to a friend or guy.

knob- "He's such a knob!" This was used when speaking about Hugh Grant. Arrogant, stupid, slow.

torch- a flashlight, not a stick with flames which is what I though the first time.

bumbershoot- I love this word!! Umbrella!!

zebra crossing- pedestrian walk way.

swimming costume- yep, a swim suite, but this sounds so much funnier.

vitamin- only the pronunciation is different, but it is significantly different. "Vee ta men"

"bum a fag"- have a cigarette

"cheekie beer"- I still don't fully understand this term. But for example, we sat down mid- afternoon to have a beer while waiting for a friend and they said that because it was in the afternoon it was "cheekie." Like we were doing something we oughtn't.

"up the duff"- pregnant

"you alrigh" (notice the lack of a 't') used as a greeting in replace of "how are you?" The first time one of the American girls heard this phrase asked to her, she didn't really understand and said, "yeah, I'm fine" with a little attitude.

rubbish bin- trash can

lergie- a lougie (a snot ball) or a sickness like a cold. "I had a little lergie"

football- a word we seem to fight over all of the time. Soccer is the term we use and is the word we teach since we use "American English" to teach.

zed- "Z" the last letter in the alphabet! They have a different name

H- the pronunciation is like the 'h' is hate, but with a ch at the end. It sounds like Hach.

duvet- (french pronunciation, no 't') a comforter, as in the big fluffy blanket on your bed. In a conversation with someone about the "comforter" I was requesting the other person was very confused because a comforter to them meant a pacifier. Why would I need a pacifier? Some days, no one can understand anything!

South African terminology

bokke- (pronounced "boy key") male term like "dude"

bruv- like "bro"

hey- asked at the end of a sentence like the Canadian "eh?" It's a nice day out hey?

shame- this is used all the time by South Africans. Me: "I am feeling sick today." SA: " shame. I hope you feel better." Me: "That kid doesn't have all of his marbles." SA: "Shame."

courgette- a zucchini

pom- a derogatory term for the British.

New Zealand

Kiwi- ( a New Zealander)

sweet as- came from "sweet as pie" but is shortened to "sweet as." They would say this in response to something they like. "That is sweet as"

mauri- their natives.


The obvious: eh? - which I have to say is addictive and I sometimes catch myself saying eh? at the end of sentences.

Are you aware that Canada still uses British spelling? I wasn't until recently, but because they are common wealth they follow the spelling of the Queen more so than America.

They also use the word zed rather than zee as we do in America.


Things I am made fun of for saying:
"yall"- obvious one
"rambunctious"- they said they have this word, but it wouldn't be used unless you were writing a serious paper.
"the wave"- evidently everyone else in the world calls it the "Mexican Wave" because it was first done by Mexicans at a world cup soccer game.


Jane said...

This was a really interesting post. I say "rambunctious" all the time. Is it a U.S. thing or a Texas thing?

Anonymous said...

Wow. This post was really educational and interesting! Your job sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

Vanessa Rogers said...

I don't think it is just a Texas thing- it must be a US thing.