Yesterday my partner, who is Korean, became my second conversation partner to bring me Korean cup-o-noodles. So if I base all of my stereotypes on the four kids I've worked with, all Japanese students like to have their picture taken with their teacher upon their last meeting, and all Koreans are crazy for these noodles which I will have to try. Minh-Ju listed these very noodles as one of the three meals she would eat if she could only eat three meals for the rest of her life - the packet we get is full of such odd, first-datey-type questions.
She's very quick-spoken, which makes it easy for me to forget that she doesn't have the most extensive vocabulary. While we speak, she'll write down phrases if I correct her, or new words that we talk about. Like "cobble-stones" or "treadmill." Yesterday I looked at her notepad and it had stuff like "trans-fats", "colonial power," and "exploit/exploitation." Not only am I teaching her English, I am clearly imparting my hippie liberal agenda.
Since she's really trying to become fluent, I throw in slang when I can. One of the prepared questions was about internet dating, which she is firmly opposed to. I said, "yeah, you can meet some sketchy guys on the internet."
I realized that it is really tough to define that word using words that she actually knows. "Suspicious" was out, "dangerous" wasn't the right synonym. Eventually I said that when someone is sketchy you get a feeling that something is not quite right, but you can't be completely sure. Like you *think* someone looks like a drug dealer, but you don't know. Like a sketch, which gives you a basic idea of a thing, but not the whole, scary picture.
So far, my all-time favorite conversation partner story came from my first Japanese partner. She was very sweet, shy, just turned 18, very sheltered and scared of boys, and not so hot at English. Our conversation for that day was about Going Out and Socializing.
"Have you been to any clubs in Boston?"
"No. No no no no no."
"Do you want to go dancing at a club?"
"Oh, yes! Yes yes yes yes yes."
"What would you wear if you went to a club?"
"Uh . . . . I do not know!"
"Well, Boston is very casual. If you went to a bar, what you're wearing would be fine. But at clubs, people wear things cut down to here, and up to here . . ."
She looked totally scandalized.
"But if you wear all black, you can wear whatever you want, and you won't look trashy."
Uh oh. "Y'know, cheap."
"You know, like a prostitute."
Now she was so thoroughly lost that she pulled out her little electronic dictionary, typed it in and gasped, looked at me, looked at the dictionary, did a triple take.
"You think I have sex for money?!?!?!?"
Oh boy. A little grounding in basic Japanese would be helpful at times like these.