Oh, the places we’ll go.

Or, adventures in expatting (verb, intransitive – the habit of living in countries that aren’t one’s own).

Booyah, Shakespeare, I just invented a word, too.

Or so I thought. This is a verb that has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness for a while, but it wasn’t until I idly looked it up to discover a raft of references in the Urban Dictionary that I realised why I feel part of neither one world or another. Even the wryly humorous term expatbagger (see note) seems to me to refer to someone who moved to one different country and then returned to their home country, rather than someone who left their original country, has travelled around and lived in a couple of others, and just hasn’t gone back home yet. In my current place of residence there are a high number of transient, short-term contractors passing through in a similar manner to me, but this is an exception. In previous places I’ve found myself part of a community who have moved in and stayed long-term. So what should I call myself that would fit the bill? More


“No tengo lapiz.” Linguistic acquisition and the ESL teacher

언필이없서요 (yonpil-ee obsoyo). A recent addition to my catalogue of chunks of Korean, of which I now know a range, none of which are related to each other enough to form sentences let alone serve any useful, communicative purpose. Meaning, “I don’t have a pencil,” this, like the Spanish phrase for the same dilemma in this post’s title, is the extent of my on-the-job language learning.

The situation is reciprocal. I learn phrases like, “I haven’t got a pencil,” “I’ve finished”, and bathroom,” in the language of the country I’m living in. The under-10s I encounter in those countries in turn learn the words, “TEEEEEacherrrrrr” (with bored / outraged / despairing inflection depending on the situation) “No homework pleeeeeeeaaazzzzz,” and, astonishingly, all the words to the latest Disney / One Direction song (depending on grade level). Neither I nor they seem to get much beyond this point. More

Six Things Sunday!

I’ve been storing up amusing pictures from signs and packaging and it seemed like a good time to release them into the blogosphere. I’ll be eternally gutted that in all the time I spent in South America I failed to take a single photo of entire supermarket aisles of tinned fish labelled, “Fanny”. The level of juvenile hilarity in that one will probably be more obvious to English rather than American readers, but I laughed every time I went shopping for the three years I was there.

I also failed to snap the brand of cracker named, inexplicably, “Kraps.” However, I did capture this little beauty –

P1020422 More

Brave New World

Despite the ominous title, this is far from a dystopian vision of the future. Rather it is a summary of all the many changes that life in a totally new country can bring, with the various obvious and more oblique revelations it entails.

I’ve mentioned before that it has been a long time since I’ve been totally linguistically isolated from the society around me. I’d guess this is a situation a lot of people may be familiar with from holidays in parts of the world where learning, “Hello” and “thank you” in order to show willing during a couple of weeks’ sojourn in foreign climes will see you through. More

More language and thought

Thirty years false prophets and guides. Here fifteen years useless.

[Unintelligible gobbledygook] I don’t want be a dick.

Do you think I’m a mess?

These gems, as close to verbatim as I can recall, were among the helpful things that helped to procure us a lovely apartment in a funky-looking university area of Seoul. More

The Undiscovered Country

It is a time of change and confusions, and so I chose a title to indicate both. The first confusion lies in the providence of the quote, which I’m sure some of you will have mistakenly identified as Shakespeare, W. from his work Hamlet. However, I am in fact quoting Roddenberry, G. and his creation Star Trek. The second confusion is that I am not, in fact, about to discuss either the post-life human condition commonly known as death, or a country that hasn’t been discovered, but South Korea. The third confusion, for those of you so presumptuous to have thought ahead, is the expected continuation of the metaphor… “from whose bourn no traveller returns….” No one can speak for certain of the future, and at this point there are still big question marks over whether I’ll make it to Korea or not, but if I do, I have every intention of returning in a very much alive condition.

There, I’m glad we got all that settled. More

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

The Award

They say it’s not quantity, but quality that counts. I surely hope so as I have definitely not been a prolific producer of posts this year. Fortunately, just when I needed a boot in the rear to up productivity somewhat, along came Catriona, who is Crazy, to give me one in the form of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

I’ve been following Catriona’s online brand of crazy with added rainbow shit and penis socks for a while now, whenever I need a dose of LOL in my life. I recommend you do, too, although if the blogosphere were HMV, this blog would have a Parental Advisory sticker on it. Just sayin’.


Language and thought

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a student. The clock in my classroom has been rubbish for several months. The battery was replaced at the beginning of the year, but it soon ran slow again. Eventually, after it became a hindrance to the smooth flow of classes rather than a mild distraction, I took it down. This necessitated the purchase of a watch.

I remember discovering the idea that language reveals the way a society thinks at university. If there isn’t a word for something, it’s because it’s a concept that culture never needs to describe, analyse or discuss. Al revez, if a culture has a lot of words to define different aspects of one thing (like the famed Eskimo communities with their myriad words for snow), it indicates the importance of the concept.

The discussion that brought this back to me was around my watch, More

Lost in translation

I stayed up late last Sunday to watch the Oscars. I had spent the two weeks prior diligently watching my way through as many of the offerings as I could. I was pleased to see that Games of Destiny was nominated, although I didn’t think Jennifer Lawrence deserved an Oscar over Quvenzhané Wallis. I was also pleased that The Darkest Night, a good film, didn’t get drooled over by the Academy in the way such political films often do. I suppose Argo sandbagged its drool as the other ‘US vs the world’ offering.

Wondering if I’ve got a screw loose like John Malkovich in My boyfriend is a zombie? No, I’m lost in translation. In Peru, in this case, unlike Scarlett Johansson who was – at least in the Spanish speaking world – Lost in Tokyo. Yes, I’m talking film titles in translation. More

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