“Minus-uh! Minus-uh!”—many shouts came with just as many fingers pointed toward the student who had torn down two papers from the wall and run off with them so his fellows wouldn’t be able to read them and memorize them for the running game we were playing; sabotage!; but the student who committed this fowl act of anarchic terroristic prankistry is indeed one of the best English speakers in the school, having achieved something close to fluency in an incredibly difficult foreign language before he reached the sixth grade; moments before I challenged him to a spelling contest after he angrily proclaimed that I had misspelled “genius” (“O! O! GENIOUS!” “You think you know how to spell better than me? I’ve been spelling in English for twenty-three years!” “I’m better than YOU!“); naturally I soundly trounced him with astronaut (astraunot, astronut), experiment (exprement), and others, and was ready to break out the French and the Greek (bourgeois, onomatopoeia, two words which absolutely stump me every time I write them (and this is more often than you might think, especially when you must describe the sound of consumerist barbarism as often as me!)), when we chose to move on, but this did not stop him or his fellow students from proclaiming victory, and later they demanded that we engage in a similar contest later, except in Korean, and not English; I left them by shouting 미국 이기다! 미국 이기다! (Meegook eegeeda! America wins!); earlier we focused on properly pronouncing several English sounds which Koreans find rather difficult because at some point in the past someone decided that when Hangul, the Korean syllabary, was unable to represent a sound with a given symbol, it would simply substitute a different symbol and therefore produce a different and improper sound—examples, in Korean, th = s or d, f = b, v = b, r = l, z = ch or j, etc., etc.—there are no th, f, v, r, or z sounds in Korean, so you have to show them how to make each sound, which results in a great deal of weirdness as you examine every student in the classroom while they bite their tongues for th or bite slightly different parts of their lower lips for f or v or imitate the sound of the bees for the hard, very hard, z in pizza (t + s = zz)—but why indeed were they shouting “minus-uh! minus-uh!” at the bad (good) student? Simple! Minus points! If you’re bad you lose points! 넌는 마이느스! YOU MINUS-UH!
In The Korean English Classroom