This is Why I Should Learn More Korean
Knowing very little Korean has served me well in some situations. Less so in others. I don't actually condone refusing to learn the language of the cow you're milking. It is undoubtedly more advantageous to be able to communicate effectively in your own backyard than not. Even if you have zero interest in communicating with the locals any more than is absolutely essential (odd, but this level of social retardation does exist), then wouldn't it at least be nice to have the satisfaction of knowing that your taxi driver understands that you think he's a nutless fuck weed for taking an unnecessary detour?
I stopped learning Korean because I'm lazy. Yes, Korea, you heard right: the primary reason for my having embarrassingly little knowledge of your language after almost 2 years has nothing to do with you! Once I acquire what I believe to be a reasonable understanding of something, I move on to something else. What you and I consider to be a "reasonable understanding of something" probably differs. Feel free to do whatever it is that you do. After learning to read Korean, count, say some useful phrases, and have a gist of what somebody was saying about 10% of the time, I moved on to something else. Then, something else after that. Probably not productive things, but things, nonetheless.
Every now and then I consider studying Korean again, only to realize that my motivations for doing so are less than pure. Once you realize that the only phrases you wish to learn in a language are insulting ones, then the world is better off without you knowing it. Or, so I thought. As it turns out, I really probably should have learned a variety of Korean insults, words for genitalia, and other such things.
The other day, my afternoon writing class was working on an essay. I had to put them in teams; they get fussy if they have to do solo writing too many days in a row (God forbid independent thought flow freely). Obviously you can't be a team without a team name, so the students were asked to come up with a snappy name for their pair. Unfortunately, they weren't very forthcoming with ideas on that. They rarely are. Being lazy and uncreative myself, I decided to combine the first syllable of each of their names. Hence, Teams JoKa (John and Kate) and JaJi (Jake and Jinny) were created.
Nobody really responded to Joka, which I was quite amused with because I thought it sounded like "joker". This really isn't funny at all but sometimes, when I get bored, these are the things that keep me going. While I was busy amusing myself by saying Joka, I noticed that the class was still snickering over Jaji. Having no idea why Jaji (Korean: 자지) was so funny to them, I made a point of calling them by their team names for the rest of the class, just to elicit giggles.
At the end of class, one of the guys hesitated on his way out the door. "What's up?" I asked, in language slightly more professional than that. "Barbie, you know... you know that jaji has... maybe kind of a bad meaning... right?" Blink. It hadn't even dawned on me that my random combination of syllables meant something in Korean (in hindsight, it should have and I'm a tool for not realizing this). In short, yes, as you probably already deduced, I had in fact been referring to half of my class as "Team Penis".
Apparently the students assumed that I knew what 자지 meant, thought I was being funny, so nobody told me to cut it out. While I did think I was being funny, it was because I think that random syllables sound funny together - not because I had any idea that 자지 actually meant something. I apologized to the student and explained that (knowingly) making jokes of that nature is completely inappropriate and unprofessional, so of course I had no idea what I had been saying. I addressed the issue again the next day at the beginning of class for those students that weren't there when I owned up to my ignorance. They had a good laugh at my expense, while I pretended to be above Penis Jokes (not a total lie; in the classroom, sexual humour is a no-go zone).
I haven't told my supervisor yet, though I suspect that when I do he'll laugh in my face for a while, like my other coworkers did. This, followed by "you're an idiot", is the appropriate response.