ekevin wrote:In Korea, however, Koreans think they should speak English to 'foreigners' and rarely seem to expect that ‘foreigners’ will know their language. So generally from my experience they seem very appreciative when a 'foreigner' does make an effort to speak Korean. I have heard the phrase 한국말 잘 하 시는요 many times after giving simple directions to taxi drivers or in other, mostly commercial, encounters even though my spoken Korean is fairly poor compared to my listening and reading ability. Several times I have then found myself in the situation where the taxi driver assumes I have good command of Korean and starts a conversation. This is a good opportunity for me to practice but is also stressful as I am trying to understand what they say then work out a sensible response - the usual 2nd language scenario – and my processing ability is not up to it.
Another Korean friend told me a story about their Canadian teacher who decided to try out his Korean in the supermarket. When he handed his purchase to the checkout operator he asked, '얼마이에요? ' She replied, “Sorry, I don’t know Englishi.”
I must be an exception here - I could pass for either Latin American or some type of Asian (but not East Asian), so I rarely got the "English - no!" while I was in Korea. Instead, I got the really puzzled look, like "he's some type of Asian - I think - but I can't exactly figure out what he is".
And the first night I was there, I was in a unique predicament - I was looking for my friend's place near 석계역, forgetting which exit I had to go to... (I learned the hard way about how important it is to get the correct exit.) And then this middle-aged couple (who must have seen me as someone who lost their way) stopped and asked me "어디 가세요? 주무실 방 필요하세요? 저기 있는데..." All I could respond with is "친구 아버지가 계신데요..." However, I did not know how to say "But I don't know what this friend's father looks like" (true story). 제 친구가 아버지께 제 사진 보냈는데 저는 친구 아버지 사진 안 바닸거든요. So, I'm in a pretty unusual situation. Luckily enough, my friend's father pulls up in his car, points at me, and says 에드?! Boy, that was a relief! After this, though, I did not feel that I really had a problem making my self understood or vice versa, compared to the other conference participants.
One strategy that I've adopted, in addition to others that have been suggested on this thread, is to speak out but not stare/look at the person you're addressing. It gives the illusion that the voice speaking Korean is not immediately associated with a foreign speaker, thus lessening the pressure for the native Korean speaker to react as if s/he had to immediately respond somehow in "English". It's just my personal experience, though, so I can't tell if any of you had tried this strategy already and had different results altogether.