Do you know why I hire you? asks my boss in a confidential tone, smiling at me over her beer glass. She always wants to bond with me when she reaches her third or fourth drink of the evening.
My pale Western skin and my pretty blue eyes? I guess. She laughs. God bless the woman, she may speak a version of English that at times has completely opposite meanings from mine, but she’s one of the few Korean friends I have who understands and actually really enjoys teasing sarcasm. She even tries it herself – and yes, before you ask, of course she can take a hand out of me and have me believing all sorts of ridiculous things. I think we’ve established that anyone can do that, no matter what their level of English. I suspect that zookeepers could successfully train several species of animals to play elaborate April Fools on me.
Well, of course that is first reason, she agrees. But there are many beautiful foreigners who want to work here – do you know why I pick you?
I shake my head, curious about what it was that made me stand out from the rest like the bright and shining beacon of teaching excellence I undoubtedly am.
She looks admiringly at me. Because you said on your resumé that you are willing to adopt.
You see, this is exactly the sort of reason why you don’t go drinking with your boss.
Erm, what? I ask as politely as I can after almost spraying her with a mouthful of beer. She looks troubled, as if she had been counting on me being willing to adopt someone, and is now beginning to doubt that I meant my offer.
You said you could adopt! No problem, you said! So I choose you!
I take a long, thoughtful sip of beer as I wonder how I’m going to resolve this one.
Because you travel a lot and you try new things and you can adopt in different cultures! she adds desperately.
One beer later, I have explained the difference between adopt and adapt, and also made it clear that I am not willing to do the former. Jennifer looks sternly at me. English is very difficult language!
Usually when my students say this, I make an exaggerated Pfffft! Nonsense! sound and say English is sooooooo eeeeeeeeasy! (I’ve found it’s a good way to motivate them to talk more). I decide to be a little more respectful to my boss, and settle for a mild shrug. I’m pretty good at it, I say meekly.
Well, she responds triumphantly, you can’t complain any more about Korean. You say it is silly because one wrong vowel sound change whole meaning? English is same!!
Damn. I so want to defend this language I love, but really, it’s just as bad as the rest of them.