Yesterday we went out to celebrate a friend's birthday. We went to a sam-gyop-sal (Korean style barbecued meat) restaurant. Our party included people from Korea, China, England, New Zealand, Canada, and the US (Texas, Florida, and New York). From there, we went to eat pat-bing-su, a Korean shaved ice and red bean dessert (much better tasting than it sounds). We saw a group of Russian speaking students from our school there and listened to Indian and American music. Some of us wanted to go to the nore-bang (Korean style karaoke) where we joined another Chinese student and an Uzbek student. We sang a mix of songs, including many from the 80's, some Korean, a few country (Amarillo by Morning, Boot Scootin' Boogie), one Spanish (La Bamba) and one Chinese (we begged the Chinese guy to sing us a Chinese song even though he wasn't in the mood to sing.)
We returned to school about half an hour before the first game of the World Cup started (midnight our time). The only TV on campus that is available for students to use is right outside my room. (They can't have TVs in their room even if they could afford them, and besides the electricity in their room is turned off around midnight.) Costa Rica and Germany were playing. We have a German major at our school almost completely staffed by native Germans, so they were there to enjoy the game, as well as quite a few students. So, I was watching this game with Chinese/Korean speakers on my right and Germans on my left. What a great place to live!
With all of these opportunities for language learning around me, I am reminded and humbled by the fact that I have a lot to learn. I took German in high school and college, but can't communicate in it (haven't used it since). I spent almost two years in Korea, but have quite a ways to go with that language. I have been in China almost a year now, but can't get much further than buying fruit or telling a cab driver where my friends and I are from, asking whether he speaks Korean, and saying that yes, I like China. There are many excuses for this, including staying busy teaching English, wanting to improve my students English (and responding to their eagerness) even outside of class, and hanging out with English speakers a lot. But really, with the great opportunities around me to learn Korean and Chinese (plus many others if I could find the time), I plan to get focused this summer on some serious language study.