Kids Say The Darndest Things

English Classroom Yeongwol Korea
This is where the magic happens.

Every year the Yeongwol County office pays for a group of sixth-grade students to go to an English speaking country for a month during the school vacation. This year, our school had to choose five students to send to New Zealand.

As part of the selection criteria, the applicants sat down for brief interviews with Jared and me.

There were 45 applicants, and I had 45 seconds with each one. Here are some of those interviews.

*Students’ names have been changed.

* * * * *

Me: Hello. Can you tell me your name, please?

Bora: Teacher? Don’t you remember my name?

Me: Yes, Bora. But can you please tell me anyway? It’s part of the interview.

Bora: Bora. I mean, hello, my name is Bora.

 * * * * *

Me: When is your birthday?

Subin: Pass.

She didn’t make the cut.

* * * * *

Me: When is your birthday?

Minsu: Opens mouth, then closes it. Okay. Yes, I understand the question. But wait a minute. Leans forward. Can you use this information in a bad way?

Me: Um, no. It’s the same question I ask everyone. It’s just to see if you can answer it.

Minsu: Okay…My birthday is October 29th.

Me: Why do you want to go to New Zealand?

Minsu: I want to see the animal with duck feet and a duck mouth but fur.

Me: …? Oh! A platypus! You want to see a platypus.

Minsu: Yes. And kangaroos and the koalas.

I didn’t have the heart to explain the difference between New Zealand and Australia.

Me: That’s great, Minsu. You’re all done. Thanks!

Minsu: Teacher. The question about my birthday. Was it okay? My answer, was it okay?

Me: Is October 29th really your birthday?

Minsu: Yes.

Me: Then it’s okay. Please don’t worry.

He later asked Jared if I was going to look up his birthday on the internet.

 * * * * *

Me: So why do you want to go to New Zealand?

Taeho: Glances nervously towards the door. My mother. She says if I don’t go, she will HIT ME! Swings arm through the air.

I’ve met this kid’s mother. I can see her making the threat, but not following through with it.

 * * * * *

Me: So why do you want to go to New Zealand?

Mina: I want to be a diplomat, so I need to learn English.

Insu: I want to be a diplomat, so English is important.

Chan: I need to learn English because I want to be a diplomat.

Jinho: Because I want to eat PASTA!

 * * * * *

Me: Have you ever been abroad before?

Jeongin: No. Shakes head. Wait! Grins. Yes, I have.

Me: Oh, really? Where?

Jeongin: Jeju. I have been to Jeju.

Jeju is an island province of Korea.

* * * * *

If I could send every one of those kids to New Zealand, I would. As it turns out, ‘Minsu’ is in the handful of lucky ones. In July, he’s off to the land of the long white cloud. I feel a responsibility to break the news about the absence of platypus, but I’ll try to soften the blow by talking up the kiwi bird. At least he can’t blame me for judging him unfavorably on the basis of his birthdate.

I’m going to miss these kids.

Cherry blossoms Yeongwol Korea
I'm going to miss these, too. But not as much as the kids. Obviously.


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    1. I’m going to miss this part of Korea the most! I’ve taken to writing down the weird things they say because there are just too many comments to remember.

    1. He is the best. Last week there was an English speech competition, and he spoke about snails: “When snails eat the carrot, shit is orange. When they eat the leaves, shit is green.” I about died.

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