By Karli Vezina
Believe this story or not. I was with my level 4 class who were roughly 11 and 12 years old and one of the classes with the best English abilities. We were talking about Halloween. Ghosts became the topic of the hour when I started asking each student if they’d ever seen a real ghost. In my mind I thought they would take my question as a joke and was surprised by their serious faces while they scrambled for my two English-Korean/Korean-English dictionaries to help tell their stories. Out of the eight kids in my class, almost everyone said they had seen one.
This is what they told me: Dean and Mike, two boys who shared the same elementary school classroom as well as mine, said they saw a ghost outside their school. I could tell by their intense faces and similar sporadic English that they weren’t lying. They saw it while walking outside in the school yard. They were late to class and everyone else was already inside. It was a man, white and foggy, bent over a garbage can riffling through it. They said he was an old man and looked mean
Jae-Sang, another boy in the class, was playing near a creek when he saw a male figure hunched over and walking around near the water’s edge. This ghost was red and he didn’t seem friendly. When asked if they spoke to the ghosts, each boy shook their heads severely implying “No.”
Laurie, a classmate of the boys but not particularly their friend, had been watching me closely the whole time, waiting patiently for me to ask her the same question. Through her broken words I understood she has a ghost in her house that she has seen in her bedroom many times. Upon my reaction, the other children all asked her in Korean what she had just said. She quickly regurgitated the tale in Korean to many a gasp and open mouth. I hushed them all and reminded them to ask questions in English and listen to Laurie’s story. The ghost in Laurie’s house was also red, but was a nice ghost she said. She was a young Korean woman who often spoke to Laurie, but she could never understand what she was saying.
Other children with weaker language skills saw ghosts as well, but due to the language barrier, I couldn’t get a clear story out of them and conceded to nod with wide eyes at the stories I couldn’t understand.
On another day, in my level 2 class (much weaker English skills than the level 4’s), were the kids were around eight years old, I had been teaching my students how to answer, “How was school today?” They would answer “good,” “bad” or “so-so” and I would ask them what happened throughout their day. I was usually inundated with sputtering words, hand actions and doodles on the board explaining that day’s art class or math test.
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