When I got to school this morning, I stepped off of the bus into a downpour. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to grab my umbrella before leaving my apartment, so only my bottom half got soaked. I opened my umbrella and tried to get inside as quickly as possible. Before I crossed the parking lot, I heard one of the teachers call my name.
A math teacher, who was on crossing guard duty this morning, was waving for me to walk over to her. I hurried over, expecting her to say hello and let me go inside. Instead, she said something that completely confused me:
Teacher: William! William! It is catch a dogs!
Teacher: It is catch a dogs!
Me: What happened? Where is the dog?
Me: …..so you want me to catch a dog? I don’t understand (in Korean).
Teacher: Yes! Catch a dogs everywhere. So many catch a dogs!
Luckily, one of my best students happened to be walking by near the end of this awkward exchange. She immediately realized what was happening and said, “Teacher, it is raining cats and dogs.”
Once I understood what was going on, I relaxed a bit. In fact, I was proud of the teacher for making an effort to use an English idiom, even if it wasn’t quite right. Teaching idioms and American expressions to my students and Korean friends has opened my eyes to just how difficult they can be.
For example, “an arm and a leg” means “expensive”, but you can’t just replace the word “expensive” with “an arm and a leg”. I had never considered this, until a friend called me recently to tell me that he couldn’t go to a movie because “movies are very an arm and a leg.” These things that seem so simple to Americans are truly difficult to the rest of the world.
Until next time.