[LEARNING CURVE]Therefore, I will quit saying thereforeTeaching English in Korea, along with the joys, comes with its share of frustrations. A common sort is when students use the wrong word, and another problem is when they use a long word ― one that’s not necessarily wrong but just annoying.
Recently while working with other Korean adults, I’ve noticed a similar tendency to favor long and complicated words and sentence patterns. Granted, native speakers do the same thing, and for similar reasons. And it’s just as annoying. But for me it’s more interesting to contemplate which Koreans do it and why.
That’s my pet peeve ― when students eschew simple words and expressions in favor of elaborate ones. What really makes me groan is when people use the word “therefore” instead of “so.”
A few years ago, I had a student named Mr. Kim who was obsessively fond of the word therefore. Mr. Kim had an important job, as a negotiator of contracts for coal purchases for the state power company. He had to deal with coal sellers in China and Australia on a daily basis, and often traveled to those countries and others for face-to-face talks, which were invariably conducted in English.
So when speaking English he needed to sound intelligent and sophisticated. And apparently he came to believe that using the word therefore was the best way to do that.
But Mr. Kim included the word in every single sentence he spoke. For instance, if I asked him what he did during his lunch break, he would say, “After lunch I was a little drowsy, therefore I took a nap.” If I asked him about his plans for the weekend, he would say, “I need to get some exercise, therefore I will play badminton with my children.”
As a caring and conscientious teacher, I took it upon myself to cure Mr. Kim of the therefore habit. Whenever he uttered the word, I’d cross my arms and mouth the word “So.” The other students would laugh while Mr. Kim stifled a grimace. Then he would recompose himself and finish his sentence with the word “so.”
It got to the point that I could smell a therefore coming from a mile away and have my arms crossed before he got to it.
But it was all a futile endeavor on my part. Mr. Kim was never going to give up his cherished therefore. It got so bad that I quit trying to correct him, and just started calling him Mr. Therefore.
Hey, when all else fails, try mockery. Actually, the other students loved this, and started calling him Mr. Therefore themselves.
Of course, the nickname method didn’t work, either. Eventually I abandoned this particular anti-therefore crusade, and let Mr. Kim keep his semantic security blanket.
by Mike Ferrin