I was on such a good roll, posting each day to my blog.
I was awakened yesterday morning to my phone ringing, but when I answered "hello" there was dead silence. I thought it was a telemarketer – there are as many of those here as there are in the US, but usually a few sentences of English discourage them quickly enough. They also like to send you little text messages all the time. Anyway, my phone rang a few more times after this, and finally I shut off my phone and tried to go back to sleep. It was about 10 am… but I'd not gotten to sleep until 3 am the night before – my schedule here is so late, usually, which I don't really like, but I have nevertheless become very accustomed to it. Sigh. I couldn't sleep, so I pulled out the book I've been reading and several hours suddenly disappeared.
Net result: yesterday was a total write-off. I did none of the things I'd intended to do, I was lazy and read all day. But I guess sometimes I need days like that?
I finally made the dreaded "ne" mistake, which English-speaking learners of Korean often complain about. I was in the convenience store downstairs, last night, stocking up on cold coffee and orange juice, two of my staples, and the woman asked me if I needed a bag. I still have no idea what exactly they're saying when they say this phrase, but I hear it often enough I understand the drift of it and recognize it when I'm being asked. So I shook my head and said "ne."
Here's the problem: "ne" means "yes." But it sounds too much like an English negative, don't you think? So far, for whatever reason, I had successfully avoided this bit of linguistic confusion, but yesterday, whether because of my recent accelerated efforts or day of escapist reading, I slipped up. It clearly confused her, that I was shaking my head no, and saying yes. She gave up trying to give me a bag, because I was leaving the store, but she was obviously thinking "crazy damn foreigners!"
The proper word for "no" is "anio" (or even "anyo" like Spanish "año"), where the key negation syllable is "an" (which is also attached to regular verbs to negate them).
There are other issues with affirmation and negation in Korean, which show up frequently with my students. Koreans always say yes or no to questions in the spirit of "confirm" or "deny," thus, I will ask a student "So you didn't do your homework?" and she will blithely nod and say "yes," meaning she didn't do her homework.
In English, we typically say yes or no to a question in the spirit of the underlying content of the question, and asking the same question of a native speaker would get "no" as an answer in reference to the same basic facts. So… lots of confusion.
Perhaps it's best to avoid yes-no situations as much as possible? Stick with the gray middle ground.