Post-110: “It’s In the Nature of the Thing” (Or, a Coworker’s Befuddling Verbosity)

          C.R. [American] : “…Yeah, but that seems sort of in the nature of the thing.”
          E. Kim
[Korean] : “Nature?”
I overheard it in the teachers’ room tonight. They were discussing an upcoming presentation contest. Why didn’t he just say “It’s always like that” or “That’s what they usually do”, or any number of simpler sentences?

The Cast of Characters:

  • E.Kim is a Korean woman, around 30 years old, who is now “Elementary Team Leader” (초등팀장), and thus one of the many, many “managers” at this language-institute. (Elementary means 5th and 6th graders, in this case.) She has been at this language-institute since September 2010. She was one of the rare “Korean employees who is not a manager” when I arrived here, in September 2011. She was promoted sometime in 2012.  She has always been friendly to me, unlike most other Korean teachers. She speaks loudly.
  • C.R. is a White-American male (born in December 1989) who, a lot of the time, seems like a walking stereotype of his native-region of San Francisco. His body has been here since mid-February 2013 (in Korea and at this job), but his mind has never quite made the full cross-over (I think he’d say). He has plans to go to Thailand or Cambodia when his year is up. His goal is to get Scuba instructor certification, he says. Philosophy major.

C.R. is either unable or unwilling to change his register to “talk simple” with the Koreans. His use of difficult vocabulary/phrases, complex sentences, and even slang when speaking with them is puzzling to me. None of them is truly native-level, which would be required to keep up. They don’t understand what the heck he’s talking about half the time. The above exchange was a good example. E.Kim herself is quite good at English, but she didn’t get the point at all. “What’s he talking about ‘nature’ for?” — is what she probably thought at that moment.

C.R. is also the one who used the phrase “I’m down for that”, which I wrote about in post-87, and who disparaged me for using Yahoo Mail (post-2). / On the whole I like him, though, let it be known.

I was correcting essays at the time, and my concentration was broken by C.R.’s and E.Kim’s loud conversation (conversations with E.Kim usually are loud), so instead I jotted down that phrase from C.R., along with this one:

            “….but for the logistics, you might have other considerations, you know, in terms of….”

“Logistics”! “Considerations”! “In terms of”! He also kept using words like “rehearse” instead of “practice”. (E.Kim stood there and nodded along.) All these are unnecessarily-complicated ways to speak, and might impress native-speaker college professors but will cause confusion for non-native-speakers, especially most of this institute’s teachers.

It’s a skill requiring practice, I think, being totally clear (and vividly descriptive) while staying simple and understandable to non-native-speakers. I try. I’m not sure what C.R.’s “deal” is: Is he unable, or unwilling?


  1. Re: simplifying language–Some years ago there was a major push in the U.S. to teach government workers to write in a more user-friendly manner. Department manuals and other documents were cumbersome. The goal was to have a more direct and simpler writing style–more straightforward and easier to understand. Away with passive voice and in with active voice. It would be great if that philosophy expanded to include legislation, insurance papers, and numerous other legal documents so we wouldn’t need a lawyer to interpret them for us..

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