Monday, June 27, 2016

The Challenges of Immersion Language Training- Hoyer- SNU-Summer Language Grant

I was fortunate to receive the Sigur Center Grant for Korean Language Study in Korea for summer 2016.  I have studied Korean for several years, to include completing the third level at GWU, and have not had the chance to study Korean in Korea until this summer.  It has been a challenging and humbling experience to study in-country at Seoul National University (SNU).  Having to operate in my language of study without an English-clutch to lean on gives me a whole new awareness of my language ability and a new understanding of what it means to be proficient in a language.

There are several challenges I’ve faced while studying Korean here that I did not face while studying Korean in America.  One of those challenges has been fully understanding new material, such as new grammar, as the class is entirely conducted in Korean.  Another challenge has been entering the program at level three of their six-level program.  Most of my fellow students begun their studies at SNU at level one and therefore have the same language knowledge base.  Various times throughout the course certain grammar patterns have come up with which I am not acquainted and upon asking for clarification, I am told that the class learned that material during the previous levels and that I am expected to know it as a level three student.

Another language challenge which I face is communicating with my peers.  I am not only asked to speak in Korean with my peers but have to speak in Korean with my classmates due to the language barriers between us.  We are a class of 14 students, 11 of which are native-Chinese speakers from China and Hong Kong.  When communicating in Korean with classmates in America, I have more room to make mistakes in Korean while still being understood.  That is because often times the language mistakes I make as a student are due to composing my Korean sentences based on an American cultural context or as a direct translation of a phrase in English, the meaning of which is understood by people with a similar linguistic background even if incorrectly formulated.  It has been challenging to be unable to express myself liberally and to connect fully with my peers due to our language barriers.

But it is these very challenges that have made my studies here impactful.  Korean is no longer a subject I study in an air-conditioned, stale classroom at the heart of DC.  Korean is alive around me and dictates my surroundings when I wake in the mornings.  Vocabulary is no longer particular to a chapter within a book assigned to a specific week on the syllabus but is the essential building block to conduct everyday activities such as going to a restaurant, buying clothing at an underground market, or communicating with a taxi driver.

I know my Korean is developing more profoundly here than ever before.  I only wish I had the chance to stay longer and to continue to see my language skill improve as it has here during the last three weeks.
Buddha statue at Bongeunsa Temple
Inside Bongeunsa Temple, first built in 794 during the Silla Kingdom.

My neighborhood and daily walk to school.

Verónica María Hoyer, B.A. International Relations 2017,
Sigur Center 2016 Korean Language Fellow,
Seoul National University, South Korea

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Catching the Bus in New Delhi

Getting around Delhi can be both fun and frustrating. If you are not familiar with the sprawling metropolis, it can be a bit difficult finding your way around, even with GPS. There are an array of transportation options, including the metro (subway), cabs, and auto rickshaws. However, I want to discuss taking the bus. There are many advantages to taking the bus. For one, it is super cheap. A distance of 20 minutes costs about 10 rupees (15 cents). Second, you don't have to haggle with the driver like you do with auto rickshaws and cabs. Auto rickshaw drivers can be frustrating as you will be rejected by one, two, or even three drivers before you find one who is willing to go to your destination. Additionally, most auto rickshaw drivers do not go by the meter and will haggle over the cost (unless you are willing to pay their usually high starting price). Third, you don't have to worry about the driver knowing where your destination is since it is on their route. Many auto rickshaw drivers will simply not know where your destination is, especially for a place that is not frequented by many, such as the National Archives of India. In my experience, some drivers did not even know how to get to the fairly well known Shastri Bhawan that is next to the archives. With busses, so long as you know your destination is on the route, you will not have to worry about your driver's knowledge of Delhi. Fourth, busses arrive pretty frequently and in my experience are fairly on time. Lastly, there is no fuss like at the metro with having to go through metal detectors and security.

However, busses do have their downside. At peak hours they can get pretty crowded. In these cases they'll usually send two buses on the same route back to back. But even then you will probably have to stand if you are riding during rush hour.

Taking the bus to a place you go frequently (in my case, the archives) is convenient and easy to work into a routine. However, taking the bus in Delhi is not the same as in the U.S. and there are a few things you should know.

Firstly, you need to find out which route(s) go to your destination. This can be a little tricky. The Delhi bus system (DTC) is incorporated into Google Maps software, however, I found some of both the route and schedule information to be incorrect. I was not able to find a route map on the DTC website, but they have a time table of routes, yet I could not open the file for whatever reason. There is also the website that allows you to search for routes between two locations. However, the wording of locations on there are set and you cannot enter addresses. Thus, you will likely use a combo of all these resources. It sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple. I would begin with Google Maps and see what routes it shows for your destination. Then use the Delhi Travel Help website. If you see a route(s) listed by both then it will more than likely work. If there are multiple routes, even better, since this means you will not necessarily have to learn arrival times and can wait for whichever comes first. You will likely not have to wait more than fifteen minutes unless you are trying to catch a bus late at night. There is a Delhi DTC timings app, however, if you would like precise arrival times.

Once you figure out which bus you want, go to the bus stop nearest you. Google Maps is accurate for the locations of these. Some bus stops have a roof and bench. Each bus stop has the route numbers listed somewhere there, so you can confirm that your bus services that stop.

When you see your bus, make sure to step forward and wave it over. It will not stop otherwise, unless someone is getting off. If your bus stop is on the sidewalk, you will probably want to walk a little into the street to wave, as the bus rarely ever pulls in to the curb.

The busses often do not come to a full stop. This sounds scary, but even the elderly get on with little trouble. Just be quick on your toes.

You will enter through the second side door towards the rear. You can board through the first door by the driver as well, but since you pay in the back, it is better to board there.
Once aboard you will have to find the worker who collects the money. He usually sits in the seats immediately before or behind the second side door. He will usually have a bundle of tens in his hand and a small receipt machine. He does not get up. You will have to go to him. If it is a crowded bus, the person next to you will generally be willing to give the money to the money collector. Once you pay the money collecter, he will ask you what your destination is. State the name of the stop (if you click on the busstop icon on Google Maps, it tells you the official name of the stop). If you do not know the actual name, you can try the name of a major landmark nearby. Fares are calculated by distance. Here are the list of fares:

If you already know the cost of your fare, you can possibly just give the money collector exact change (e.g. 5 or 10 rupees) and he'll assume that is the cost of the distance you are going unless you state otherwise. Once you pay the money collecter, he will give you a paper receipt. Occassionally, an employee of the DTC will board the bus and check receipts to make sure people paid.

You can generally get a seat when you don't ride during rush hour. Off peak hours appear to be 10 am to 5 pm. If you see an available seat, try to be curteous as some seats are only for women and other seats are for the elderly. The designations for seats are usually written above them on the bus walls, but people don't always ahdere to these designations, especially off peak. In my experience, it seems the women's seats are strictly for women at all times whereas the seats for the elderly can be taken by anyone else if an elderly person does not need one.

When the bus is a minute or two from your stop, you will want to start moving towards the front. Once you get to the front and your stop is next, tell the driver to stop at the next stop. If it is a popular stop that many people will get off at, you don't have to go to the front. You can just stay in the back and exit through the second door.

For the first few times you take the bus it would be wise to follow the movement of the bus on your smartphone's GPS, so you can see when your destination is approaching. After a few rides, you will become familiar with your route and not need to do this.

Accessing the National Archives of India (NAI)


I am Elham Bakhtary, a summer research fellow with the Sigur Center for 2016. I want to discuss my experience accessing the National Archives of India. I will be discussing the procedure for getting registered with the archives and some of the particulars I wish I had known prior to arriving in India.

Anyone who plans to access the archives needs to get their documentation in order. You cannot just show up to the archives with an ID and expect to do research like in the U.S. or U.K. In addition to getting a visa before you come to India, you will need to prepare a few other documents.

1. The first is the letter of introduction from you home institution. The NAI is quite vague as to what they are looking for in this letter. The NAI does not specify who should write it. Because I am a doing this research as a fellow with the Sigur Center, I thought it best to get a letter from there. However, it appears acceptable to get one from your advisor, department chair, or college dean. My letter basically stated that I was a student in good standing at George Washington University and was awarded a grant from the Sigur Center to conduct research at the NAI. If you plan to visit multiple research sites in India, you may want to keep the letter more vague about research sites or have all the sites listed in the letter. A general rule is that the more professional the letter looks, the better. I recommend submitting the original harcopy signed by the author with the univeristy letterhead. Another fellow American scholar submitted a photocopy of his letter and it was accepted, however, he was a professor and was known by the staff since he had used the archives before. It is best not to take chances.

2. The second document you need is the letter of introduction from the U.S. Embassy in Delhi. You can only obtain this document in person. This is was probably the most frustrating experience I had. I went to the embassy and was told I could not enter with any electronic device. There is a kiosk across the street where an attendant will hold your belongings until you are done. You have to pay him 50 rupees (roughly $1) for each item. I gave the gentelman my phone and laptop and returned to the embassy only to be told I could not enter without having an appointment. To avoid this, I suggest the following steps.

- Make your appointmnt online at Pick a day you will be able to go. It may not be wise to pick it the day after you arrive since you will probably have jetlag. But if you will only be in Delhi for a short period of time, you may want to go as soon as possible to get the most research done. It does not appear they allow appointments on Wednesdays. Once you make an appointment, print out the confirmation page. An embassy official told me via email that bringing the confirmation number was enough, but the guards seem pretty committed to seeing an actual printout, so it would probably best to bring one. If you are staying at a hotel, the front desk will likely do this for you. You can also cancel and resechedule your appointment online.

- The embassy is quite strict about what you can bring. Here is a list of banned materials:
Considering the length of this list, it is probably best to only bring the essentials. You will need your passport, appointment confirmation page, and $50. Yes, the cost of the letter of introduction is quite high. The embassy accepts dollars, rupees, and credit cards. I believe I overheard one employee say they do not accept debit cards. If you plan to visit the archives the same day, you will likely want to bring your electronic devices. In that case, there is the kiosk across the street that will hold your belongings for 50 rupees per item. It seems safe and you only have to sign a logbook. They will give you a ticket that you will present when you return to redeem your items.

- There is a separate line for U.S. citizens at the U.S. Embassy. Once the guards confirm you have an appointment and check your passport, they will direct you to the appropriate room. You will go to one window and fill out a document that explains who you are, where you plan to do research, and what you plan to research. After that you will go to the cashier's window and pay the $50 and get a receipt. You will then wait until your name is called. You will present the receipt, sign the documents and will be handed your letter of introduction.

3. The third document is the F8 form. However, they have a version of this at the archive that you can fill out. It appears to be slightly different from the one online. However, it is more or less asking for the same information. You can view the online F8 version here:
The online version has an option to send it online, but it doesn't appear to work.

4. The final document is your passport (and the visa inside).

When you arrive at the archives, you will have to go to the booth in the front and enter your name, institution, part of the archive you are going to, purpose, time, and signature. For part of the archive enter "RR", which stands for Reading Room. For purpose you can write "research". Once you enter the info, the clerk will give you a day pass. You will show it to the guards at the gate as well as the ones at the front door of the entrance. Some will not bother to look at it, others will examine it. It is best to just make eye contact with them, hold up the pass, and see what they want to do. Sometimes they will tear the pass slightly to indicate they read it. You will have to obtain a new pass each day you go to the archives.

Once inside the Reading Room you may be asked to sign in by writing entering your name and signature in a binder by the door. You will then go to the staffer in charge of registration. You will hand them all four of these documents at the same time. They will keep the letters of introduction and F8 form. They will scan your passport and visa and return it to you shortly (I got mine back about 20 minutes later). Once they hand back your passport you can begin requesting materials.