The Challenge List (Listening & Speaking II, Fall 2010)

Hi there folks. Here is the final Challenge List. I have made some small changes to some of the challenges, to bring them in line with skills I expect you to develop in this course.


  1. You will complete the challenges in sequence. While you can work on Challenge #2 while I am still making up my mind about Challenge #1 (and I recommend you do so) you cannot be counted as successfully completing Challenge #2 until Challenge #1 is finished (and so on — you can’t finish #5 until #1-4 are finished).
  2. You cannot submit more than one completed challenge in a week. If it is week 14, and you have submitted only one challenge before week 14, then you can complete only 3 more challenges (one each for Week 14, 15, 16) and therefore you cannot progress beyond Challenge #4 at best. Also see #4.
  3. Please attempt to be respectful in your challenge work. For example, while I don’t have a problem with curse words in videos (when appropriate), I do have a problem with racist or sexist comments, even if they are intended to be funny. You may take a risk if you like, but understand that I may need to ask you to try again.
  4. Remember that the people you are interacting with some of these challenges are people. Try to really connect with them, and treat them with respect, honesty, and dignity. Avoid forming “fake” temporary relationships with them as much as you can. Especially non-Koreans tend to experience being approached by Korean people for no other purpose than English practice, and it’s up to you whether you will be just another bad experience for someone, or a positive, refreshing exception!
  5. If you submit a challenge and your professor decides that you have not succeeded at the challenge, then you will have to attempt it again. This may happen for a number of reasons, such as:
    • You failed to follow the rules. (So read them carefully!)
    • You failed to fulfill the core challenge in some way (for example, in challenge #5, if you happen not to be funny).
    • You broke some other rule (such as plagiarism, or copying someone else’s script, or speaking disrespectfully to someone in a non-dramatic video).
    • You infringed on copyright and academic rules. (Plagiarism and copyright are important issues. Go online and read about them!)
    • If your challenge submission is otherwise deemed sub-par, or it seems apparent you would learn something from trying again. On a second submission of borderline quality, the class will be asked to rule, collectively, on your work.

And now… the Challenges!

The core of this challenge is to get a stranger, a Korean student, to engage with you in English in a setting related to school. You will pretend to have missed class, for a large class in another department (a course which you are not, in fact, attending) and will approach a Korean student at the end of the class to ask what you missed today in class.


#1. You will record the conversation. (If the first person you ask refuses, then try another.) When recording, remember: use a medium that will allow you to export an MP3 file. I don’t have time to sit in my office with a pile of your cell phones, listening to your files one by one while you wait.

#2. You will use only English in this conversation (with one exception), and if the student asks you if you speak Korean, don’t say no: say, “Huh? Sorry?”

#3. You can only use one Korean phrase in the conversation. It must be basic, and you must pronounce it badly. You can use it at the beginning, like with “안녕하세요?” (to make the person believe that you “can’t speak Korean) or at the end, like “고맙습니다.” Or you could use it in the middle to get some clarification about a point you can’t understand in the person’s English.

#4. Do not tell the student you’re approaching that you’re from another country. Simply pretend not to understand Korean.

#5. Get a clear, usable explanation of what you missed, and what is for homework (if anything). It should be such that when I hear the recording, I can know what was discussed in class, and what is for homework. If I cannot understand, you will need to do it over again.

Purpose: This exercise will give you a chance to interact with someone whose English may or may not be comfortable, discussing a topic you don’t know about. (That is, you will have to “bullshit” your way through the conversation, which is very challenging in a foreign language.) You’ll also be talking to a stranger, initiating conversation, and getting specific information — all of which are hard to do in the busy rush at the end of class, but all common tasks for someone trying to get information on the street in a foreign country.

Evidence: You will , after asking permission, record the conversation. The conversation will be in MP3 format, and you will submit the MP3 to Prof. Sellar by email with the subject header “WHAT DID I MISS CHALLENGE” to facilitate emai filtering. (If you have the subject header wrong, your email will get lost and I will not be responsible for the result.) Note: please downsample your mp3 — record in mono, and save it to a low-bitrate format if possible. I don’t need huge mp3s!


The core of this challenge is to find an interesting, cool, and unknown place in Korea for people living in Seoul or in Korea to check out. Everybody knows about Namsan Tower, or about the Cheonggyecheon stream, or about Itaewon, or Hongdae (in general). But it’s very hard for people who aren’t good at Korean to figure out about more unusual places, like, for example, Club Bbang or the Cat Cafe in Hongdae, or a microbrewery in Ilsan, or where the best Playstation Cafe in Seoul is.

Your challenge is to find something cool and unusual — something that in fact even lots of Koreans don’t know about — and make a ten-minute introductory video to that place. You will upload it to a special Youtube channel created for this purpose.


#1. The place or thing you are introducing must not be well-known in Korea, either among Koreans or non-Koreans. One good way to research this is to go onto Google and search in English for the name of the place or thing you’re considering introducing. For example, if you Google Boryeong Mud Festival you will see over 25,000 hits, many of them in English. That’s well-known. While Club Bbang is even more well known, with over 65,000 hits, very few of them are in English, so you could (just barely) get away with doing Club Bbang. However, you will get big points for choosing an unusual place or thing to introduce. (And it will possibly save your butt. See #2.) In any case, avoid stuff like bars, or movie theaters, unless they’re really special. For example, an arthouse cinema that shows old Korean films from the 1980s; or a bar that makes their own (non-German) beer. (German-styled brewpubs are everywhere, but alternatives are rare.) Or a restaurant with dancing waiters. Or a cafe where the staff dress up as cartoon animals. Or a really neat little temple that nobody you know seems to know about. Or an old church that was important during the late Joseon Dynasty, and has interesting history. It’s up to you!

#2.  You cannot introduce a thing or place that someone else has introduced already on the Youtube channel. If you like, you can organize a Naver Cafe among your classmates to make sure nobody doubles up; or you can take your chances. (It’s up to you.) However, once someone has introduced a place or thing, it becomes off-limits for all other students.

#3. Your video must be interesting. That is,  it shouldn’t be just a boring video of you standing outside the place. You can talk to the manager or owner of the place; you can rock out during a concert; you can taste the food or drink; you can film yourself staring at art or dancing, or walking around looking at the old church (with church music dubbed in?)… whatever you like.

#4. Your video will stay online forever. Your professor will create (and take over) the Youtube channel, and it will remain on Youtube permanently. When you upload your video, your name and the name of the class will be included. Therefore, don’t do anything you don’t want online ten years from now! (But don’t be too inhibited either… you still need to make your video interesting.) The audience is for people who speak English, but it could be equally for Koreans, non-Koreans who are native speakers of English, and non-Koreans who are non-native speakers of English.But your audience will be primarily people who already live in Korea, and are looking for something different and interesting to do in their spare time, besides the usual (going to a regular old coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or movie).

#5. Your video will be completely legal. That is, you will not use copyrighted material — such as songs — in your video. If you want free, public domain or creative commons music have a look at Jamendo or any other Creative Commons/Podsafe music website.  If your video does use copyrighted material of any kind, it will automatically be counted as an unsuccessful attempt and you will have to try again (or cut the copyrighted material and replace it).

#6. Your video will be between 8-10 minutes long, and should not become boring within those 10 minutes. Lots of Korean TV shows spend an hour on a single kind of food or restaurant, so I’m pretty sure you can figure out how to get 8-10 minutes about a cool, interesting place.

#7. Your video will include information on how to get to the place, using a system English-speakers will be comfortable with. (For example, Google Maps, or walkthrough showing how to get there on a map, or even a series of landmarks and spoken directions.) You’re not just introducing a place, you’re also helping people go to that place!

Purpose: This project forces you to:

  • think creatively about verbal presentation in a multimedia project
  • research about unusual places in Korea
  • research what your imagined English-speaking audience (of people living in Korea)
  • present the place you have chosen in an interesting way to a diverse, English-speaking audience.
  • produce a multimedia project for the same audience
  • upload it to a permanent medium (ie. consider self-presentation in English)
  • spread real information to real people on fun and interesting places, in order to help people enjoy their free time

Evidence: The video you upload to Youtube will serve as your evidence in this case.


The core of this challenge is to get someone to speak in English with you, with whom you normally talk but with whom you never speak in English. You must suddenly, while speaking with a friend in Korean (or your native language, for non-Koreans) start speaking in English in the middle of conversation. The conversation must not end until you have satisfied all the rules and conditions below:Rules:

#1. The friend must not “good at English” (by your judgment, and to your knowledge).  #2. The friend should be a close friend, if not your best friend.

#3. You must speak in English for at least 5 minutes, about something that is relatively important to both of you. 

#4. Your friend must also speak with you in English, however basic, even if it is only a few words or sentences. It must, in other words, be a conversation.
#4. You must not let your friend realize that this is some kind of assignment until a day after the conversation. 

Purpose: This is an experiment in learning about communicating with, and leading a natural conversation in English with, someone who is not fluent in the language. It will help us to learn how to handle the conversation with a non-native speaker of English , and can be really fun too! Finally, it will give you ideas about how to fit English into your daily life.

Evidence: Record the conversation if possible.  (Tip: Some people have figured out how to record a conversation conducted using a VOIP program, like Skype.) No sooner than a day after the conversation, videorecord an interview with your friend about the conversation. Ask them how they felt, what it was like to talk to you in English, and so on.


The core of this challenge is to set up a date for yourself with a non-native speaker of English — optimally, a foreign student, but the person doesn’t need to be a student.  You will go on an actual first date with this person, and fulfill all of the Rules below:


#1. During the date, you will speak in English with this person. You may use Korean words only in reference to foods or drinks, or to answer a question like, “How do I say ________ in Korean?” But you will switch the conversation to English as soon as possible. (If the person really wants to speak in Korean, promise them you’ll do so next time.)

#2. The person you go on a date with must be from a non-English speaking country, and must also be a nonnative speaker of English.

#2. The date must include at least two hours together involving real, actual human interaction. (Going to a movie, or going to the karaoke room, or clubbing in a noisy place where you can’t hear each other, does not count towards these two hours. You can do karaoke, but you must also spend time talking besides this.)

#3. You should not mislead the person, but you must not reveal that the date is a homework assignment. You may (if you choose) do so no sooner than a day after the date. Or maybe you’ll want to go on another date, and you can talk about it then! (Hahaha!) But try to make the date “authentic” in the sense that you’re acting like you normally would on a first date or blind date… or, well, maybe a little more relaxed than that, if you can.

#4. If you are asking the person out on the date, you are obligated to pay for at least part of it, or perhaps all of it. So think carefully about what you can afford: going for coffee, climbing Wonmi Mountain, or sharing a beer by the Han River on a Wednesday evening are all fine. The point is the interaction.

#5. You should make the date yourself. Approach the person, and invite them out. Be confident!

Purpose: This exercise is an interesting experience. It will offer you the chance to:

  • talk to a stranger
  • make plans (and keep them)
  • ask someone out on a date in a foreign language (not easy!)
  • sustain a conversation with the person for several hours
  • overcome timidity
  • make a new friend, or meet someone cute

Evidence:  You will take a picture together — or multiple pictures, maybe? — and submit it, along with a Date Report. The Date Report should be at least 500 words long and include the following:

  • an explanation of the itinerary of the date
  • a discussion of what was easy or difficult about talking with a non-native speaker of English
  • reflections on cultural differences in terms of dating culture
  • reflections on how you felt during the conversation
  • any other observations you wish to include


The core of this challenge sounds simple… but it isn’t. You need to be funny, in English, in a video that you will upload to a Youtube channel created specifically for this purpose. (Note: I did not receive the last challenge from students. I have created this challenge to fill the space left by one group that failed to submit a challenge to me on time.)


#1. Your video must be funny enough to make your professor laugh at least 3 times out loud when watching it. This may take more than one try, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t succeed right away. And remember, humor is different in different languages and cultures. For example, Korean humor often falls flat for North Americans, as does some French humor. Have a look around on Youtube to see if you can get a better sense of what people think is funny in English.

#2. You can delete videos that fail to succeed. However, if you do eventually create a video that succeeds in making your professor laugh three times, it will remain permanently online. (If deleted before the grade submission date, you will not be counted as having fulfilled the challenge.)

#3.  The funniness can include — but must not be limited to — physical humor. (That is, you can use slapstick as part of your humor, but you must also include verbal humor.)

#4. You are expected to be creative. For example, you could script a weird mini-dialog or mini-dramatizations like this videoblogger or you can be very sarcastic like this one (you might not find this particular video funny… I don’t find all his videos funny, but this one is both political and funny to me). You could write and perform your own song and music video like these guys, or do a funny drama like this one (or a few of the bananaloft videos). Do whatever you think will be funny, but be creative and use your skills. (For example, if you’re a better writer than you are speaker, write a script and play a smaller part. Then submit a copy of the script as part of the fulfillment of this challenge.)

#5. As with challenge #2, your video will be completely legal. That is, you will not use copyrighted material — such as songs — in your video. If you want free, public domain or creative commons music have a look at Jamendo or any other Creative Commons/Podsafe music website.  If your video does use copyrighted material of any kind, it will automatically be counted as an unsuccessful attempt and you will have to try again (or cut the copyrighted material and replace it).

#6. There is no minimum or maximum length for your video. However, it’s unlikely that a video that is one minute long will succeed in making your professor laugh three times. (At the same time, it’s hard to be funny for 8 minutes straight without a lot of work, as you’ll see.) So the main point is: focus on quality and focus on being really funny, and making a complete experience in your video.

Purpose: Being funny is one of the greatest challenges of speaking a foreign language. Humor — especially a sense of what is funny in the other language — is one of the hardest skills to develop in another language, but the internet presents you with a lot of resources for developing this skill. You will also have to use your English creatively and in ways you normally don’t, which is great practice.

Evidence: The video you upload to Youtube will suffice as the primary evidence of your completing this task. If you have other materials to submit, such as a script for your drama (only necessary if you wrote it yourself or have a smaller part in the video but still were its main “creator”), then feel free to submit a hard copy (printed out, not by email) to your professor.