Have you ever been in South Korea and wanted to ask someone to sing karaoke with you but had no idea how?
If you’re Shaun White, Chloe Kim, gold medalists Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard or any other US snowboarder at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the answer is “no.”
All of their official team jackets have been outfitted with a seemingly nifty list of English words, phrases and sentences translated into Hangul, the Korean alphabet.
Some, like “Can you help me?” and “Do you know what time it is?”, could be critical for any Olympic athlete who happens to get lost en route to competition. Others, like “What is your zodiac sign?” and the aforementioned question about karaoke, are fun but frivolous. And others still, like “Hello, I love you!”, might only be useful for the odd Jim Morrison impersonator who happens to wind up in PyeongChang.
The bigger concern here, though, is the real-world practicality of this list — or lack thereof. What good are the translations without phonetic guides so the athletes can actually speak the words that have been translated?
Should the need arise in interactions with locals, the snowboarders could point to the pertinent phrases, but that would require opening up and/or removing their jackets. And considering the chilly temperatures at the Winter Olympics, that seems … impractical.
Even if none of those translations come in handy, there is at least one nugget of information therein that everyone on Team USA should have available: the address and phone number of the American embassy in Seoul.
That is, so long as there’s no urgent need to traverse the nearly 80 miles that separate South Korea’s capital from the site of this year’s Olympics.
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