Learning taekwon do in Korea has been an interesting and enjoyable experience. Because of the communication problems I have relied on books to help suppliment my understanding (especially on the theortical/mechanics side of learning martial arts). It has also led to some memorable experiences.
Some of my teachers have also been interested in learning more of English. One night after class I mentioned to my sabomnim that sometimes it took me a moment to work out if he was saying left or right (my Korean isn't the best), to which he gave a sympathetic nod and said left and right with a confused look at his hands.
As a result I showed him a little trick for remembering left in English (hold your hands in front of you with your thimb sticking out, your left hand makes an'L')
A few days later we are doing punching practice and he confidently tells me 'right hand'. So I punch. He gives me look that says 'wait a minute'. He then procedes to look at his hands. After a moment he says 'Sorry, left hand'
At my previous school I was often in classes with elementary school kids. It was a lot of fun, often on Fridays we would team play games, often a soccer type game.
One of the sabomnims liked to join in and play the games as well. As a result the two teams would be 'Sabomnim team' and 'Samantha team', usually pronounced Sah-Mahn-Dah.
During one of these he games he yells out Mahn-Dah and after a moment's consideration I realise he means me. He's applied Korean culture to my name. Korean names usually have three syllables, the first being the family name, so being friendly would be using only the 2nd and 3rd syllable of someone,s full name.
To me it was quite gratifying, as it meant I was just part of the class, not the foreigner in the class.
The interesting thing was a couple of times the sabomnim would do things as if he was considering me as just someone and not a foreigner, realise what he has doing then apologize or get embarrased. The frustrating thing was I couldn't explain clearly that there was REALLY nothing to apologize for.
As a whole I have been really impressed with my instructors over here. They've faced my lack of language and emotional outbursts (the stress of being overseas seemed to come out more often when I was in tkd class) with good grace and a great deal of patience. Not to mention the fact that they have all been excellent tkd teachers.