Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tongue Tied hasseyo

I've been trying to learn korean but I'm afraid that like most projects I undertake, I am running out of motivational steam. Mostly because, whine whine WHINE...IT"S HARD!!!! My sweet friend carolynn has been ushering me through a children's fairy tale about a princess weaver and I am SOOOOO frustrated because not only can I not understand a thing that I am "reading" in the anime style book, I can't really pronounce anything either and I DON'T EVEN LIKE WEAVER PRINCESSES! (By the way, the word only slightly means princess...it probably has 12 other meanings that I can't comprehend with my american pea brain...)

The other night C and I met at Salt Lake Roasting company and it took me 1 1/2 hours to read 5 lines. Not even a whole page. It's really and truly humbling to feel so completely inept at something that I've been so amazingly attached to my whole life. Words have created the bulk of my identity. When I was a gawky, socially retarded pre-teen, I drowned my sorrows in babysitter club books, saving up my money and buying 4 books at a time and reading them all within 2 days. I was the annoying kid who corrected your grammar and knew the meaning of the word "erudite" on standardized tests. I had(have?) a massively evil tongue and used words to fight, hurt, comfort, define...They have always been my main mode of power. And in a new, distant language I am powerless. I am quiet. I am small. I feel useless. I can't even tell you what happens to the weaver princess let alone write poetry and express my personality effectively.

I was walking home on South Temple reading the signs on buildings the other day and I realized that I have been taking all this reading for granted. In less than two months, I won't be able to easily read ANYTHING.

I realize that all this thinking about language is a luxury. There are millions who can not read even their first language let alone a second one. There are refugees who are thrust by violence into new cultures and new languages with new alphabets every moment. They learn because they must to survive. Mine is certainly not such a dire situation, but I have goals...I want to be IN korean culture as much as possible and that means learning the language. sigh. I guess it also means ingesting a huge piece of humble pie and adopting a more tenacious attitude about my linguistic pursuits... (it also means using as many of my big words as possible before being reduced to hand gestures and grossly exaggerated facial expressions to match my monosyllabic grammar..."must...have...drink...gim chi...is....make...me...dead!!!!")

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

For me, in France, the two most frustrating things were

1) Not being able to express my thanks for the generosity of people. I got there right before Christmas, with all the parties and gift giving, and could only say, "Merci," nothing more to really describe how wonderful the food, music, company, thoughtfulness, etc were.

2) Feeling stupid. I think I'm fairly smart and know a lot of words and appreciate the subtle differences in meaning and like to choose appropriately. But I was limited to saying things were nice, cool, pretty, sad, happy... you get the idea, just the boring basics, the mundane words of the common people, the non-English minors.

But the good news is, people are kind, people are intuitive, and you are touchy and expressive. They will feel your excitement and love in your actions

Anonymous said...

I can relate to Ansley's experience. I had a hard time communicating my personality in German. Eventually I found other ways to communicate. I used music a lot too-- It was easier for me to practice another language through singing words and listening to others sing in that language.

Tamara said...

Thank goodness you at least know how to speak English. That's more than I can say for most people in the states! :)
Good luck with the Korean! I'd like to learn some myself, so let me know how it goes in a few months.
Also, think about talking to Ruthie. She picked up Czech pretty well after a while. GOOD LUCK!

Anonymous said...

Oh, chica -- you are brave. One of my fantasies from childhood was being shipwrecked on an island and being the only one in the group of survivors who could speak the local tribal language. I would imagine the awe and profound respect in the eyes of my fellow castaways as I obtained food and shelter from the natives who would otherwise have eaten us for dinner. I would then be offered the Chief's hunky warrior son for my husband, and then...

Alas, I did not inherit the linguistic gifts of my mother, who teaches Spanish and French and studies Hebrew. I did well in my Spanish classes, but none of it "stuck" and when I went to Tijuana with friends I was almost useless to them. And then there's my ill-fated foray into Arabic. Oy. Cringe.

But you will triumph, because you have a concrete, practical use for your new language, and you will be living around native speakers. That is the key. As well as being adventurous -- you've got that in spades.

lumina said...

The key to learning Korean is a Korean Namja Chingu....

we'll get you one of those and then you will be all set baby!