I thought it was just me. Spent more than two years in Korea, and
still, I have a tough time negotiating the streams of the Korean
language. Covered 5 levels of Korean courses, and still, I would
say my speaking skills are pitifully adolescent. What is up “there”
(in my head), which makes this so hard that blocks my tongue from
caressing over the words in the language imprinted in my blood??
Before I went to Korea, I had this hope/dream that I would wake up
REMEMBERING. It took me an entire year of immersion to have my
first “Korean dream”, it wasn’t all that exciting.

Nothing is natural. Korean rolls off my tongue as unnaturally as
the Spanish and French I learned in grammar school and HS. I
stutter often, and speak quietly, shyly, without confidence or the
articulation that I think portrays who I am. This is not the Korean that I
spoke when I strolled off the plane from Korea. Demanding! Whining!
Screaming! Asking for the bathroom, for food, for my mother! Where
has that gone? I’ve given up hope that it’s stored in any
accessible location – up there. If it’s in there, it’s deep, well sealed,
padlocked, atrophied…possibly, pushed so far into the farthest
recesses that it might as well be gone…poof!

Then, there are bright days. I’m talking to my Korean friend, we
speak Konglish, and dig deeper into more serious and convoluted
topics, harking back to our native tongues more and more, but then,
it comes out…especially as I’m talking about my feelings, about
my “마음” (ma-eum)…my “정” (chong)…I say it in Korean, because
that’s the way I feel…I can’t say it in English…but in Korean,
it articulates itself…and it’s powerful…beautiful…so
right…and she understands perfectly…tongue, mind, heart, spirit
all Korean all making sense…finally…

It’s taken me so long, and I have/want to go so much further. I can
do it, but it’s the grind that I’ve chosen…I’m embarrassed,
ashamed…I can’t speak “my” language. And then I get
mad…passionate rage. “Why do I feel so wronged?…and WHY, if my
Korean is not perfect do they look at me strange, look at me with
pity, look at me like I’m mentally handicapped…but…holy shit, a
white American, in their loud, nasal drawl horrendously mashes out a
simple, gutteral, deplorable, condescending, ‘COME-suh_HAP-ni_DA!’
they are crooned over???!!!!!” Their hedious pentamic, Romance,
Western infused mouthing of MY LANGUAGE! FUCK – THAT – !

So yeah, I will be quiet, and shy, ashamed…but when the day comes
that I speak perfectly…I will shout and scream, “내가 한국인 이
야!!! 내 말 들어봐!” (“I AM KOREAN! LISTEN TO ME!)…and maybe,
someone, someone who cares, WILL listen and croon over me…

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