Monday, March 28, 2005

Bybee Fall Down And Go Boom :-(

Since this blog is about my love for reading, I really need to use it to address my frustration with myself about my Korean illiteracy.

I've been in Korea over 4 months now, and I've dragged my feet on learning to read. One of my co-workers said that he'd teach me in 5 minutes. Have I been to his office yet to take him up on his offer? Uh, no.

When I was at the bookstore in Daegu last Friday, I bought a book/tape set called SURVIVAL KOREAN. This set presents the learning of Korean (both written and speaking) as easily and gently as any newbie could want it. The author is a native speaker of English that learned all this as an adult, which should make me gung-ho from sheer inspiration.

The author of SURVIVAL KOREAN has been zealous about 'filling in the gaps' that other language books miss. You couldn't want a more user-friendly book. After thumbing through the book, and a cursory look at Lesson One, have I returned to it? Have I popped the tape in my cassette player? Hell, no. For what did I plunk down 21,000 won?

Korean is one of the easiest writing systems to learn. There are 24 characters, and they can only be pronounced in one way. I need to learn to read. I have to be able to get by. I cannot go around asking like a 4-year-old, "What does this say?" So far, I can read two things: the characters that spell out 'milk' and the characters that spell out 'pharmacy'. That's shameful, after four months!

What is this hard kernel lodged in me that is blocking me from getting on the stick and beginning the learning process? What does this foot-dragging mean? If I'd just sit down and begin, I know I could do it, but there's a wall of resistance that I have to break down, first. I don't even know why the damn wall is there! I know I must learn to read Korean! I'll be happy when my life is easier because I can read! It'll be *cool* when I can read Korean! It'll be fun, showing off my newest literary skill!

I can't figure myself out. Am I hoping it'll sink in by osmosis? (At 43, that's not the way I'm going to get the language. Language-learning is a problem-solving task once you get past puberty.) Am I intimidated because the alphabet is so different than English? Is my pride messing with me? I'm a damn word goddess in English! Is it that I can't stand being anything less, so I don't want to try at all?

I'm so angry at myself, and I'm hoping that soon I'll become too stressed from cognitive dissonance and too irritated with my own ignorance and reluctance and that all of that will propel me out of my paralysis and cause me to break down this stupid wall I've either built or allowed to come up. It's got to come down soon. Every day the damn thing gets thicker and I get more and more paralyzed.

For 2 years in grad school, when I was working on my M.A. in Teaching English As A Second Language, I spent hours and hours reading about the language-learning process, and in classes, we read and discussed various case studies. I'm trying to think back on some of them that included reluctant or unsuccessful learners. What I'm remembering most are the successful adult learners, their drive and determination.

That should be me.
I'm really ashamed.

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