Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My triceps are sore

Agh. This holiday shortened week is making my life a little harder than I'd like. My tutoring was pushed to today, which means I have tons of homework tonight to do before I go back tomorrow for another session, but ALL of it is really hard! I had to get another review of negations (I keep mixing up things like "I am not" and "I don't have") and learned passive voice, which is killer and completely unintuitive. I hate learning grammar that I don't even like to use. Passive voice sucks.

BUT, on my way to the post office today to mail my absentee ballot request and another residency app, I realized that I am being too much of a perfectionist about learning Korean. I'm American, so of COURSE my Korean is going to be a little off. So why do I keep beating myself up about speaking like a Korean American, if that is who I am?? I started to realize this last night while out w/Julie (we walked thru a couple of trendy neighborhoods after seeing a traditional performance at a big palace and having really good noodles): I don't expect her, a Korean-born Korean who studied English in classroom settings and spent 6 months in NYC, to speak flawless American English. And no one else in Korea seems to expect me to speak flawless Korean Korean. So why do I think I have to live up to an unreasonable standard?

This started to unravel when Julie asked me how to say in English that something is really close. The saying in Korean is something akin to, "it's right in front of my nose" (I had apologized for walking to one bus stop and then realizing I had to go to a different one down the street). I couldn't think of anything similar in English, and then thought about what I would have said if I was here. Which would have been something like, "no worries, it's like 2 secs away." And then I thought, why do I even talk like that? And it all started to unroll back into history as I tried to explain to her in Korean how people create their own very particular ways of speaking and communicating as a very direct reflection of their own identity, or the identity that they wish to assume.

She asked, "why not one second?" and I said, "I guess at some point in my life, I decided that everything would be TWO seconds...to indicate how impatient I am, but to temper it just a wee bit." I explained the same thing in relation to handwriting, about the different phases we go through while learning to write and creating our own penmanship style. Beyond the hearts that girls often used to dot their i's and j's, I remember being very deliberate about how I practiced my letters, seeing examples of how I wanted my writing to look in my teachers' notes, or later on, in letters from men that I dated, or friends that I admired. I used to never understand why teachers sometimes wrote in chicken scratch. But now I get it, and love that I can scrawl things that are only legible to me (and sometimes, not even!).

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