Is there anything more humbling than the first day of a two week Korean language class? I think not. Dredging up words, phrases and patterns last used more than 35 years ago had me scratching my head. I experienced brain freeze a few times. I stumbled over words that once flowed smoothly. The folded recesses of my brain hid some simple words, releasing them only when I had thoroughly embarrassed myself.
I even had to fill in the blanks in a workbook—was I back at school? Short answer: yes. Did I make mistakes? You bet. Did I feel like an idiot? Most certainly. Three hours of Korean language classwork had me exhausted and wondering if I learned much of anything. I had decided, in advance, to undertake one-on-one language lessons but now I wonder if that was the right decision. It’s nice to share the attention of the teacher—that is, let others make the mistakes which I can then learn from.
Tomorrow I will start all over again.
I had decided that the best way for me to retain my sanity was to have my afternoons dedicated to exploring Gwangju and the surrounding areas—to be outside. I’m fortunate to have a Korean colleague, from my time working in Tanzania, living here in Gwangju. Her brother is on leave and will be going with me on my afternoon jaunts--and working on my conversation. For our first day we went to the old Gwangju Jeonnam Provincial Office, which has been turned into a cultural centre and park tied to the Gwangju Uprising of 1980. It was the second humbling experience of the day—being in the centre of the uprising of 39 years ago. More on this in future blogs.
My afternoon compatriot is a Korean language teacher in a high school. He looked over my workbook (yeah, I felt like a little kid) he commented that it was quite difficult. I had to agree. Of course, deep down I know that my ability to pick up the language is not what it used to be and the workbook will likely always be difficult. Koreans are hooked on a coffee culture and my attempt to get a “coffee” was met with incomprehension. If you want a cup of (plain) coffee you have to ask for an Americano. There are other new words, many also just taking on the English word. I tried to sound out a word I did not know (in ta beu), totally blanked, looked it up in my dictionary and saw: “interview”. What
an idiot. I suspect that this week and next I will have many more opportunities to flub, fumble, and forget.
Should be fun.