Korean Korner

I’m a Genius, I Swear!

It is difficult for the average human to learn another language. It is even more difficult for a creative writer to learn another language. And I’m not saying this with scientific research to back me up, but just with some experience.

The largest difficulty comes from simple sentence building. I have learned basic greetings and other average needs, like telling time and… yeah, that’s mostly it. But I struggle a lot when it comes to even making a sentence. When my tutor tells me to make ten sentences using a specific particle, I know I’m going to be in for hours of work. And it’s not because it’s difficult to write in Korean, but because it’s difficult to even write sentences that are not too complex for my current skills.

In English if I were to be asked to describe a tree in as much detail as possible, I would do it like so:

The tree stood firmly at the top of the hill, four grown-men taller than I could ever hope to be. Many branches reached out towards the western sky which was reflected in the lake below. It’s leaves were currently a vibrant green, as if the tree was still in its youth, but everyone in the town knew that inside the tree were hundreds of rings-worth of wisdom that had watched over everyone as they grew.

This is something very comfortable to describe in English for me. And my Korean abilities are as follows:

나무는 키가 크고 강핬어요. 예쁜 푸른 잎 있었어요.

And that translates to: “The tree was tall and strong. It had pretty, green leaves.”

Or at least I hope that’s what it says. I’m fairly certain the second sentence is incorrect in some way, and that is exactly the point, here. I find myself having to simplify the way I think and write a lot, which always makes me thing of a famous Sophia Vegara quote.


I am incredibly smart in English, but I’m not sure I will ever be able to convince a Korean that in their native language. I would likely be in my late 40s before I am anywhere near as fluent as I’d want to be. And at that stage it would be questionable as to whether my seeming intelligence came from my language skills or just my matured age.

But this isn’t just about me ranting about how hard it is to express myself. I also want to say that it’s okay. To anyone reading this who is at their wits end with trying to express themselves in another language, it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to cry and be frustrated and want to give up. But don’t. Language learning is extremely difficult.

A friend of mine moved to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was in High School. She came here thinking that she had a fairly strong grasp of English, only to realize that she didn’t. And she struggled and cried and learned.

In May she graduated from college at the age of 20. And the girl is brilliant, even in English. The way her mind works is amazing and she will continue to improve. Now she is studying Japanese and wants to take classes in Japan where she will again meet with the frustration that comes from the difficulty of the language.

And that’s the silver-lining. Hard word DOES pay off. Not giving up DOES pay off. It takes a lot of time and patience, but it can be done. So keep learning, and keep moving forward.

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