Friday, August 21, 2009

the Wall


The following is a response I wrote commenting on another post by a fellow adoptee blogger--Mei-Ling--regarding the issue of the language loss/barrier. For the original post, click on the title of this post:


Mei-Ling, again, I can completely relate to you regarding your frustrations and turmoil over the language barrier. I think, in part, the language difficulties are aggravated by the emotional baggage that comes along with our particular situations. There is an added, albeit somewhat insidious & private, pressure for inter-country adoptees when it comes to learning the language. It’s more to us than simply learning a language–there is also so much emotional complexity wrapped up with it. It feels almost like a life & death situation…we’re not simply trying to learn our way through a foreign country. We’re trying to connect with our own flesh & blood…we’re longing to know from whom we came and why…we desperately ache to share in a depth of connection with the people who gave us life, and yet it constantly eludes us…


I think, perhaps, deep within, we understand that unless we can grasp the language, our relationships with our biological family members will remain stagnant and shallow. And obviously, people like you and me write a lot–so language is a primary way in which we emotionally connect with others.


Hence, stunted language abilities probably make us feel inordinately suffocated and stifled…I don’t mean to be presumptuous, however…but I know for me, the loss of language has grieved me more than I initially anticipated.


I broke down in tears the other day when I was trying to write letters to my Omma and Appa–feeling so frustrated that I cannot speak with them directly, that I have to rely on translators, that I can’t just pick up the phone and have a conversation with them like I can with my Mom & Dad.


There are no words that adequately describe how intense the loss feels. It seems so ludicrous and ironic that I can basically have a deeper, more meaningful conversation with a stranger than I can with my own flesh and blood. Emotionally that’s quite devastating–at least for me.


I do realize that different adoptees deal with the reunion process in their own ways. I have another friend who has reunited with her biological mother in Korea, and the language barrier has not had the same effect on her as it has me. Yet my friend still expresses a compassion and understanding regarding the language loss. I think it also helps that one of her sisters speaks enough English that they can have conversations…


Anyhow, sorry, this is a long “comment.” But I just really appreciate and relate to you. The language loss is proving to be one of the more profound losses for me personally, and one that I know will not be easily surmounted.


I hope that I will be able to live in Korea one day, because I know that’s the only way and hope I’ll ever have of gaining even a basic grasp of the language. But ultimately, and quite ironically, in this case, it is not easier said nor easier done…rather it is both harder said and harder done…

Thank you again for all that you share…

5 comments:

Mei-Ling said...

"Hence, stunted language abilities probably make us feel inordinately suffocated and stifled…"

Yes.

Harmony said...

Melissa, you probably already know this, but GT offers 6 semesters of Korean language courses (you are still in GA, right?). I know the professor personally, and if you'd like I can get you in touch with her. After 4 semesters, I can now hold decent conversations with my in-laws. A lot of the students in my class were Koreans or half Koreans who grew up in the US and know almost none of the language.

I know that's not exactly the point of this post, so forgive me for hijacking. But if you ever need someone to practice your Korean with, let me know.

Melissa said...

Oh my gosh..Harmony...oh, man, how I wish we lived in Atlanta! We are still in GA but we're way out in the "country"...too far to commute to GT, that's for sure...

But wow, you give me hope...seriously? You can hold a decent conversation with your in-laws after only 4 semesters of Korean classes at GT?

Oh dear God, if I could move back to ATL pronto and enroll right now, I totally would! Dang it.

Where I currently live there are no such resources. I tried taking a class at a Korean church but it just wasn't that helpful beyond teaching me the basics of the alphabet and some vocab.

I really wish that we were living in Atlanta now! Although you put me to shame, Harmony...smile, wink...at least there's hope for me...?

Harmony said...

If you know a bit of vocab and the alphabet, it's a good start. From what I understand, Korean school at the churches isn't really geared toward someone like us who didn't grow up with a Korean family.

My Korean comprehension really started taking off when I started watching Korean tv online. Sites like mysoju.com and dramafreak.tv link to Korean tv with English subtitles. Watching a full drama - all 24 hours of it, or whatever - with the English subtitles helped me learn the vocabulary that was important to the particular drama, and it helped me get used to the flow of the language.

And by decent conversation... well, I'm much better over email (my Korean courses emphasized learning how to use a Korean keyboard) when I can take my time to think about the words I want to use, and when I can go to my online Korean dictionary when I'm unsure. But yes, after 2 years of Korean classes I can make myself understood and understand most of what's said back to me on few topics. Especially when it comes to food and babies. ;-)

kyungmee said...

I have taught myself Korean over the years and my husband tells me I know more than I let others think. I totally agree with your comments. It's very sad and fustrating to know that I feel it is 'the key' to acceptance into the culture. people, and utimately my 'korean family'. It is definately 'the wall' that keeps me wondering the what if's to my life and situation.