It must make sense to everyone in the world that without speaking a common tongue, two people will never truly be able to understand each other on a deeper level. This is how the world works on every level, from math and science to verbal language and physical expression. Sidestepping this fact of life would require complete manipulation of how the universe allows living creatures to absorb and present information and knowledge. So if this fact is so set in stone, so concrete to our understanding of human boundaries, how come I never truly realized the full implications of being in a society where your primary language is almost never spoken? I'm now clearly aware of how different social life is when placed in this position and I've decided that for me personally, language is the ultimate barrier to almost every single issue that can exist in an individual's lifespan. From their relationships to their success, to their social life and the experience they have within the community they reside in; if language can be conquered, then there is little doubt they will ascend far beyond what they otherwise would have. If two people do not speak the same primary language, they will never know the other's true personality. Whether that person is a funny person, a sarcastic person. Whether or not that person gets along with their own peers and co-workers. How that person feels about the other and if there is any attraction or repulsion in any way. And if the other is a person in general could or would be considered a friend. A connection on a deeper level can not be made until at least a portion of the language boundaries are chipped away and shattered, more and more words understood and less and less confusion hanging in the air between sentences, both brains rapidly firing to translate the other's meaning. Teacher-to-student, coworker-to-coworker, new friend-to-friend, boy-to-girl and man-to-woman. They are all in the exact same box with the exact same ceiling that hovers like a mist over the room, rarely altering its height and forever weighing down upon the air it provides. The only way to raise that ceiling is through a slow, lingering process. A painstaking daily practice regimen that takes time and effort and will leave many hanging in despair, especially those beyond their teenage years, when the assimilation of a new way of thinking is cloudy and vague, the clarity of youth having been washed from their synapses many years before. To become fluent in another language literally requires you to re-route the way your brain processes any and all information. It's a warping of the roots of data that you have have been feeding on your entire life. Sure, you can learn the language and all of it's words and all of it's grammar rules - and that may only take a year or two for some. But what about the sarcasm? What about the jokes? What about the slang and regional dialects? What about the true intentions of certain words that have been socially constructed to hide a more internal meaning? These can, of course, be conquered as well. But it must take some people decades to reach that point of complete mastery. Tone and intention can often be lost even in the most mastered second-language learners. Unless you have been bi-lingual from the start, it's possible one could never rise to understand such complex aspects. Without these kinds of crucial concepts in place, it becomes extremely hard to reach the same level between individuals that could occur if those two had spoken the exact same primary language from the start. It can definitely happen. and I've seen best friends, lovers, and larger cliques all come together with amazing success between two different native speakers. But it will still remain true that unless the language barrier is stripped away fully, there will always remain at least a small percentage of meaning and understanding that shall be caught in the atmosphere of doubt and the flow of the breeze and disappear forever. I think the way I've phrased most of this in my head up until recently (and probably on this page through words) has had a slightly dark and sad connotation to it. But that's not the case. In fact, I'm starting to believe it's completely the opposite. Being placed into an intense position where I speak very little of the native language around me has put my brain and my non-verbal communicative skills into overdrive. Am I making a deep literal connection with my Korean peers and students around me, to where I could speak with them about the meaning of life or about our thoughts on world peace, war, politicians, religions, or science? No, I'm not, and it possibly wouldn't happen for another few years. But am I making friends with those same people? Am I going out to dinner with them and their friends, and having meals and laughing with them about our students, our other coworkers, and the discrepancies of our individual cultures? Yes, I am, and it's the same deal as it was back at home in America. Just with more internal dialogue, more mental translation, and less slang and belligerence than if I was around my best friends at home. It has its pros and its cons to not yet be fluent in the surrounding language, and right now those pros are winning big time. It's a break from all the exaggeration, a break from the same mundane things I used to say over and over, and it's boosted my interest level in life to a level that has not been present since my early 20's when I first left home. The language barrier is now something that will be consistent and ever-present in my consciousness until I leave the outside world. The outside world being anywhere other than North America. Because even if I went to another English-speaking country like South Africa, I would have the exact same boundaries that I do in Korea. Regional differences in usage, slang, and intentions. They're all there in full force, as they are in every specific region of every specific country of the world. I've become an English teacher because I am a person that always wants a deeper connection with those around me. I do want to fit in while at the same time being different. I do want to understand when someone means something that isn't present on the surface. Globalization of a single second language would be one of the best things that has ever happened to humanity (Edit: I want to note that I think the conservation and proliferation of keeping of each societies primary language in-tact and in-use is still of #1 importance. The death of a language is the death of humanity). Less misunderstandings would occur between communities, more differences could be verbally settled, and less wars would be fought in the grand scheme of our human experience. It could have been any language that started to spread through the world like wildfire, and I'm lucky that it seems to be the one I speak that's blowing up in more than half of the countries on Earth. I will embrace it and make it my current mission to give as much knowledge as I can to non-speakers, so that they can have a better chance at making that deeper connection with the world around them, the one that I've always looked for, hoped for, and have striven for in everything that I do. Home isn't where the heart is. Home is where you speak the same dialect as your surrounding community.
- It Was Staring At Me In The Face
- Episode 02: Gimcheon