Week 8: Learning to read all over again
Gwangju Travel Blog› entry 10 of 33 › view all entries
This week our Korean lessons began at the Gwangju International Center. For 60,000 Won ($70) we get a membership to the GIC and 7 weeks of lessons, two times a week for two hours each day. Our recruiter in Canada paid for our lessons so that was a bonus. We just had to shell out 8,000 Won ($9) for our workbooks.
I can't express how eager I was to begin taking Korean lessons. When we arrived in Gwangju in July we had just missed the start of the new session of Korean lessons so we had to wait until September to begin. Before coming to Korea I was very optimistic that I would learn the language quickly and that we wouldn't have too many problems overcoming the language barrier since the majority of Koreans learn English as their second language.
Despite the frustrations I've experienced so far I look at this experience as a valuable learning opportunity. I can now identify with many of my clients whom I met while I was working at the Health Department last year. It is very intimidating being in a strange new place not being able to read or speak the language. I feel very dependent on my Korean friends for just about everything. Language barriers are exactly that, barriers that have a way of isolating you from everyone around you even when you're standing in a crowded room.
I hope that over the next few months the feelings of isolation and utter dependency will fade and I will be able to embrace my knowledge (even if it's somewhat limited) of the Korean language. I do hope that our lessons will pick up the pace though or else 3 months from now I still be practicing making the vowel sounds, some of which sound exactly the same but our teacher swears that there is a difference, even if most Koreans cannot identify it. The nice part about taking Korean lessons at the GIC is that Justin and I have now met 12 other foreigners living in Gwangju. Before attending Korean lessons we met 2 other foreigners. It's so nice to be able to speak English with people that actually understand you. I have high hopes for our next 6 weeks of class; I'm determined to be able to have a basic conversation in Korean and I hope that we'll make some interesting new friends to laugh about our experiences with.