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Blog Article: Language Predicaments

Around a month ago, I was getting home by subway when I saw a family of foreigners struggling to get through the subway gate. My first instinct was to leave them be and let them figure it out with the person working at the information desk, but my attention slowly turned towards them. Looking closely at them, I could make out an overweight man, a curvaceous woman, and 2 scrawny little boys. The man was standing in between the gates, as if undecided as to which way to proceed. The woman was speaking in halting English to the Information man, who seemed to be turning redder each second. The two children were cowering behind their mother as if she could block them from the unfamiliar new world called Korea.

While observing them, I realized how fortunate I was to have grown up in the United States, where I naturally learned to speak English, a universal language today, whereas this family seemed to speak very little English. However, the Information man seemed to speak very little English as well. Being fluent in Korean as well, I commenced to approach the family and ask if I could assist them. Relieved, they agreed, and I acted as a translator between them.

I found out that the family was from Sri Lanka and that they were looking for the Sri Lankan Embassy. Recognizing that I had seen it on my route home a couple of times, I offered to guide them to the Embassy. The woman and I made conversation on the way there, while the males in the family trudged sluggishly behind us. After we reached the Embassy, even the silent man and children smiled and gave me their heartfelt thanks and requested my email address. I understood that this was the reason that I loved to help people; I got a feeling of gratification from observing how I changed their bad day into a good one.

After parting ways, I realized how much I wished that someone had reached out a hand to me when I was new to Korea as well. I remembered my bitter memories from the summer of 2011, the first time I set foot on Korean land since I left when I was 1. Since I looked completely Korean, the general public didn't believe that I had trouble speaking Korean and instead snickered and made mean comments about my being a disgrace to Korea. Because I've been through these difficulties myself, I hope that in the future, people will learn to embrace the differences of the frustrated people in foreign countries and learn more about their cultures and backgrounds before judging their behavior or difficulties.