Suck it up.

Well. Here I sit in a back room of the family homestead here in Texas. It's not a small house, but throughout the day, at various times, it is full to the brim with three to four little ones, two teenagers, four adults and two dogs. Getting a moment of quiet that doesn't come in the middle of the night is no simple task. And even that must remain a quiet moment. Other people still have jobs.

I knew I had it good with the two adult, two cat, three bedroom situation. But I didn't realize just how good. Of course, a full house is a different kind of good, and one I don't get to enjoy very much anymore.

At any rate, getting any kind of tangible work done has been a challenge. And blogging itself has become a different kind of challenge over the past few months (year?).

But here I am.

Last night while looking into some things with the journal, I ended up on that last unconquered form of social media, Twitter. Since the thing came out sometime in my early university years, I've been confused by it. And I think in the beginning, it was confusing. But it's come into its own now, and I think that sunk in fully for the first time as I clicked through page after page leading to page after page of small and independent bookstores and presses and artist spaces and cafes last night, a whole treasure trove of the kinds of things I've known have been going on in Seoul, but which I haven't seen any trace of, in either Korean or English. Twitter, it turns out, might be useful. Especially as the 140 characters of Korean are much easier for me to conquer than the pages and pages of it I might face otherwise.

These are the places I need to be finding. I'm not writing off big and academic publishing for the future, because those things have the widespread reach that moves culture and, perhaps more importantly, the money. But I've always been a small press person. Maybe because poetry that's not more than 30 years old mostly happens there, or maybe because it's what I was "raised" on at university. But the fact remains that you just can't access these spaces in English. You have to do it in Korean. And so I find myself piling up the motivation it will take for me to stop whining (for another stretch, anyway) about flashcards and textbooks.

But I also find myself struggling with this ongoing question and psychological block I have with the language itself, which is figuring out when it's "enough". When do I have enough Korean to try to go into these places, and how do I get enough Korean to go into these spaces comfortably without just going into them, and figuring it out? When do I have enough Korean to read poetry without translation? When will I have enough Korean to start translating? Where's the exam for these things? The certificate, or the license? When do I deserve to give myself enough credit to do these things?

Talking to a friend about the Tweeter last night (one who has been very successful in his Korean studies, as it happens) he told me the website is a great resource for improving your Korean and that makes complete sense. Obviously. But when I think of getting online and pumping out even 140 characters worth of my Korean for all the world to see, I still get a sinking feeling that says, you're not ready for that yet. You're not good enough yet. But after five years.... really? How long am I going to fall back on what is becoming more and more of a bad excuse?

Those of you who have actually been successful at second languages will know that this is the wrong way to go about it, entirely, and I know that too, as a second language teacher. But I also know myself well enough to know that this kind of thinking will be my biggest struggle over the next few years. On the one hand, this obsession I have with being fully prepared has served my progress well. I didn't go into restaurants in Korea until I could do it without using English. I didn't start taking taxis until I could do it in Korean. The mindset that no one else should have to suffer because of a shortness in my ability-- a mindset the guy I first came to Korea with also shared, leading to an interesting first six months for us-- is less a self-righteous emblem of ethics and more a crippling, shame-filled reaction on the gut level.

But I think this is just going to have to be a year of sucking it up and getting over it. Because the truth is, you don't actually find out if you can order in a restaurant in Korean until you try it.

And I won't know if I can walk into those small press offices and have a conversation until I try that.

And I'm not getting any fucking younger.


Roboseyo said...

That's the WORST -- knowing what it takes to become a successful language learner, because you've taught a language... but just feeling like 'god that's gonna be so hard/slow/time consuming/embarrassing..."

Anonymous said...