September 27, Language

I felt a cold creeping up on me last Saturday which also happened to mark the midpoint of perhaps the most stressful two weeks in a long, long time. Immigration inconsistency (again), politics in my home country, personal relationships, identity, school exams all formed the least delicious ice cream sundae.

The cold finally reared its head Friday and I decided to heed the old advice and just rest. No gym, no sightseeing, no guilt. By Sunday night, I felt replete with an energy I hadn’t had in weeks.

Is this what it feels like to be well rested? I could feel this way every day?? My god.

Friday afternoon in spite of my burning eyes I went to campus to retrieve my student ID and meet my incomprehensibly tall German classmate with whom I doused fiery rhetoric about US politics. As a European he was both well informed and sympathetic.

As I nibbled through my second cafe cookie he told me that I was really good at Korean. And he “wasn’t just saying it like Koreans tend to say all the time to foreigners who can manage one 안녕하세요.”

“So how much do you study?”

Oh boy. There was no easy way to put it except:

“I don’t.”

Aside from doing assigned homework I don’t actively study. Even when I was at the inarguably more challenging Hankuk University I didn’t study because four hours of coursework plus another hour or two of homework was preparation enough. Not to mention there we had to write and memorize eight minute speeches in Korean…

“Oh. I study every day. I’ll probably study over the holiday for our exam.” He added almost sadly.

I know I should study for the midterm. If I get top marks I can get a scholarship for next semester, and I’m all about a bargain.

No matter the language I’ve almost always gotten the highest grade in the class, and with little effort. Language is the only thing I’m good at without trying and in this day and age that values STEM over all else, I’m not quite sure what to do with it.

I know its important, look at Uhura! Or the Star Trek episode where one alien race speaks only in historical metaphors so the crew’s mechanical translators didn’t work. Or Amy Adams’s character in Arrival.

I suppose there’s something to say in that language ability only seems to be valued in SciFi.

Should I be pursuing translation work? Should I be working in linguistic academia? Or should I assume this talent is like a side hustle, useful for bragging but shameful as a full time career?

I just know I like it. And I’m good at it, somehow.

For the brief time during training and my visa run to Japan, my mouth missed speaking Korean. Forming syllables and molding the trickier or more delicate consonants. I imagine I’ll be especially bereft when I’m in America for two weeks without a single double consonant to keep me company.

Shall I schedule a tutoring session for my long distance relationship?

Surely I’m not the only one who can miss a language like a lover.

Tomorrow we meet again for four hours and I’m sure the love will be strained. Our love will definitely be tested during the midterm.

But last it shall.

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