G.O.A.’L offers Korean language scholarships to a variety of universities located in Seoul. Today I am happy to bring you an interview I conducted with a recipient of G.O.A.’L’s Korean language scholarship for the Spring 2016 term. Below is Part 2 of the interview:

Kyunghee Textbooks 
What unique challenges do you think adoptees face with learning Korean? Attending language school? What personal challenges have you faced with learning Korean and what challenges do you think you will face with language school?

[Adoptee Challenge] Many non-adopted people assume that learning Korean might be easier as an adoptee, or at least the same for everyone. I personally think the other way around is more common. The expectation others might have since we are ethnically Korean, the experiences related to adoption, identity issues, and the expectations we as Korean adoptees might have towards ourselves, makes it more difficult. It's not the same as a foreigner who travels to an exciting unknown country.

Besides the obvious challenge of memorizing vocabulary and mastering grammar, it can be more intense as an adoptee. Learning Korean (again) and living in Korea is, for friends I've spoken to and for me, a bigger challenge than any other language or country. And not to mention searching for you birth family as well as the lingering hope of reunification.

[Personal challenge] Some people asked me if it's easier for me to study Korean. I would say I was never highly skilled in learning foreign languages. Although I'm fluent in two languages, and can speak two more a little bit, I would say I’ve always had a hard time learning languages and was not blessed with being overwhelmingly talented.

I studied Japanese and Korean at university 7 years ago, but I exmatriculated, because I thought I was not good enough and it was too hard for me. I also struggled a lot with my major being Japanese; I was so frustrated because I could not memorize the Kanji. Back then, I was never exposed to any spoken Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, besides the 3-4 weeks during my first trip back to Korea. I was not even able to distinguish between Korean and Japanese, which is a bit embarrassing to admit. I silently hoped would magically remember some Korean as well.

What are you most looking forward at language school? What should adoptees look forward to at language school?

I'm looking forward to finally starting for real! I’m looking forward to studying and actually speaking Korean amongst people who are also not good at speaking Korean yet. It takes a lot of pressure off when you know that even with your Korean face, people don’t expect you to be perfect. I hope I will get good teachers and friendly classmates. I like that my class will be diverse with many students from different countries.

What are your feelings about studying at language school? Excited/Nervous?

Both, of course! I'm a bit worried that everyone else in my class is really young. I hope there will be some older students as well. But right now I'm more excited than nervous.

How do you plan on managing your time now that you will have language school, homework, and studying to do? Do you have any obligations outside of language school?

I didn't make a study plan; I will just do my homework every day, review material and/or vocabulary I didn't fully understand, and review everything on the weekend. But one day of the weekend I will do absolutely nothing and relax. Unless it's the weekend before midterms or finals. That is the ideal situation. But so far studying by myself has not been too bad. So, I will do it!

What motivates you to learn Korean?

For me it's just one part of my whole identity. That might be the main reason. Another reason is the slight hope of being able to talk in Korean in the case I would ever be able to find my biological family members. And, also living in Korea now, which I plan to do comfortably as long as possible, just requires to me to learn it properly.

Anything else you would like to add/share?

 

In my opinion, doing a language program here in Korea is a good thing. As I said already: being surrounded by Korean language once you step outside your room is a big plus. You can try to use what you learn in your daily life and while making friends.

What I also like is that there are so many Korean adoptees here who are also studying Korean. You can study together, encourage each other, or share your frustrations with studying Korean language. In general, I feel more comfortable sharing some feelings with other close adoptees. Even if you struggle, there are so many other adoptees who feel just the same and you can support each other by listening. I feel less embarrassed to admit how hard Korean is for me. It helps to know there are some people you can talk with about it and they understand without questioning you and wondering what exactly is the problem. You don't have to hear comparisons to other people of other countries who were so quick to learn Korean and are so good at it now. And of course your friends will encourage you and tell you that you can do it.

But learning Korean in Korea is just different. You have a different support system. In the end: you, yourself must have the time and diligence to give your best. But anyway there are many good people here and many who will be willing to help and encourage you in a positive way.

With that being said I also want to thank Kyung Hee University and G.O.A.'L for giving me the scholarship: Thank you. I hope the scholarship program will continue in the future.

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I would like to thank our scholarship recipient for participating in this interview and sharing her thoughts about studying Korean.
For more information regarding G.O.A.’L’s Korean language scholarships please visit: https://www.goal.or.kr/content/korean-language-study-scholarships

 
  • Adjusting to Korean Life - Starting Language School (Interview Part 2)-0

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