I’ve always wished I could speak Korean. Throughout my school years, I took Spanish classes, and I bitterly resented the fact that I wasn’t learning Korean — that my Spanish (elementary though it is) is so much better than my Korean. Being a Korean adoptee was central to my identity, and the fact that I didn’t know Korean was especially hard to handle in my early high school years.
I’ve studied bits of Korean on and off since middle school — language lessons through my Korean dance group, Korean language immersion camp, studying on my own, having a friend tutor me my senior year in high school — but it’s never been nearly enough. I considered taking Korean at U Penn in college, but the schedule was more of a commitment than I was willing to make (I would have basically had to arrange my entire schedule around that class for as long as I took it).
Even now, upon unexpectedly hearing Korean, a wave of longing washes over me, and I’m reminded how desperately I wished to know Korean when I was younger. It’s not as intense as it was before, but it can still throw me off-balance.
Spanish, however, I’ve studied for years, ending with my freshman year at Bryn Mawr. When I hear it now, it makes me wish I were fluent, and I consider studying it again. It could be useful, and I feel as though I’m so close. I think in Spanish, sometimes — just little bits and phrases, words, but enough that I can imagine myself actually learning enough to have legitimate conversations. I’ll read instructions in Spanish or the editor’s letter in the beginning of the magazine when I’m on Southwest flights, and I have a podcast that I download — whatever bits of Spanish I can find. I’ve used my understanding of Spanish at work occasionally, and it makes me smile to realize that I’ve retained more than I’d thought.
Frankly, I think languages are fascinating. Magically knowing other languages — proper grammar and slang, when to use which form in terms of formality, how to read and write, as well as speak and comprehend — would be one of the coolest super powers I can think of. In terms of actually putting in the effort to learn another language, however, Korean and Spanish are the only ones I’ve ever cared about enough to truly study.