Starring Frankie the Cat

Opening the Window on Foreign Languages

  • March 23, 2020
  • Blog
  • 2 Comments

I’ve always sucked at foreign languages. Really, truly sucked. Seven years of Hebrew, two or three years of French, and the result is the same. I can say my prayers and offer a weak bonjour if I need to, but that’s about it.

Until the past few years. I decided to learn ASL, American Sign Language. Since I’m hard-of-hearing, I thought it would be a good language to work on. I was making decent headway but decided to change schools to a closer location and then the school I chose lost their teacher and things kinda fell by the wayside.

But it made me feel good that there was finally a language I could learn. Last month while in the public library, I was able to communicate with a deaf woman for a couple of minutes and it was so cool. I told her I was a beginner in ASL and to please sign slowly and she laughed and complied. It created a connection that was evident when she needed to use the restroom and signed to me, asking if I’d watch her laptop for a few minutes and I signed back that I’d watch it for her, no problem.

Inwardly I was bouncing like a cartoon bunny on caffeine.

Which brings me to the next language, the one that usually stops people in their tracks when I tell them I’m learning to read in it: Korean.

Why Korean? Well, long story short, I was reading a webtoon in English but it stopped translating halfway through the story. If I wanted to read the rest, I’d need to read it in the original language. Korean.

I had no clue what that would mean. I knew that Chinese and Japanese had thousands of characters, but I plowed ahead to discover what learning would entail.

Imagine my shock when I discovered that Korean has twenty-four letters. Twenty-four. I could do twenty-four. (And there were a lot of free resources online to help before I decided to buy books and apps.)

It’s been a year since I started, and more often than not, I’ve NOT been studying. But I’m enjoying the journey of it stress-free. I’ll get there when I get there. In the meantime, watching k-dramas with English subtitles and listening to k-pop has added to the fun. Learning about different folktales and cultural meanings is a breath of fresh air to a former Lit major whose concentration was Shakespearean comedies.  It’s a challenge and it feels like a window opening inside my head and letting something new rev me up.

Right now, all of us can use something like that.

2 Comments
  • Patricia Mcleod Levinton • March 23, 2020 at 7:41 am

    What an interesting and enjoyable read. It was just what I needed during these stressful daily news reads.

  • J. M. Levinton • March 23, 2020 at 10:57 pm

    Aww, thank you!

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