Language!

Sorry if I gave you the idea that this whole thing was over.

I mean, to be honest, I thought it was over too. Because, you know. I basically squandered all the good ideas I had in me in the first two posts. Cynical, depressed humor is really the only thing I have on me at the moment.

But, then again, I thought. I do have things to write about (this is a big fat lie, I won’t last a week, even with the most basic ideas I have to offer). So here goes. This post won’t really need a disclaimer, unless the idea of identity and language is somehow really off-putting to any of you.

I write this blog in English. Surprise! Bet none of you noticed that one, huh. But in all seriousness, I do. And it’s a weird conscious/unconscious choice on my part.

Contrary to my mom’s opinion, I am fluent in Korean. I do believe I write and speak better in my mother tongue. I’m not particularly satisfied with either my English or Korean, since I just find myself sounding slightly off in both languages, but I find they at least get the job done. So why don’t I just write in Korean, in a language that would be easier for myself to express myself in? Not sure, actually. But I have some hunches.

First of all, I have very different friends in Korea and the states. And I’m pretty sure I’m mostly writing for my facebook friends right now. I mean I went to pretty bougie schools in both countries, but high school friends and college friends are pretty different categories, especially when that college is a super academic liberal arts college. So I can’t help but think, the ideas I have and want to write about would be better received (if received at all) by the people I know from college. Depression jokes don’t really fare well in Korea, for some reason. I wonder why…

I mean it’s really the egg or chicken question. It might be because the ideas I have were formed mostly in college and by English media, so I feel it’s natural to write about these things in English. My friend once told me that my writing seems to be “floating somewhere in the middle of a really dark sitcom, stand-up, and Zero Punctuation.” For those of you people who actually lead fruitful lives, Zero Punctuation is a very “expressive” (I wanted to make those quotes bigger but I literally couldn’t) game review video series where an Australian guy swears a lot and says a lot of dark things.

But the point of me bringing this up (and it is not, I swear, to go watch Zero Punctuation. A lot of you would have very different opinions of me if you knew I enjoyed that) is that all of those things my friend mentioned are in English. I like sitcoms, I love dark humor, stand-up is amazing, and I like swearing. All in English.

So maybe it’s just because all of this feels more natural in English. Which I have no doubt has a lot of truth. The jokes, the cynicism, the suicidal tendencies. Either way, whether I’m considering my audience or considering my source material and references, English feels like the right language.

But, and I’m nearing the crux of this post here, I have a nagging suspicion that maybe it’s something more. English, no matter how many more years I spend in America, will be a second language for me. I naturally feel removed from it. Saying “God I want to die” (feel free to read that sentence in any way you want.) in English feels very different from me saying it in Korean. And that has to do with a lot of things too, in its own right. American culture and Korean culture. The idea of death. The obligation to live. Etc, etc.

But (I hate that I’m starting two consecutive paragraphs with “but”. See what I mean about this being a second language?) I sometimes think maybe it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe I just need to get things off my chest and maybe saying all of this in my mother tongue seems like a bit too much for me. So I express myself in a language that is more removed from me, and coincidentally more acquainted with the subject material I have at hand. A lot of the issues I handle and joke about in English, I’m not sure I could do the same in Korean.

Function shapes form, but form also shapes function. At least that’s the impression I get. Fun example, the first time I learned algebra was when I was in China. 6th grade. It took me about 4 years to stop myself speaking to myself in Chinese every time I solved a math problem, even though I was only there for a year. And most of my Chinese has already left me. I can’t speak Chinese for my life. But things like that somehow stayed.

I sometimes even feel I’m a different person in English and Korean. This is a whole another post (meaning “I’m saving some of this material for later bc I’m not a very interesting person”), but I’m generally more aggressive in Korean. I think. Maybe? Kinda? I don’t know. This probably has to do with my friend group and everything too.

So yes. That’s about it for today. Thank you everyone for reading a prolonged excuse on why I specifically timed my past two posts to be posted on Facebook at 11pm Seoul time, which is about 9am EST, even though I usually write these in the afternoon. A guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do, you know?