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Being a Bilingual

Being a bilingual isn’t just about having two languages. It’s like having two cultures inside of you, two worlds in your head. Sometimes the worlds unite, but many times they diverge and create chaos. Sometimes you take only the good things from both worlds, and other times you take only the bad.

I think of great writers before me who were bilinguals: Beckett, Borges and Kundera. A writer sharpens his tools and language. A bilingual writer sharpens his tools and languages. A second language is like a stubborn, petulant child. I find it difficult to master the art of two languages: semantics, lexicon and the likes. I’ve learned and lamented.

I love the fluidity of English, its accuracy and universality. I love the formality of Korean, its simplicity and onomatopoeia. When my worse side gets the better of me, I wonder if being a bilingual means I’d never get to master my languages. I’ve never fully understood how spacing works in Korean. In English, I sometimes wish I sounded native. In both languages though I like to think of the subtle differences and nuances among similar words. How are hope and wish different? Betrayal and treachery? Crocodile and alligator?

Writing requires not just a good command of the language but also an attitude. When I sit down to write, I dissect every word and sentence structure. How can I strengthen the meaning of this sentence? What’s my point? The love for language keeps me going.

Published in English


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