So glad I can read!

I have been in Korea three months now and have made absolutely zero progress in learning Korean. Admittedly, I haven’t made a huge effort, moving is so hectic that I wanted to get settled before tackling learning a new language. But I did have lessons when I was still in Singapore and at the end of each lesson promptly forgot what I had ben taught. Learning languages has never been my strong point but I am finding Korean extra hard and I think that is because I can not read any thing. Whenever I have been aboard in Europe, I can make a stab at reading a menu and can often get the word by sounding it out; but as Korea has it own alphabet – Hangul, I am totally clueless.

Words are all around us, and you read them with out even being aware that you have, here are just a few examples:

  • Being able to read the TV on-screen schedule, or what is coming up next. We can’t plan what to watch, you just have to flick though and hope you find something.
  • Knowing when you go to a door if it is pull or push, or even if the little sign says ‘door locked, please use the other one.’
  • Ingredients, you really just have to go with the front picture and hope for the best. And totally forget comparing nutritional value of things.
  • Instructions and labels – for everything:  the washing machine, our new rice cooker, the control panel that opens the doors, operate the curtains and phone, error messages on the DVD player, cooking instructions…  The list could go on and on, I just randomly push buttons and hope for the best.
  • Road signs, the main signs have both Hangul and the roman equivalent but the temporary signs and the bright lit up signs on the express way are all in Korean and you just have to follow all the cars around about you.
  • Medicines, you can’t read the name, what it contains, instructions or any contra indicators, you really just have to trust the doctor/ pharmacist completely.
  • Text messages, I get quite a lot of these, most are complete and utter rubbish trying to sell me something but occasionally you get ones that you need (like you have a parcel waiting at customs!). My translate app has been very well used.

I have always been grateful for being able to read and the knowledge and opportunities it gives me but I hadn’t realised quite how much I rely on it every single day. Now, I am in a foreign country and the Koreans don’t expect me to be able to read and apart from the occasional odd look have been very polite and helpful, but imagine if this was your reality each and every day, when it is possibly also something shameful to be hidden.

I am so glad I can read!


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