Role models vs. Trolls

Yesterday I was a bit cross with life in general and in the process of cleaning out some things I came across a magazine that instantly made me a bit more hopeful. You might be thinking “pfff! you’re one of those?” but the reason was an article about female bodyguards (turned out to be a bit shorter than I had hoped when I bought the magazine), and an article about Jessica Ennis – from before the Olympics so she was still at the ‘hopeful winner’ stage. They are really inspirational women so I decided to keep the magazine.

Background story: Friday I met an old classmate for coffee and as has become custom many places in the world, he tried to hug me to say hello – except yesterday I asked him not to because I took a landing on my neck in judo on Thursday. It’s only a matter of time before my club nicknames me “Accident Prone”. That is what it is, but it gave us a reason to talk about judo, and what annoyed me was the following:

– he consistently referred to judo as wrestling. I don’t expect or demand others to be as interested in my sport as I am, but at least I try to get the name right when talking to others about their hobbies.
– he made a point of how big a sacrifice it must be for my sense of femininity to have short nails as required when doing judo. Last time I checked, short nails did not equal dirty nails or being badly groomed in general.
– that was followed by questions about whether I have “bulked up” by training and if I could then still fit my dresses.
I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and think that he meant no harm, but for a moment I had to clench my teeth to not turn rude.

But what is it with nay-sayers creeping out from all corners these days?

I have seen posts recently from some of you mentioning how others are telling you how impossible it will be for you to ever master a foreign language without living where it is spoken by the general population. It’s annoying because it’s not really necessary for them to put that much energy into trying to talk someone out of learning a different language, but it also seems that with time most language learners come to just nod understandingly at these people while silently pitying them for how many experiences they must be missing out on.

If we all sat on our bums and never bothered learning anything new, the world would be such a boring place. At gatherings I don’t fear being seated next to those who have “weird” hobbies, I fear having to spend hours trying to make conversation with someone who doesn’t have any interests whatsoever.

I’m not going to become a beyond-super-keen coach type yelling encouragements at everyone I meet, but I have decided to become the antidote to these people whenever I meet them “in action” and whenever I come across someone who has the courage to share that he or she has taken up a ‘quirky’ hobby – such as learning Korean!

5 thoughts on “Role models vs. Trolls

  1. dreamingtotoro

    I totally agree. I’m tired of people giving me “the look” when they find out I’m teaching myself Korean. Oftentimes they ask me some interested questions on the how and the why, but then they dismiss it as a “thing” that will pass. “Oh that’s so cool! Is it because of that Gangnam Style guy? You like their boy bands or something, right?” And then they change the subject when I try to explain some of the fascination I have with East Asian cultures and languages. Yeah, I like the music, both k-indie and k-pop. The dramas and comedy shows. But those aren’t the sole reasons I’m studying it; they’re just bonuses that are helping me study and stay motivated. I can’t live in Korea right now but I definitely can create my own little version of immersion each day!

    I really enjoyed your post^^ 고맙습니다!

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      I’m glad you liked it 🙂
      I don’t understand the fuss and negativity of some people, it’s a language, not a diagnosis… It’s not dangerous in any way.
      I wonder how many Italian students are asked if they have “a thing” for Italian singers or if they have some dodgy plan for some variation of importing a mail-order-spouse. If people watch French movies, they are intellectual, if they have a thing for Korean entertainment… Well, that’s up for debate it seems.
      Today I had an unusual response, though: “you study Korean? Really? Is it fun? You can self-learn? Cool!”. Those people make it worth sharing that we study Korean.

      1. dreamingtotoro

        Yeah, seriously. Excellent point comparing people’s reactions to enjoyment of Italian/French entertainment versus Korean entertainment. Yes, I do like Korean entertainment. Why not? I can have fun watching a show while also studying and learning from it! And what’s the point of learning a language if you can’t enjoy at least some of the many different aspects of their culture and history both recent and ancient? Hmm. People need to hold back their swift judgment and ask better questions about the why and the how…

        That’s nice that you had that reaction!^^ I love that question; it’s an opportunity to get people interested in language learning (it doesn’t have to be Korean self-learning as long as it’s broadening people’s global perspective and cultural awareness)!

  2. Trisa

    I concur…thank you so much for this post. I was so excited to tell people I’m learning Korean, but after so many questions:”Why?”, “Are you interested in Korean men or something?”, “What good is learning Korean going to do for you?” I have been very quiet about it. I’m learning Korean because I want to and because I CAN!

    1. koreanlearner Post author

      True! Because we can, and because it makes us happy. That should be reason enough 🙂 I don’t advertise my Korean studies to everyone, but I don’t “actively” hide it either. For instance I put it on my CV that I’m learning. But that being said, sometimes I just “conveniently forget to mention it”…
      People do plenty of things that “don’t do them any good” but somehow I cannot seem to fit learning about another language and culture into that category. When phrasing it like that it’s almost like you could join a group and introduce yourself “hi, my name is … I haven’t studied Korean for 3 weeks now” and then people would give a round of applause.


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