Sunday, November 9, 2014

Importance of Culture and Languages

When I wrote this post I choose to publish it on the 9th because that day is significant for Swedes the reason is that it's Father's Day (at least in Sweden). What better why could there be than to choose such an emotional and day who just happens to be in the month of November that is National Adoption Day. I wold like to celebrate all fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and husbands too but also remind fathers - and mothers as well that culture is important for adoptees and especially languages. As strange as it may sound I would like to dedicate this post to my father, my dad and my grandpa. I love my birth father just as I love my dad and loved my grandpa for the two later I was their pride and joy while I still mourn the loss of the father I will never know. (More on this in a future post.) For me there are five dates which always remind me of my loss; my birthday,  the day I came to my new country,Mother's Day, Father's Day and Christmas. Because of that I don't like to celebrate my birthday and cannot understand the fuss people make about birthdays. That is nothing personal it is just my opinion that I may be alone in having.

I am an adult Korean adoptee, this means I am an interracial adoptee-and as such I can also say with shame that I am bilingual but not in Hangul Korea's official language. Had I been fluent in Korean that would make me trilingual. The languages I know are presently English which is my second language while Swedish is my offficial language and my mother tongue that once replaced the Korean language. Honestly though I wish I was trilingual or had been introduced to Hangul earlier in life. My hope and dream is to one day know enough Hangul and be fluent enough to be trilingual-fluent in Korean, English and Swedish. And yes in that order.

Goddag, hur mår du? Tack så mycket. Ingen fara, det var så lite så. 

By not being presented with choice or oppertunity to learn the language of my birth culture earlier in life I lost a big part of my birth culture and thus my understanding of the ancient and proud Korean culture was not what it could have beern. Had I been introduced to something as simple as the language alone as a toddler or young child it is my firm belief that I would have achieved another form of respect and understanding for the culture and its people.

It is essential and in my opinion if you know the language of your birth culture it will make it easier for adoptees to communicate with their birth families. Obviously I am considered fortunate that I was able to be relocate and reunite with my birth family all those years ago. Being in reunion has made me appreciate how difficult and frustrating it can be for borth adoptees and birth families if the adoptee does not speak the same language. Sadly, because of my adoption I will always be a stranger to my own flesh and blood. The language of love as I call it is the love for my family is a universal language in this context and I wish that was enough... but it does not seem to be. The language of love (for family) can be misinterpreted or lost if the culture is not fully understood or the cultural differences accepted and respected. This my biggest sorrow and plight in life, to this day maybe for the rest of my life. And no I never was an orphan thank you very much, my birth parents were married (and had several children before me).

Svenska är mitt modersmål

These days when we grow up and start families of our own, very young children get to learn a second language in preschool. At least if you are fortunate enough to live in Northern Europe, like myself .
We get introduced to English on TV, (we have subtitles not dubbed shows), in literature and in the media.

As someone who have learned a second language, I know some people argue that you should begin at an early age to introduce your child to the other languages you wish him or her to learn. That way the child would learn to speak it really well. Then the other side says the opposite, that you shouldn't introduce a second or third language to your child because it is believed that the child's intelligence, fluency and knowledge in it's mother tongue would suffer.

Once in Grade School my teacher asked me if I was interested in taking classes in my mother tongue. I answered that it was not possible, since there were not enough Korean adoptees in the school to start a Korean class. Mum became upset when I told her and wanted to know why I hadn't answered that Swedish was my first language. Swedish is my first language, but it is not my native tongue. That is the difference.

Hello, how are you? 

Guten Tag 
bonjour  ¡hola
こんにちは  你好

At 12  we have to choose a third language in school, that is mandatory and since we already have English in the circulum we can't choose it. What we can choose from is French, German or Spanish. Then we might get the oppertunity to learn a fourth language in High School depending on what programme we selected, those languages may be Latin,Greek, Polish or Russian. Not to long ago teachers in Sweden wanted to introduce Chinese to High School students as many believes it will be one of the big world languages in a nearby future.

어머니사랑합니다  아버지당신이그리워요. 

Even though my fluency in different languages wouldn't be what it is today, if I hadn't been adopteed. It was impossible for me to have studies in my native language (which is required by law) since Korean or Hangul isn't a language that's common in elementary school.But according to same law the school is obligated to offer a pupil language studies in his or her mother tongue if there are enough pupils in the same school who wants to learn the same language. And yes even adoptees have the same right to learn their original mother tongue.

Interracial adoptees (like myself) loses many things as a result of their adoption-not only do they lose their birth parents and family and everything that comes with that. More often than not they have their culture robbed from them and their native language are usually replaced. Sometimes they also lose their birth name when total strangers insist on giving them a new name since they now are supposed to be the child's new parents.

여섯언니사람들하고 하나 남동생사람이어오 . 

Personally I do not think it is right, the child has already lost so much why also take away the last pieces of that child's identity... Language is one of the biggest and one of the most important aspects in a culture. Why should you pretend an interracial adoptee is the same ethnicity as it's surrogate parents and family.(I use surrogate instead of adoptive since it fits the context better).There may not be a reason for the child to learn their mother tongue when there are a few or nobody who speaks it. True, but why should there have to be a logical reason for it, is it not important enough that the adoptee may get a chance to learn it's native language. Thereby keeping some sort of link to it's first culture. Because honestly, no matter how you may view it an adoptee loses so much in the process of being adopted.

It is so unfair that I cannot communicate my feelings or honesty to my older sisters or birth parents. My birth parents were simple farmers and had very little knowledge of English as some of my older sisters has as well. They hardly know any English because they were not exposed to situations were could use it and they had too finish school as soon as possible. Neither of my sisters has had any oppertunity to pursue an academic education. Whereas I want nothing more than to learn enough Korean to communicate more freely with them. Neither of us has English as a native language we both has it as a third or second language.

Do you believe adoptees should be taught their native tongue ? Is it more beneficial to force them to learn at an early age or should the decision be a choice for the adoptee at an older age?