Saturday, September 14, 2013

An Yumi/Text book 11p questions/Tue3,4

Writing in English


My mother tongue is Korean. Korean is the first language I met and I have spoken and written in Korean at least more than fifteen years. Meanwhile, I learned English as a foreign language which I needed to know in order to pass many exams. Most of the exams I took required only reading and listening skills. I never had had any chance to put English speaking in my life and even less chance to put English writing in my life until I entered into my high school. I had no idea about English writing and did not have to, but then, all of a sudden, one of my high school English teachers started giving out English writing assignments. And that was my earliest memories related to English writing.

It burdened me a lot. The teacher made me struggle with the task of writing a complete, decent piece of a book review. At that time, I read English somehow but did not know how to put my thought down into words, phrases and sentences in English. My first English writing assignment ended up in a bunch of sentences that looked like as if they were pasted from the outcome text box in the google translation program. I acquired not only a bad grade but also the fear towards writing in English. From then on, I have felt like I am shrinking when I have to write something in English. The first score I got for my first English writing made me feel disappointed to myself who had been frequently heard "You are good at writing" personally and officially and taken proud of it. What I did not know, and was never given any chance to think about is that there is a huge difference between writing in Korean, my mother tongue and in English.

Writing in English was like practicing a new dance without a mirror that I can reflect myself to. When the move is simply to clap my hands, not having mirror in front of me is not a big problem. I would just clap my hands and hardly could I produce any other strange moves when I just try to clap my hands. However, if the next instruction is "move your chest slowly forward while waving it upward," all I could do without a mirror is to pray that the moves I am making would be as faithful to those instruction as they could. Because there is no mirror, I would not be able to check that I am doing well, or even at least correctly. When it comes to writing, a mirror is my native sense for Korean.

Writing in Korean, my mother tongue, the native sense I have for Korean worked as a mirror. I can tell myself if I am writing some sentences that do not make sense or do not sound natural in Korean. If there is an error, I can detect while I am writing. I can catch it in one glance. However, since I am not a native English speaker, when I write in English, I am not able to make sure if I am writing well, if there is no error. When sentences are simple, I can usually handle them. However, as soon as the difficultness of sentences rises a bit, I feel anxious because of how uncertain I feel about the sentences I am writing. Of course I know there are plenty of helps I can get such as dictionaries and Internet. However, most of the time, and especially on the sentence level, they do not offer me satisfying answers. They are kinds of dirty mirrors.

The problem is that feeling holds me back from expressing my thoughts as they are. If I get an idea which is good but hard to express in English sentence, I trim or cut the every detailed, strong braches of the idea which otherwise might make my writing more convincing. What's worse, I even lie sometime when I think it is too complicated to express the real feeling or thought in my mind. In my writing-in-English world, writing controls thinking when thinking should control the writing. The only way to fix this abnormality is to keep working hard on improving my English. I really hope someday I can write all of my seemingly geeky thinkings in English as freely as I can when I write in Korean.


  1. To An Yumi From Kang Dabida
    What I like about your writing is that you mixed three questions all together and melted them down as one easy, unlike other students including me. I think your writing is clear to understand and well-structured. And I liked such expressions as ‘the sentences looked like as if they were pasted from the outcome text box in the google translation program.’ This had me picture what you were trying to say. I also liked that you came up with the idea to express what it is like to write in English by using a simile, which obvious is the mirror. This made your writing more interesting and fun to continue reading.

    I think you are such a good writer. But it might help you improve your writing if you tell stories more straight to the point, for example using fewer conjunctions (which is I am also working on). This will help the readers to focus on what we’re trying to say. We can really speak less and say more by giving one powerful sentence instead of repeating over. Good job anyway!

  2. 201001450 Park, Hyun-ju.

    Hi, I am surprised that how many students who have experience of writing in foreign langauge- in this case, English- are in one mind. I've felt exactly the same thing as you explained above when I first started writing something in English,though, in my case, I started far later than you.The comparison in third and fourth paragraph about how the writing in English compared to dancing without mirror is the very part I enjoyed most. I can tell that , at lesat for me,it spiced up your writing a lot.

  3. 최경요(Choe Kyung-Yo)September 16, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    First, you were really honest through your writing, which I like very much.
    Second, I empathized with you and your writing. I guess the reason is because we two have many things in common, such as learning English in the Korean way, studying English for the final goal, 수능. One difference, however, is I didn’t have no chance to speak and write in English before entering HUFS and you had when you were in high school.

    Actually, I was a little embarrassed at first, because I could not see any ‘bold-font’ questions and answers in your writing. I thought you totally misunderstood the assignment. But I was wrong. You were right, and you even proved that we don’t need to follow the standard form.
    No questions and no answers form made your writing look more a piece of complete essay that has 5 paragraphs rather than just an assignment.