Scared to ask questions about Korean

A curious thing happened after I’d been living in Korea awhile. When I first arrived, I could ask questions about the language, learning Korean phrases here and there as I went, especially the really common ones I knew I’d need. When I landed in Thailand, I repeated this way more aggressively. After living in Korea for a while, though, I stopped asking those questions.

I stopped asking about common, Korean phrases because I felt like I should have already known them. I felt ashamed that I didn’t know them. I didn’t want people to know I didn’t know them, the easy, normal, common Korean phrases. So I stopped asking.

This is exactly what happens in classrooms around the world. The guy who doesn’t understand stops raising his hand. He doesn’t want to look bad. It’s a pretty lame situation. I thought I’d killed that one for myself years ago. I don’t mind asking questions in the classroom anymore.

Or at least I thought I didn’t.

In real life, outside the classrooms, out on the streets hanging out with friends, I felt bad asking questions.

When I caught myself doing this, I tried my best to push through and just ask. Usually, I’d do pretty well with this. I’d usually ask if I caught myself not asking on purpose like this.

The trouble is that I didn’t catch myself often enough. Most of the time, I just did it subconsciously, ignored the question in my head, and moved on.

In the future, I see two ways of tackling this problem. One is to just ask anyway, try to catch myself more often and ask anyway, overcome that fear, the pride of looking like I don’t know (’cause I don’t). As much as I’d like to think this might work, I’m pretty sure it won’t. I’m pretty sure my unconscious mind will take over and not let me notice.

The other way I can see for tackling this problem is to start earlier, not let myself get into the situation of being months into my stay in the country and still not knowing the common phrases. This will be a challenge too, but judging from my experience in Thailand where I actually did jump into Thai quickly, I think it has a better chance of success for me.

The trouble now is that I’m not sure I’m willing to learn Arabic.

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