…Where one speaks from affects both the meaning and truth of what one says, and thus that one cannot assume an ability to transcend her location.
“The Problem of Speaking For Others,” Linda M. Alcoff
In Seoul, I retreat into silence when I find myself severely handicapped by limited vocabulary with another person. Thoughts collectively swell and propagate until it crashes into a barrier and falls back to the surface. Now diluted, knowledge merely transfers a sentence, or nothing at all. I am mute.
And yet, despite pockets of atmospheric silence and miscommunicated thoughts, I arrive at a humble appreciation in carefully choosing words and reading what the other person’s eyes are bearing since, “the eyes have one language everywhere.” Having always shied away from eyes, I am forced to read when s/he looks at me. I have been finding every set of eyes in Seoul to be different.
This lack, this language barrier, has been a beautiful way of honoring words during patient dialogues. Within silent moments, in between redundant questions ( “ What is your hobby?”) and remarks (“It like to draw.”), there will always be an innate urge to freely release a wealth of humanly complex emotions in my native English tongue. That said, I wonder if these simplified half-truths we’ve been exchanging make me more of a stranger or whether candid silence has been allowing my self to be coherently (un)spoken.
마크: 민지 씨, 취미가 뭐예요?
민지: 저는 그림 그리는 걸 좋아해요. 마크 씨는요?
Mark: Minji, what is your hobby?
Minji: I like to draw. How about you?
Integrated Korean: Beginning 2, page 243