Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sigur Center Grant for Field Research for Summer 2012

I have a daughter, who's turning six within 20 days.
I think it is not necessary to tell you how much she's excited about having her b'day party here in Korea.

This time I want to talk about my daughter.

First of all, her name is Ebba Cha (Seowon Cha in Korean) and she was born in Boston, MA in 2006 when my husband was pursuing his master degree in Babson College. And then we moved to Virginia in 2007 to continue our study at the GWU and are still living in the same place. Though we stayed in Korea for some time during our summer vacation, she did not have much chance to learn Korean. She acted like an "American" with the face looking exactly like a Korean. When her dad and I spoke to her in Korean, she spoke back to us in English. That is how we communicated until one month ago. Since I was born and raised in Korea and had almost no chance to meet and talk to foreigners until I came to the US, I sometimes envied my daughter who is totally bilingual. Seriously, when I first got the States, all I could say were hello, sorry and excuse me. And sometimes, my "intrinsic" shyness stopped me from saying those basic words. Therefore, it appeared amazing and wonderful that my daughter could speak two languages at the age of five. Honestly, I envied my daughter.

However, this thought has changed now. Since my daughter got to Seoul to stay with me at my parents' until I finish my work at Seoul National University, she became sort of introvert. While staying in the US, she was very sociable and had no trouble with her friends at school (I mean, kindergarten). But now, I have to follow her around to help her make friends and whenever she has troubles understanding what her friends saying to her, I have to play as an interpreter so that she won't feel uncomfortable. At this moment, I am not sure whether I am doing the right thing. However, since I feel guilty for not being able to be with her all the time like other moms do and my daughter wants to be with her when she has a playdate, I am doing it.

Recently I enrolled her in the kindergarten, called the CLS (California Language School). Before the CLS, she went to the Yoido kindergarten that I went to when I was her age. But she wanted the kindergarten that she doesn't have speak Korean. Since she entered the CLS, she has been acting like she finally found her real "identity" as an American. The number of days that I have to hover around her is becoming less and less. Then, I ask myself: What is her real identity? Is she really bilingual? What if she loses her "half-identity" as a Korean.

My husband and I are planning go back Korea once we get our degree though the plan could change, of course. Seeing my daughter feeling more uncomfortable about speaking Korean with her friends and making a rule, called "Speaking Korean Not Allowed", for her upcoming birthday party, I feel uneasy...and keep asking myself what I should do to teach her Korean. I no longer envy my daughter for having a dual citizenship and for being "bilingual."

Hyun-jin Song (Ph.D. candidate in Political Science)

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