I have dyslexia.
It’s a new thing for me this confusing letters and directions. I don’t have this problem most of the time. Just whenever I leave my house.
You see, I’m reading-challenged in hangeul. I do just fine in English–throw any text my way and I will read the shit out of it. My pronunciation may not always be perfect, but I’m perfectly sure of each letter I am looking at.
The same cannot be said for 한굴. My biggest problem letters are ㄴ,ㄱ, ㅗ, ㅜ, ㅂand ㅁ. Individually the look clear and distinct, easy to tell apart, but mix in a couple other lines and suddenly I’m not sure if I should say “n”, “g”, “u”, “o”, “b” or “m.” (I’m not even going to go into other waysㄱ and ㅂcan change their sounds.)
The painfully slow way in which I carefully work through each syllable block of hangeul stresses me out. I get especially nervous when I’m somehow reading in front of someone, even my youngest students.
It’s like a switch goes off in my head that suddenly I cannot do this. I cannot read letters that I haven’t been poring over since I was three. When I’m alone walking down the street, I make a game of reading the signs I see, much like I did when I was seven years-old. It seems to be helping slowly. The trouble is I’m now learning that much like Roman letters affect one another depending on the order they appear in a word, so can Korean letters.
For example take the word “pomegranate.” In English the word is pronounced “pom-i-gran-it” neatly ignoring that rule about how e after a consonant makes a vowel say it’s name.
The word for pomegranate in Korean is 삭류. I look at that and I want to say “sak-ru.” But I’m pretty far from being correct. The actual pronunciation is closer to “seongu.” So even though I thought I could read Korean a little bit, I’m starting to feel like I can’t at all because even when I do read the syllables I say them wrong, not recognizing how the letters affect one another. Recognizing I know a language at a less than kindergarten level only acknowledges that in Korean I am illiterate.
In my American life, I am far from illiterate. I would venture to say people may even describe me as articulate, well-read and intelligent.
In my Korean life, I am babo (바보). Often I am a fool for not knowing the most basic Korean. I want to learn Korean. However I struggle to increase my knowledge. I’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to learning on my own. Unfortunately there are no Korean classes offered at the universities in Chungju.
The worst moments come when I am overwhelmed by the amount of Korean I don’t know–someone talks too fast, the sentence is too long or the conversation too detailed–my brain just stops. The panic sets in and it’s all over. I know it’s bad when I stop trying to fill in the Korean I don’t know with Spanish or Konglish.
I may only be dyslexic in one language, but is sure makes the simple things in life, like ordering lunch, more difficult.
Any suggestions for how I can “cure” my dyslexia?