Howard Magazine - Page 34 - Learning Korean (3)

Howard Magazine
- Page 34
Learning Korean (3)

“I hear them talk and I’d like to know what they’re saying,” she said. And what she gleans from the library’s Korean class should help break the ice.


“I don’t want to impress the kids, and I don’t expect to be fluent, but I would like to be able to contribute,” Hoppers said. “They are here to learn our language and surroundings, but it would be nice if more of us were open to learning theirs as well.”


Though 65, Jo Curtin thinks nothing of tackling a foreign language from scratch.


“It’s good for my brain to do this,” the Ellicott City resident said. A part-time tutor, she has taught English to adult immigrants from Iran, Russia and India. When a Craigslist ad caught her eye — Caregiver needed days to stay with elderly Korean parents — she signed up for the class.

After several sessions, Curtin said, “the instructor encouraged us to go out and practice. When I went to the bank, I spoke to a Korean teller, and she seemed to enjoy it.”


Like others, Curtin hopes her learning helps her navigate the shops and restaurants along Route 40.


“There are all kinds of Korean signs that I can’t read,” she said. “I’d like to be able to greet the people, read menus and ask for things.”

Stacey Freedman was among the first to sign up for the Korean class; she runs the children’s library there. When Korean American families come to Miller Library to register their children for activities, she said, misunderstandings have occurred.


“It would be really cool to be able to meet them halfway,” said Freedman, 48. “I admire people from other countries who have to learn English; it isn’t easy. We can be very self-centered, just speaking English. Say something in their language and people are fairly generous, if you give it a try.”


Of course, she may then be met with an avalanche of Korean chitchat, Freedman said:


A phrase I’ll have to learn is, ‘I’m sorry, that’s all I know.’ ”


Even those of Korean descent find cause to crack a book. Raised in Howard County, Danielle Han attended Wilde Lake High and speaks fluent English; Korean, not so much. Her parents, both immigrants, hold to their native tongue. So Han, 20, chose to try and bridge that gap.


“I want to bond better with my parents,” the Ellicott City resident said. “I think it will bring us closer together. I’m doing this for family.”