One of my tutoring students is a mother who has come with her daughter so that her daughter may learn English here in Canada. She explained to me on the first day of class, via much gesturing and electronic-translator-using, that she wanted “Survival English”. That first day, I taught her what the different coins were called. You know, nickels, dimes, and so on.
No wonder she wants just to survive. The woman has so very little English, I worry for her. We communicate via the electronic translator, drawings, gestures, facial expressions and universal noises. Actually, it’s kind of interesting just how far we can get with just this. I think we might be inventing our own language, like Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear, only it’ll be Hyun-Suk in the Land of Insane Canadians.
Because, really, looked at from a monocultural, conservative, newly capitalist society, Canada looks like Pandemonium, run by escapees from Riverview.
-We call our dollar coin after an excessively shy bird. The bird word also means ‘crazy’. We nicknamed the two-dollar coin a word that means nothing, except that it has the word ‘two’ and rhymes with the one-dollar coin. Double the insanity!
-We don’t fire Civic officials if they are inept at, say, getting broken parking meters fixed. (Woe betide the Canadian who tries to explain that getting a broken meter is a good thing because you don’t have to pay. That’s like repealing the Laws of Physics to the Korean mind) Never mind that the Prime Minister does not order “all good Canadians” not to buy a newspaper that prints unflattering articles about his policies. (Note to self, ask someone about irony in Korean newspapers. Satire, too, for that matter)
-In Canada, you have to wait a week or so to get a fridge delivered. Maybe longer. And the delivery people can’t tell you exactly when it’s coming! Meanwhile, what is a person supposed to do? They have no fridge! In Korea, customer service like that would put a company out of business in a week.
-We only have a couple of hundred years of history. None of our Canadian leaders had any kind of mythical beginning. In contrast, the Koreans have at least three kings who hatched from eggs. Sir John A. and Louis Riel look pale in comparison.
-Canadians are all colours and come from all places. I, because my forebears came from Europe, am considered ‘Canadian’ by Koreans. However, had my forebears come from Asia, Africa, or even (WTF alert) been First Nations people, the majority of Koreans in Vancouver would not see me as Canadian. Canadians=white, to the Korean mind. Fred Kim the accountant is as Korean as Kimchi to other Koreans, even if Fred was born here, grew up here, and even (gasp!) married a white girl. Oh, that’s another thing. Koreans marry Koreans. Period. Korean marriage and interpersonal relationships is a whole other rant.
-Back to Canada, we leave perfectly good land undeveloped in the cities. Really, some parks with some grass and some fountains would be acceptable. But why leave such prime real estate right by UBC tenanted by coyotes and raccoons? Canadians have no business sense. (Actually, looking at the recent developments out there, maybe we are gaining Korean kudos)
So Hyun-Suk and I battle against culture and language together. I’m just so glad she has a sense of humour. That, more than anything, will see her through.