Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Foreign Brides' Language Problems

There are few of us who have not had difficulty communicating our thoughts and feelings. The problem often exists where we least expect to  find it: in the best of marriages. Regardless of the shared goals of the partners and the love they have for each other, there is bound to be some discord, some lack of communication. Imagine what it would be like if one of the partners was unfamiliar with the culture and language of the other. Yes, it would be difficult to imagine; such an obstacle to a successful life together would seem almost insurmountable.

International marriages struggling to overcome the language and cultural differences of the partners are not uncommon in Korea, but marriages in which the couples are not able to communicate because the language barrier is too difficult to overcome is a recent and disturbing phenomenon.  When society was simpler and the disparity between the country and city, rich and poor, educated and uneducated was not as pronounced, the problem had easier solutions.  A religious sister, attempting to find current solutions to the problem, works with women who have emigrated to Korea, many of them as foreign brides. Because most of the husbands are struggling financially, most of them, after learning a little Korean, will look for work in the factory area of the diocese. Working in the factories, beginning a family, and doing the household chores leaves the new bride little time to study the language.

Writing in the Bible and Life magazine, the sister stresses how important it is for these women to learn Korean. Without the language, they will not be able to have first-hand knowledge of the culture, or communicate with their husbands, their children, and their neighbors. Many of the most distressing problems they are now experiencing, such as depression and conflicts within the family are caused, she says, from the inability to communicate.

Tien, a young woman from Thailand, a college graduate, is typical, the sister says, of women who come to see her. Married to an earnest, hard-working young man, Tien has been in the country for 10 years.  Around the time of the birth of their third child, she had to admit to herself that living in a foreign country is far from easy. Because she kept putting off the study of Korean, Tien was incapable of helping her children with their schoolwork, and even simple conversations were difficult . But it still was a shock--from which she's never recovered--she told the sister, when she overheard the oldest son ask his father if it was possible to find a Korean woman to marry.

An incident at the children's center prompted Tien to contact the sister. Her youngest child was given medicine for her cold. Tien had asked her teachers to give  the child a spoonful of cough medicine every four hours. When the child came home with the empty medicine bottle, she realized they had given her child too much. She complained but was told there had been a misunderstanding, implying the blame was hers because she had difficulty with the language, while making light of  the whole affair.  She wanted to change to another children's center but her husband gave her no sympathy and made matters worse by siding with the teachers and blaming her for the misunderstanding with the teachers. Tien told sister that because of her difficulty learning the language, she now believes it is beginning to harm the health of her children; she then broke down and  began to cry.

The sister feels that similar incidents will continue to occur until Tien  and the other foreign brides become  proficient in the language.  She hopes they will have the commonsense to avoid them by setting aside enough time to learn the language. How diligent they are in pursuing this goal will determine to a large extent the future happiness of the women and their families.

1 comment:

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