I am an international student who is taking a college level English writing class at American River College in CA. Even though I’ve been living and studying in the United Sates for three and half years, I am still struggling a great deal with the English language. However, I believe that my language struggles will improve.
My studies in English began in April, 2004 on a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco. I was standing in front of many scientists from all over the world presenting a study for new electrolyte of batteries. It was one of the world biggest meetings of material science engineers and researchers, and a very honorable moment for students in graduate school. My lecture already had cut into quarter of the lunch time. After the lecture, the promoter let the scientists ask questions of me. However, I didn’t understand their questions and could not respond in English. I had knowledge to share but the language did not allow me to do. It was a very embarrassing moment in my life, and I decided studying English.
Learning a new language is not easy for me even though I am smart and work hard, which is evident by my work as an engineer, patents and articles published in international journals. I studied chemical engineering and new material science engineering in a college and graduate school. I used to handle and treat all kinds of chemicals as a researcher in a new material science engineering lab. However, the talent I’ve had as a scientist didn’t translate into having good talent in using another language. Nevertheless, I am still learning English and going to school. These struggles don’t mean I am not able to learn this new language, but rather that I am just slow to obtain the same proficiency I had as a Korean engineer using the Korean language.
Three and half years ago, people I met asked me: ‘What brought you in this country?’ I answered boldly, ‘the airplane.’ They just smiled at me and stopped asking. But one of my friends corrected me, and I was really embarrassed. I simply translated the question to my language and understood meanings of each word literally. But now, if I would be asked that same question, I would answer ‘I wanted to study English.’
Learning English doesn’t mean learning a language only, but rather it is about learning the culture and history as well. When I first got here, I had no idea about giving a ‘Tip’ at restaurants. I had dinner with a friend, and the friend just left change we had got from waitress as we were leaving. I took the dollar bills the friend left on the table and gave it the friend because I thought she forgot taking the change. My friend laughed at me and said “This was for tip.” I didn’t understand the meaning of tip at that time. However, now I am paying for too much tips when I have a good service from restaurant. I am learning the culture. I am learning the language. So, I believe that my ability to use English will improve, just as my ability to live successfully in American culture has.