Archive for February 2nd, 2011

Learning Disability

02 Feb

My mom was convinced that because I was Korean I had to have a learning disability. In fact, the school was quite convinced of this too on several occasions. Because the first language I learned was not English, then I must be deficient more than other children in English.

Because they were convinced based on this profiling, my mom and the school both tried to place me in a remedial class. The thing was that I was faster than the other kids at English than they were. Despite this, my mom would not be convinced, and I went for another round. But since I was faster than the other kids she gave up at some point at “trying” to correct my English. She was always grim when I sounded out a word wrong, something that looked to me like, “If you fail at this, you are going to fail for the rest of your life.” Because the words out of her mouth was, ‘Sounding out words [in English] is a life skill.” Anyone with any fluency in English knows how ridiculous saying, “you have to sound it out” is, and even more ridiculous to a person whose first language is not English.

She was convinced from the time we first arrived to the time we were in High School that our English was deficient. To some point I believed her, especially when she got that grim look on her face and her lips would become thin as she frowned.

I learned later that this was a projection of her insecurities about herself, and not abotu me. Because her mother had made her learn handwriting and put on braces, and taken manners classes, she projected the same behavior on us. She would complain about her mother as we went through these things, often making her complaining seem irrelevant.

She still jumps on us for bad English. To this point, my English grammar is better than most Americans and I don’t like chatspeak. I don’t think it did harm so much as it’s the conviction behind it that bothers me. It’s like she said later, “Because you are Asian you can learn Asian languages faster.”

Maybe she also thought the reverse. I know she knows better and doesn’t really understand the words that come out of her mouth, but it still hurts and perhaps if I had looked and seen better, the divide between us would have been better. But then, racism wasn’t really taught between anything other than black and white, so I didn’t have the tools then that I have now. It’s hard to get along with someone when you feel racism coming from them to you.

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