About us      I       Editions       I      Interview  
︎ Prev       Index︎       Next ︎

NO. 4

English  / Korean  


My insignificant and powerful language

Suyun Jeon
    Once during the class, when my American classmate talked about something serious, I was just admiring her English and imagining what it would feel like to speak freely without any hesitance in a foreign school. The other time, during my trip to Morocco, I was in awe when my French friend spoke to Moroccans naturally, thinking how it would feel like to keep using your own language miles away from your home country.

    Oh, how amazing would it be! How comfortable would it feel? That your mother tongue is so widespread and popular that you wouldn't get any stress of using a foreign language in class, at work, or during your holiday on an exotic island. You wouldn't need to worry about memorizing unfamiliar words or complicated pronunciation at all. Why would you concentrate as hard as possible to catch every syllable or constantly doubt yourself if you said something stupid? It must feel so easy to be yourself even when you are not in your homeland.

    Unfortunately, my mother tongue, Korean, is not as widespread as other languages. At least these days, more people recognize it and show interest, but very few people knew about it until a few years ago. Even now, some ask if Korean is not the same as Chinese (FYI, they are totally different two languages), which proves that Korean is still a minor language.

    Compared to Korean, there are other languages that are way more major in this world. The ones that everyone speaks and most of the world population use. Language with political power and history. For example, the six official languages of the United Nations. Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Well, Korean is apparently not one of them.

    What does it mean to have the minor language as a monolingual mother tongue? It means that I don't have a 'voice' in a significant part of the world. It means that my language is so insignificant that it fails my chance to communicate with most people around the globe. To the majority of people who use major languages, how well I speak nor write Korean doesn't mean anything. My language and I become insignificant, incompetent being in the world of the major language.

    It is unfair. Like I didn’t get to choose my mother, I didn’t choose my mother tongue. How come some people just get their voice automatically by having powerful language from the beginning, while some struggle to just speak out for themselves?

    That's the power game of the language. As the underdog in the power game, we minor language speakers try hard to adapt to the powerful, major ones. It is not easy. However, as one of the members who went through the same struggle, I want to support and encourage everyone who battles for their voices in the bigger world.

    Powerful languages do give you a louder voice. However, voice is, as a matter of fact, just a voice—a method to send messages to others. A method can't be more meaningful than the message itself, the contents. And the good contents come from your minor feelings. Your identity as a minority in the world of major languages. Your eccentricity. Your accent. Your mistakes and your endeavor. So don't feel intimidated or discouraged along the way. Your minor language holds the most precious power that no powerful language has. Your truth.


Suyun Jeon
    Born and lived in South Korea. Wandered around seven different countries to collect stories. Stories from my own experiences, exotic places, different arts, and people. Currently studying cultural diversity in Tilburg, Netherlands.

English  / Korean