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NO. 2

English  / Korean  


What Language Does Your Ego Speak?

Hyeji Joh
    My 2nd-year high school (11th grade) homeroom teacher once told me about 'Language Ego.' When I heard that people portray different egos – or personalities -  when they use other languages, something that had been lingering inside me clicked.

    I still cannot pinpoint that subtle itchy part that was resolved with such relief, even looking back on it now. But it was very natural to understand that there are two different egos of myself when I speak the other languages, which I have consistently recognized deep inside.

    Growing up somewhat bilingual, I was always comfortable switching between Korean and English. Still, there has always been that boundary that my mother tongue is Korean, and English is an acquired 2nd language. I was born and raised in Korea until 19, and my thoughts, studies, and daily conversations were most of the time in Korean most of the time. Language is more than merely spoken words and writings since we use languages to convey our thoughts, which are heavily influenced by experience and culture. Even though I was comfortable with English through media and school classes, my cultural and empirical roots lay in Korea. Thus, I was more sensitive to the subtle nuances of Korean than English. For example, I would be easily triggered by and avoid using profanities in my mother tongue, Korean, because I am more attuned to their sound and intonation. On the other hand, my English ego contains a bit of an aggressive side because English profanities do not come to me as that severe. I have a half cold-blooded heart that flinches to '씨x(Ssibal),' but that does not budge to 'Fxxk.'

    However, behind this semi-aggressive side of my English ego, she also has a bit of discouragement that my Korean ego does not have. After a few experiences where my intentions or messages were not clearly delivered in English, I sometimes decided just to swallow up what I wanted to say. It was a feeling of rather-keep-it-to-myself-than-make-it-complicated. When I talked about having multiple language egos to my multilingual friend, she told me a fun fact that she had read somewhere. She said it helps to take one of your speaking habits from your mother tongue when learning a new language. A distinctive characteristic of Korean conversations is the reactions where you use little exclamations such as ‘Oh,’ ‘Really?’ and ‘I see’ in between the conversations, which I find myself doing a lot even when speaking English. I had many international friends who got excited and encouraged by my 'Oh~?', 'Really?'. and 'Ah~,' which were sometimes just to be polite, to be honest. As I look back on it now, it seems like it was a little help from the side of my Korean ego to help out the discouraged English ego.

    Now that I live in the Netherlands, where neither English nor Korean is an official language, I feel as if I am barely maintaining my bilingual abilities. English is also not the first language of most of my close friends in college. Everyone converses in English, which is their 2nd or 3rd language. We often finish each other's sentences because person A knows the word person B does not, and 'you know…' is the cure for all the words that we cannot come up with. Naturally, language is a topic that is frequently brought up when friends from different nationalities gather. We talk about various topics on languages that I have never thought of. Just a name a few: 'Czech verb conjugation,' 'Chinese tense 101(I never knew before that Chinese expresses tense with adverbs instead of verbs)', or 'how to swear effectively in Italian.' Although it is hard to say that I developed in-depth academic English skills from college, it is undeniable that I garnered broader perspectives and insights on language by communicating with friends from around the world.

    I am still unsure how my two language egos differ from each other, even though years have passed since I first heard about them. However, as the world I see and feel has grown and expanded throughout time, I simply hope that the pieces of thoughts that I am accumulating will strengthen my core ‘self.’ Whatever the language may be, I wish to express my thoughts with the right words clearly. I wish to learn about the world in that way with thoughtful conversations, and I wish to deliver my ideas and opinions in well-contemplated words of truth. So I choose to continuously see, hear, and speak the ever-changing words and languages, hoping to acquire a 3rd langue ego in the near future.


Hyeji Joh
    Just started to think about how to maintain a self-paced life in this ever-so-quickly changing world. Loves to compile overflowing thoughts in a diary and to read thoughts of others that are carefully written. She yearns for a life of leisure but with enormous respect for people with tenacity. Studied biology for a short while in Amsterdam and currently majors in architecture in Eindhoven.  

English  / Korean