I am one of those first generation, canadian-of-korean descent people whose parents shed their parental efforts of teaching us the korean language, customs (except for a few) and voodoo-like superstitions unless they came up. For instance, when I was about 8 or 9, I was whistling a tune in the evening until my mother ran out of the kitchen and made me stop. She then told me that whistling at night encourages burglars and other demonic types of people (mostly of the white kind) to come to your house and do bad things. Needless to say, I have trouble whistling past 6pm to this day.
I think my parents thought language and learning customs was something that we are each born with. You know, something natural and innate that doesn't need any teaching like breathing and blinking your eyes. Of course, by the end of the work day, my parents were also too tired to even speak to us except to say, "go. homework" or "go. piano" or even "go. outside".
Now, every single korean kid I knew had to submit themselves to Saturday morning torture known as Korean Language School (this in addition to weekly piano/violin/guitar/any classical instrument lessons). Yes, I went (to both). Wasn't my father one of the founding fathers of that thing? Sadly, my knowledge of the korean language was even more pitiful than a 3 year old's. But I really wanted to learn. I had already taught myself how to read and write the korean alphabet (Folks, it's so easy. It's all phonetics!). Now if I could only learn what I was reading. Sadly, I had a "teacher" who will remain nameless but who loved to berate and condescend on us for an hour. I was felt so dejected I quit. Told my father I had too much "real" homework to do than this and he let me off the hook. After all, school was more important to him.
Anyways, forward 30 years and here I am. Korean-less. I mean, I know how to do the New Year's bow, I eat the good stuffs that day too! Heck, I love korean food but can only name a few dishes. Needless to say, I'm ashamed that I can't speak hangook or even made more of an effort to learn it on my own time. Hey, learning french was enough of a challenge (that story later).
I know how to swear (alot!) in korean but most of the time, when my mother's friends talk to me in korean, I just pretend to understand, give a big smile and turn to my sister and say, "what? what'd she say?". Some phrases I get, you know, "nuh ohmauni audi is soyo (where's your mom)? hanhgjangshil caideh (gotta go to the loo), "ihgo mogoleh (do you want to eat this?)".
I'm all gung-ho and happy that C and I stuck to our guns and spoke to Keira from the beginning in both french and english. So... happy days! Today at almost 5, she's bilingual. But I have this small nagging guilt that I should have also made an effort to teach some korean to her. The only word she knows in korean is "pangoo". Of all words, the one that means "fart". And she uses it religiously too. Pangoo, poopoo, peepee, hahahah. She thinks saying all things with a "p" a hoot! Anyways, last night, I taught her how to say, "halmoni, sarang-heyo - grandmama, I love you". And I was all proud of it too until she kept going and asking me, "how to say going to sleep?", "how to say my bed?", "how to say...". All I could come up with was, "nah chaleh - I want to sleep". hmf.
So on top of everything else, I'm now searching some kiddie korean videos (learning kinds) on the web and trying to locate my old korean books. I've been reading these great blogs by americans/canadians of korean descent who seem to go through the same dilemma. To make an effort to teach or not to teach korean. Actually, I think this is something every immigrant/1st, 2nd generation people go through. Are you teaching your kids korean??
Meantime, check out these blogs. I find them hilarious and helpful: