Friday, June 19, 2015


Yesterday reading Korean almost made me cry, but not for the reasons you would think.
(I totally hate these types of intros, but this time it's true!)

Sometimes it just takes one strip of plastic to change your life.

For years I have struggled with Korean, not with understanding it.  That I grasped quickly, but the ability to actually see it.  To recognize what I was looking at as what I had learned the day before.

So what was my problem? A serious case of dyslexia that continues to haunt me and make languages an emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting process. I simply can't see what I am looking at.  It takes years of constant exposure and focus to ever so slowly capture all of the information my brain needs to create a stable picture of a word. In turn, this causes a disconnect between visual and auditory content so that I can't recognize what I see and what I hear as being related.

To fight against this is a certain type of hell.

To make things more complicated, struggling to learn Korean was making it so that I could no longer read English.  I stopped being able to read books because my eyes forgot how to see our alphabet.  This is not a good condition for an English teacher and a horrific condition for a writer, so basically I was/am screwed.

So, after failing yet another Korean exam in which I knew all of the information, but was unable to recognize the content due to a change in font and paper type, I decided to start looking for help.

Here are the tools that changed my life:


This is smartphone and tablet app that allows you to chose different special font settings for online content.  This makes it much easier for dyslexics to catch all the details and read for a longer amount of time.  It's truly brilliant and I use it every time I research a new grammar point or read a word list.  For me, if I can see the words and grammar accurately a few times then I can read them on white paper pretty easily after that, although proof reading my own work remains a tricky issue since my brain sees what it thinks instead of what exists.

Offline: Colored reading guides

However, for books and tests.  These are the big guns.  A friend recently ordered them for me after I posted about desperately needing some but not knowing where to find them in Korea. Which is why I almost ended up in tears. Yesterday I opened my text book and was easily reading along solving problems when I thought, "Wow! All the studying has really paid off.  My text books are cake now.  I can read easily. Everything makes sense."

Then I stopped myself.  I haven't been studying.  I have been lazy and going to the beach.  The only thing that is different are these strips. So I took the strip off. Once again, I could hardly recognize a thing.  Put the strips back, BAM!!!! I can read things with fluency.  It was like being punched in the stomach.  All of the struggle, fight, tears, anger, and frustration boiled down to one strip of colored plastic.  It was one of those moments I didn't know if I felt happy or angry.

So please, don't be a hero and don't ask your loved ones to be heroes.

If you know you have a learning disability - or think you might - use the tools available for you. Maybe you don't have access to diagnosis, just try the tools and see if they help. Don't waste time with self doubt, insecurity or stubbornness - don't be me. Get help before you waste two years of your life trying to recognize the word "you".


No comments: