27. English is not as important as source of income.
To be fluent in English, what is more important? Listening or speaking? From my experience, I choose speaking. In my old times, I focused on listening to English using textbooks with audio and video tapes. There was barely any improvement. Meanwhile, when I talked to a foreigner using my poor English, much progress was made. It¡¯s because one focuses more when speaking than listening. Besides, speaking in English naturally led to improvement in listening. This is because one can¡¯t say everything one hears, but one can listen to everything one can say.
In order to speak fluent English, one has to have at least one of these three: money, knowledge, and joke. The first one is money. Let¡¯s say I entered an American restaurant. A server listens carefully to what I say in English because I will be paying money. That money is what I have earned from teaching and studying anatomy.
Second is knowledge. I worked as an anatomy lab assistant when I studied abroad in the U.S. Despite my poor pronunciation and poor vocabulary, the American students thanked me because I was able to teach them how to interpret anatomy in an easier way. Some students thanked me and helped me with my English. I taught them anatomy, and they taught me English.
In my Korean anatomy lab, I do not repeat what I say. If there are 10 groups, I call upon one person from each group to give directions. Then, they go back to their own groups to pass onto the rest of the group. However, in the U.S, I kindly explained the same content to each group. I figured out various ways to explain the same idea, and my English improved in doing so. I was teaching anatomy for the good of myself.
Third is joke. In U.S, I often had meal or beer with the lab students. In that kind of meeting, I didn¡¯t want to be academic and it also wasn¡¯t the right place to talk about serious topics. The only things that would keep the conversation going were jokes.
I brought up jokes related to anatomy. ¡°Why do you feel sleepy after supper? It¡¯s because food makes stomach heavy and gravity pulls the stomach downwards. The eyelid goes down with the stomach because there is a ligament connecting the stomach and the eyelid.¡± This wasn¡¯t too hard to say in English since I was used to the anatomical terms, and the American students were kind enough to laugh at my jokes. The real physiological explanation is this. ¡°After meal, vast amount of blood flows to the GI tract, and less blood goes to the brain. This makes a person sleepy.¡± This explanation is sleepy and boring. In the U.S., boring is a negative comment to a person. To get along in the U.S. and speak fluent English, you must have jokes with you.
Reading up to this point, one might say ¡°Money, knowledge, and joke are also important when speaking Korean as well, aren¡¯t they? Isn¡¯t it especially so when trying to hook up with an opposite sex?¡± I respond. ¡°Yes. A person who is fluent in Korean is also fluent in English. Hooking up is no different from getting along with foreigners.¡±
Investing in learning English is desirable. However, I suggest that one invests more in one¡¯ own specialty, in other words, one¡¯s source of income. ¡°You need source of income to earn money, and if you have knowledge and jokes about your specialty, you can always talk about them in English.¡±
Furthermore, I suggest you focus on writing and reading about your specialty that brings you money, rather than trying to improve your English skills. ¡°I drew fun anatomical cartoons, translated them into English, and sold them in an international online bookstore, Amazon. There are numerous people with good English skills, but I¡¯m the only one in the world who wrote an anatomical cartoon book in English. The book is not a bestseller yet, but still, I am the only one.¡± This is what I want to say in brief. ¡°Don¡¯t envy others¡¯ English skills. Make others envy your specialty, your source of income. Source of income comes before English.¡±