Part 11 of 21 improvements BJJ has had on my life. This was inspired by Tangled Triangle: 21 Days of Improvement. You can read my Part 10 here!

11/21 Improvements from BJJ:  Interacting with non-English speakers

I came to Korea in 2010. I could say “hello” and I could count to 10 in Korean. I started teaching Korean English-teachers how to teach English. Every day I interacted with people only in English, with the only real need for Korean when I went to the supermarket and had to ask “How much is it” or “Where is the shampoo” or at the restaurant to ask “Please give me lettuce.”

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.”‒Dave Barry

Honestly, aside from very practical Korean – getting to and fro, and living, I had no need to learn Korean. I did not need it to survive or for my social life – I was surrounded by good English-speakers. Jiu jitsu changed this. All of a sudden I was interacting with people more socially and had a need to introduce myself to them, find out how long they’d been doing BJJ, etc. Doing BJJ in Korea has created more of a need to learn Korean.

Am I perfect at it? Oh dear lord no. And yes, I often feel on the outside because of the language gap. It’s hard to connect with people socially when you don’t share a common language and when you’re operating on a very primitive language level. But it is really cool to get to meet and interact with folks and have a need to use my Korean.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: Has jiu jitsu created a need to operate within a foreign language for you? Do your instructors speak your native language? How do you interact with non-native speakers in your academy?