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Loving Abroad #2: Overcoming the Language Barrier

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Gp8euVvINw]

I ventured onto another blind date with another woman from China. And once more, the date was held on Google Hangouts on Air. For those that haven’t seen our first show (Loving Abroad #1: Korean American guy meets a Chinese girl), the objective of our show is to explore the diversity of cultural dating (and perhaps to find myself a soul-mate?).
For this show, we decided to speak in our native languages. I spoke English and she spoke Chinese throughout the date, and we barely understood each other. Watch us try to overcome language barriers with drawings and hand gestures.

Verbal Communication
I spoke English and half the time she understood what I was trying to say. However, during the other half, I had to resort to hand gestures and drawings to get my point across. As you can probably guess, I understood nothing when she spoke Chinese. The only two words that I understood were: bu and sheur (no and yes).
I had difficulty trying to get my point across with words alone. Though we eventually understood what the other was trying to say, it took a lot of time.

Not sure if she's smiling because she understood me or if she's just feigning it.

Not sure if she’s smiling because she understood me or if she’s just feigning it.

Everything I said was accompanied with my hands. I felt like I was trying to communicate with the students at my ??; hagwon; cram school.
My hands waved around the screen pointing at her, me, and some imaginary people. I can’t tell whether or not she understood all of my gestures, but accompanied with my quizzical facial expressions, she seemed to comprehend the nature of my questions.
Mengshen didn’t use many gestures, and this may be due to cultural differences.
In America, many people use their hands to express their words and meaning across, but in Korea or China, not many people make hand gestures.

Thumbs up: universal gesture for

Thumbs up: universal gesture for “good”

When nothing else worked, we both used pictures to get our messages across.
This worked surprisingly well. When she was trying to tell me what she thought of Korean men, she drew a handsome looking character. At which point I thought she believed all Korean men to be as dashingly good-looking as me. However, upon further interrogation, she drew for me a chart.
For some odd reason, she thought I didn’t belong to the 75 percentile range, where the Korean men are handsome. Instead, she thought I was “okay.”
Despite the differences in our opinions about my physical appearance, we communicated well through visual mediums.

Visual mediums: helpful in showing where I stand among men

Visual mediums: helpful in showing where I stand among men

Despite the language barrier, Mengshen and I had a good time on our online date. Regardless of language, culture, or nationality, it’s important to try to communicate with people around the world.
Don’t give yourself excuses like, “Oh, we don’t speak the same language.”
If you try, the other recipient will eventually understand your thoughts and messages. Let’s get out there and communicate with one another. After all, in this day and age, communication is key when it comes to understanding those around us – near or far.

Menghen Hu is a 21-year-old Chinese national from the Anhui Province. She is in Korea studying film at Konkuk University, hoping to be a successful actress someday.

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Written by Isaac Kim

Hey there, I’m an aspiring journalist who is in the prime of his life. I’ve lived in America most of my life, but because I can adapt to anything, I’ve integrated quite well in Korean society. I hope to see the world and write about and share what I see. I like places with large bodies of water (especially the ocean), and one day, I will have a kickass beach house where I’ll spend my time writing and sipping mojitos.

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