Rarely mentioned on any ESL forums, blogs, or YouTube channels is the issue of computer navigation as an ESL teacher.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but for some silly, foreigner reason I didn’t anticipate that in Korea all computers – and computer programs by extension – would be in Korean.
I may facepalm about it being obvious, but that doesn’t diminish the scale of what I’m talking about. When I say everything’s in Korean, I mean everything – from the shut down buttons, the files, the dropdown menus in the Microsoft Office suite; it’s like I’ve had a stroke and all reading recognition is gone.
As context, and to use my favourite explanatory expression on the subject, I’m about as useful to computers as a nun to a brothel. Give me a computer in English and I’ll still be kicking around struggle street all day. Give me a computer in a different language and Hellen Keller could probably do better than me.
Alas, using computers is a requisite for my job here (and Koreans have no sympathy/concept of how disorienting the language block is). Powerpoints, reports, excel spreadsheets, safely removing USB keys – even installing software on occasion: all this must be done in Korean. Aka via hit-or-miss guesswork or, if you’re lucky, acute recollection of visual memories of how the computer layout goes.
It was mentioned at Orientation that you can ask for the programs to be reinstalled on your computer in English: well, I gave it a shot, but it seems no English programs are available (not surprised though, can’t see them spending the money on English versions for one employee…).
Fortunately, I’ve got something of a photographic memory when it comes to Microsoft Word. I’ll attribute this to the many, many hours I spent on my first laptop when I was sixteen and writing a 200+ page novel. Though it was utter crap and I only got halfway through (and yes, 234 single-spaced pages and 120, 000 words was only the halfway mark…),
…what it did give me was the ability and ease of navigating Word with my eyes closed.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Powerpoint or Excel. Not only had I never really used them before this job, but any time I’d given them a dabble, it had been on the Mac versions or the 2010 super fancy Windows installation.
My work PC is from 2004 with a 2003 edition of the Microsoft Suite. Serious time warp to when I was 13…
But anyway, navigating these is a fun mix of shooting in the dark with waiting for the computer to register my click to see if the bullet hit its mark. It usually takes about 10-30 seconds between clicks to load, and about 2-25 clicks to find whatever function I’m looking for.
As such, my work productivity level is abysmal – and was especially bad in the beginning. Since then, I’ve occasionally had to bring in my laptop to make presentations just because I was frustrated at my PC. (I can’t believe I ever used to be a PC person…long live the Apple!)
But slowly – slowly – I’ve begun to get better at it. Where at first I fumbled blindly in the dark, I now have learned new sensory abilities to find my way around. My photographic memory has supercharged, and I’ve developed a newfound computer intuition:
I’m increasingly able to correctly guess my way through the hangul maze. And I used to think using a computer in French was hard.
And from there, I feel like I’m trudging slow and steady up the road of technological competence. Which is why I call this post both “tearing your eyes out” due to the sheer frustration as well as “an unappreciated life skill”. Though it’s been a steep learning curve, I’ve got something out of it that I can be proud of. I’m tempted to put on my CV: “Can navigate foreign computers”.
Now it’s off to bed for me to let sleep massage my brain for its hard day’s work on Korean Microsoft Powerpoint…
But before I go, I ask you guys: what’s an unappreciated life skill you feel deserves inclusion on your CV?