Yesterday, near Dallas, TX, a Korean couple accidentally drove their car into Trinity River and drowned. The following is from Dallas Star-Telegram:
Officials have confirmed that a missing couple from Garland are the people whose bodies were found Wednesday morning in a car submerged in the Trinity River in southeast Dallas.
Young Kim, 60, and his 57-year-old wife, Sook Yun Kim, were identified Wednesday afternoon by the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office.
The 2006 Hyundai Sonata they drove was found submerged in water near a boat ramp below the Loop 12 bridge that spans the Trinity River, just south of Sleepy Hollow Country Club.
The area is about a half-mile east of the loop's intersection with I-45. Their destination on Sunnyvale Street was on the west side of Interstate 45, about two miles west of where the car was found.
"There are no obvious signs of foul play," said Senior Cpl. Donna Hernandez, police spokeswoman. "But there is a possibility that the time they were driving through the area could have been the same time that there were storms Monday afternoon.
"Possibly they were simply swept away. We just don't know right now."
Hernandez said investigators have confirmed that a cell phone belonging to the couple was used to make several 911 calls.
Emergency operators did not fully understand the calls, said Paul Lara, spokesman for Dallas Fire-Rescue.
The full story is here.
One preliminary thing - It annoys the hell out of the Korean when mainstream media mangles Korean names. The deceased husband's name is Young-Hwan Kim. There are very few one-syllable Korean first names. It's true that often Korean people only go by one of their syllables because it would be so hard for white people learn TWO unfamiliar sounds put together; but at least a newspaper article about a person could report the person's full name.
What is outrageous to the Korean is the last part of the quoted article. Basically, the Kims called 911 several times, and the 911 operators hung up on them several times, because the Kims did not speak English. Local Korean newspapers are reporting that the Kims called 911 at least 3 times, and after the calls were hung up, they called their friend trying to get him to call 911 and explain in English, and told him, "The water is coming in, please help us."
Yet the Korean is certain that there will always be some idiots who would think or write some trash like this. The best part is the following:
"Call me hard-hearted, but if you come to MY nation and spend over 20 years of YOUR life here (the Korean's note: it is true that the Kims lived in U.S. for 20 years), making money, enjoying the fruits of this land and ALL it has to offer and you don’t have the motivation to learn to speak English, or you don’t entertain the idea that after all that time you SHOULD become an American, to hell with you, I don’t care WHAT happens to you, you’re nothing but a leech on MY nation."
There are so many things the Korean would love to tear apart in the above the sentence, but allow me to just deal with one nagging question that gets asked to the Korean all the time: How can immigrants live in America for decades and never learn English?
The Korean went over this once, but now he sees that this question has to be answered more emphatically. LANGUAGE LEARNING PAST AGE 8 IS REALLY FUCKING HARD. IN FACT, AFTER AGE 30, IT'S VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE. Learning a language is nothing like learning how to ride a bicycle. Learning to ride a bicycle is about learning to manipulate body parts in a certain way. But remember, you already know how to move those body parts, you just have to move them in a certain way. Language ability is a specific brain function, whose window is only open approximately between age 1 through 6. Learning a language is more like learning how to move your limbs. If you were strapped to a bed since birth and never learned how to move your limbs for 30 years, it would not matter that it has been 20 years since you have been unstrapped - you would never move your limbs as naturally as normal people for the rest of your life.
We always underestimate how difficult language learning is because we all know at least one language, and we are all experts in it. But here is a question: How many words do you think does an average six-year-old child knows? One thousand? Five thousand? Answer: 13,000 words. Think about that. It takes about six words a day every day of that child's life to learn 13,000 words. This cannot be done through a conscious memorization process. The first-language acquisition process is instinctive.
Think also about learning a language after that language instinct window closes. You have to learn 13,000 words in order to speak as well as a SIX YEAR OLD. A freakin' six year old! Can you even think of anything other than general vocabularies that you know 13,000 of? Can you name 13,000 different people? 13,000 different types of animals and plants?
Now imagine you are an immigrant in late 30s ~ early 40s, right about the time the unfortunately deceased Kims immigrated. You have a job and a family to take care of. Chances are your job is very tiring because hey, if it were easy, white people would be doing it instead. You get out very early for your job, and get back home very late. You are tired as a dog. Would you want to learn at least 50 words a month so that in 20 years, you can speak as well as a slightly slow 6 year old?
Didn't think so.
Two short points before we close up here:
1. The Korean's guess is that the Kims actually knew enough English to work. If they were in a calm situation, they would have been able to communicate what was going on. But they were minutes away from death, water rushing into their car. The Korean has had a chance to listen to many taped 911 calls -- they are barely intelligible, even in English. The Korean himself starts losing English when he's drunk! Minutes away from his death, the words out of the Korean's mouth would not be English either.
Which makes one wonder: Don't 911 operators deal with people minutes away from death all the time? This was not some hick town we are speaking of -- this is Dallas for God's sake, with plenty of immigrants. (Google Earth shows that the Kims were not even that far off of downtown Dallas.) And whoever said 911's job is to save only the lives of English/Spanish speakers? What if a foreign tourist were in an accident in Dallas -- are they condemned to die? Shouldn't they have at least one person who can speak different languages, so that they can save people from death?
2. What is amazing is that the Kims called 911 several times. We all know 911 dispatchers can track locations of phone calls. So if the dispatcher hears some unintelligible yet hysterical phone call from the same phone number and the same location several times in the middle of a storm, shouldn't the dispatcher send someone to that location no matter what may have been said over the phone?
The Korean can only hope that the surviving family would sue the hell out of Dallas Fire Department. The fact that members of one of the largest immigrant groups in America, in one of the largest cities in America, could die because the emergency response would hang up on their desperate pleas for their lives, is simply unacceptable.
Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at firstname.lastname@example.org.