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The Personality of I
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
ESL students

According to the Oxford English Corpus, the English language has recently acquired its one-billionth word. Yet, it is estimated that the average native English speaker uses only about fifty thousand of these words in most verbal exchange. While words like 'apt' and 'astute' are rarely used, others like 'ok' and 'yes' are ceaselessly repeated ad-infinitum.

Meanwhile, some language police are becoming annoyed by many of the new English speakers who tend to overuse the word 'I.' Granted, the use of this single letter word is almost unavoidable when writing or speaking, still, its frequent recurrence in both casual and formal communication is enough to irk some linguistic purists. However, 'I' makes it easy for non-native English speakers to express their
personal opinion or viewpoint almost effortlessly. The use of 'I' enables ESL students the chance to convey their true feelings and heartfelt sentiments with ease and simplicity.

This unambiguous word allows speakers of English to communicate their wishes in a forceful, declarative and definitive way. 'I' helps us to express a simple apology: "I am sorry." It helps us to admit that we need some form of assistance: 'I' need help." It makes it easy to express feelings of sympathy: "I'm sorry to hear that."

In conveying our heartfelt feelings about a loved one's emotional crises, I makes it possible to say: "I feel your pain." When something bad happens to a family member or friend, 'I' is right there aiding us in saying: "I feel so sad." When coping with an unfortunate experience in our lives, 'I' makes it possible to show feelings of dissatisfaction: "I am so disappointed."

When responding to the inquiry: "who are you?" most of us are simply say, "I am so and so (or mo mo, mo) for Koreans. When asked about our job or occupation, we often respond the following manner. "I am a teacher" or "I am a student." When strangers ask my son: 'who are you?' he often answers like this: "I am my father's son."

On one occasion, my wife and I were attending a social function. One student asked her, whose wife are you? She jokingly responded: "I am Wanda, Carlton's queen. During the first day rituals for one of my advanced level classes, I deliberately postponed my introduction while stoking the students to ask me whatever questions they wanted to.

Finally, one of them took the bait. "Sir! Who in the world are you?" I answered: "I am one fortunate fellow. Why? It is my privilege and pleasure to influence the keenest and sharpest minds in Korea. And I am grateful for the chance to interact with a roomful of charming gentlemen, and attractive young ladies for the next two months. As I look at you, I am encouraged by your curious eyes, perky smiles and
enlightened minds." I was treated like a king for the remainder of the term.

Some may be tempted to think that 'I' is the loneliest word in the English alphabet. But I dare to differ. Why? Well, for one thing, 'I' has such an enviable personality. 'I' is bold and bodacious, self-assured, easygoing and likable. This endearing word 'I' is an inducement to make personal affirmations like: "I can do it." "I'm stronger than I appear. I am smarter than I think. I am wiser than I seem. I am stronger than I imagine."

I also embolden the insecure individual to say to himself: "although I am not what I should be, I am getting closer to my ideal self every day. Then, with this newfound confidence, it is easy to adopt a new mantra: "If I can dream it, I can make it happen. If I believe it, I can pursue it. If I can imagine it, I can bring it into reality."

With such a versatile word in one's vocabulary, anyone can muster the nerve to say: I have the foresight to envision a bold new dream, work towards a brighter future, and a promising tomorrow. As a child of faith, I have the assurance that God has blessed me with the will and the skill to achieve my goals and make my dreams come true. So from now on, I will no longer repeat negative self-talk about my abilities.

Instead, I will tell myself, I have what it takes to succeed." With my new sense of optimism, a new measure of confidence, and a new dose of hope, I can do whatever I set my mind to. As the Bible puts it: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at






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