By Joe Anuta
For anyone who loves to travel but hates to fly, you have picked the right place to live, according to a Bayside writer who celebrates the diversity of Queens in a new book called “Languages of New York.”
The book is a collection of essays by nine New Yorkers who speak for one of the roughly 800 languages heard citywide.
Tai-Kyuk Han, or “Ted,” is a Korean writer and Bell Boulevard businessman whose essay focuses on Queens, which he said is home to 170 languages and is the most diverse borough in the country.
“People from all these nations can come and live together peacefully,” he said. “It’s very unique.”
Don’t believe him?
Just take a walk down a street in Jackson Heights. You will see Latino, Indian, Tibetan and Nepalese restaurants side by side or sometimes in the same building.
Han has his own interesting history. He was born in 1945 in Seoul, South Korea, and served in the Korean War before starting his own marketing business in 1987 and moving to Long Island in 1992.
Ten years later, Han then moved to Little Neck, although it took some time to grow on him.
“A decade passed since leaving Great Neck in Long Island to Little Neck in Queens. I grew to like ‘Little’ rather than ‘Great,’ because the word is humble … I like Queens very much because Queens has everything.”
Han currently writes a column for a Seoul-based magazine and is a member of the Queens Chamber of Commerce — two reasons why he was selected by Jacqueline Donado, who gathered many of the writers for the book.
“Most of the contributors are journalists, columnists or writers,” she said. “[Han] was one of them, and is also very close to the Korean and business communities.”
Han was practically bred to live in the borough. In the book, he also recounts his days as a globe-trotting banker who traveled through Europe, Asia and Latin America and picked up a smattering of different languages — only to find out he could use all of them in the same place once he moved to America.
“If I say one or two words, people of different cultures will accept me,” he said, rattling off phrases in Greek, Spanish and German.
Han especially loves Queens because it is where many immigrants first set foot in the country, so they seem as energetic “as a freshman in college or a beginner in one’s career.”
But the only problem with all this diversity is that many residents do not take advantage of it, he added.
Han challenged his neighbors from every background to branch out and experience the different cultures that exist literally right around the corner. He writes, “Just drive for 15-20 minutes or take a train. You do not need to fly anywhere. Everything is Here!”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by phone at 718-260-4566.