#431

The Queen's Tongue: Learning English

Wednesday, May 5th 2021, 10:53:57 pm

My uncle left for Africa and later America,
and left behind an interestingly scratchy and neatly smelling 3D postcard.
It turned out that the city pictured there,
was New York.
Being a fan of the new things,
I begun getting used to the idea that I would have to live there for a couple of years.
 
I had some problems,
that I first needed to solve.
The biggest problem was,
actually pretty big.
Because, I was very smol,
I might have been seven, maybe nine, but at nine it wouldn't seem like such a big problem.
In a word,
I needed to become an adult.
That New Yorkers spoke a different language,
would have registered if I though about it, but I had my hands full with growing up.
 
It wasn't long before my parents bought me my Commodore 64,
since everyone was saying "Computers Are The Future" I figured I should learn how to use it too.
Right about the same time, we begun receiving the British Sky Broadcasting Network signal,
and the linguistic barrier hit pretty hard.
We also had Pro 7 and RTL, which was in German,
but it was showing Rosanne, which was about America.
On one end I was learning about America in German,
and learning English from The DJ Kat show on the British TV.
I once knew as much German as English,
and I actually used German in real life once.
On my way back from a trip to Netherlands,
as we stopped on a rest area in Germany a Harley Davidson rider came up to us and asked:
"Was ist die uhre?",
I made my colleague show him his watch.
The rider might not have realized,
that we didn't speak German.
 
It wasn't long before I ended up in New York,
in Brooklyn, the city with streets paved with gold (or Mica as I was told)
I had to fill out some medical paperwork,
across the city, so it was as good of a time as any to ride the freaking subway for the first freaking time.
I did not get lost,
but let me just reveal to you what it was like.
All the station names I memorized, over an over, so that I wouldn't get lost, or miss my stop,
they were all wrong, they didn't sound anything like what I memorized.
Only a small part of this was the speaker,
I memorized them in the language I knew, not the everyone that New Yorkers spoke.
 
And the same thing happened, a person walked up top me and asked "Do yo have the time?",
well I did, but in the heat of the moment, I only knew the numbers separately, and I wasn't sure if I should say 1-5, or 3.
And it was just too much,
so in my best British Tongue, I uttered: "I don't speak English".
They asked something else,
but I already failed that test.
Now, I was learning English, I was doing very well,
and if I had 45 seconds, to pull my self together I would have remembered Fifteen, and to say 3PM, instead, and maybe even throw in you're welcome, to show off.
But,
I was 42 seconds short.
 
This is a good thing,
because all lessons aside, this is how you begin learning a language for real.
I never practiced numbers, or days of the week,
I just willed myself to know them, from all the TV I watched, and Closed Captions.
 
Once I had my medical paperwork,
and went to school.
The English teacher ACCUSED ME, of knowing English,
of pretending no to speak it.
And she failed me multiple times,
there was this hokey ceremony where everyone was getting awards for achievement, and I didn't get one.
The person I was sitting next to was laughing - that he got one,
but the English teacher removed me from that list, because she was convinced I didn't achieve anything, that I was pretending not to speak English.
I was so proud of myself,
and I wasn't scared of her at all.
She made a acquaintance of mine, Ewa cry,
and I went to the principal, who I am sure gave her a stern talk.
 
English turned out to be a lot larger than I expected,
but being exposed to these situations especially stressful or insulting, makes us hungry for language.
 
Not so long after that,
I was working in Wyandotte on web design, which is is very easy to learn, and I highly recommend it.
And a client complained that they couldn't understand me,
and the office started discussing how my accent was heavy, I was now able to speak but accent was heavy, something I couldn't quite hear myself.
Though you can still hear traces of it in the way I pronounce the word Basic,
I can't feel anything wrong with the way I pronounce it, until; I hear it on audio.
BASIC is the name of a programming language, and one of the first words that I learned in English,
and I was still pronounce it the Polish way.
But get this, later, it turned out,
my accent was fine, it was my babbling about connecting to FTP servers, and talking about HTML tags, HTML tables that caused the trouble.
It was still somewhat stressful to speak to strangers,
but now the stress was revealing it self in not being tactful about their vocabulary.
I think it is safe to say,
that it was a huge milestone in my self education.
 
Reading wasn't much of a problem,
I think we underestimate the magic of closed captioned TV, I think that is what taught to me to read.
I plowed through a shelf of cheap paperbacks,
and I had zero problems with comprehension, I was reading books about UFOs and really enjoyed it.
By the time books on tape, or narrated books came up on my radar,
I felt perfectly comfortable with English.
Though Narrated Books, are a powerful tool for learning English,
and just learning in general.
And this is my recommendation,
whatever language you are hoping to learn, Narrated Books will get you most of the way there.
To finish it off, you will need to permanently move to that country,
even if you don't speak the language yet, an mingle and soak up the new culture.
If you are not sure which language to pick,
choose English, because part of the beauty of a language lies lies in the number of countries you can day dream about moving to.
And if you ever take to visit UK,
whatever you do, leave your fanny pack at home, and do not use the word "fanny" lightly, or at all.

#431: The Queen's Tongue: Learning English

Wednesday, May 5th 2021, 10:53:57 pm