Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sometimes, I Don't Know What I Say

Yeah, I know…. We all have these moments, but I mean the headline quite literally. English is not my native language and that presents challenges to me even after 9 years of classes in school, 2 years in college (I didn't take English all the way or wasn't able to... Can't remember), 0.5 years in England and over 4 years in the USA . After such a long time, you would think I have it down, but there are still things I don't know… And maybe never will. You can compare it to the first five questions people get ask in "Who wants to be a Millionaire". If you didn't grow up in that country, you just don't have a chance. Funny enough, the things I know or don't know are very random... according to BF. There are things he kind of expects me to know and on the other hand, I often enough surprise him with an expression or saying that he never thought I can know. How I pick up the vocabulary I use, I don't know. I guess it is highly influenced by the people that I talk to every day and by TV.

During my school time, I had my share of hours and hours of endless repetitions in order to keep up with the class. Early in college, I started to read books in English and that was quite a reality check. At this point, I studied the language for around ten years, but making it through my first English book (other than the small pamphlets we had to read in class that were tailored to our level) was quite a task. At this point, I kissed the illusion good-bye of understanding every word in every sentence and moved to the approach of keeping on reading as long as I think I have a general idea about the content and only pull out my dictionary, if I wasn't able to make any sense out of the sentence or the paragraph. So I moved on from studying translations to learning words based on which context they are used and up to this day, I stick to this most of the time.

Using this approach always has a moment of truth whenever I first use a particular word myself. If you never looked up the translation and just thought you know what something means, it can get quite interesting. I learned that three things can happen, when I try out a new word: 1) Nothing. I got the word right and used it right... Everything is good. 2) Blank looks... Then I just hope that I didn't offend anyone. Or 3) Blank looks followed by the question, if I meant so and so... This happens mostly, when I skew up the pronunciation. This method has worked pretty good for me. I learned that people are very forgiving, when they notice that I am not a native speaker... That helps a lot to overcome fears of embarrassing yourself. It also helps me while I write this blog, that people most likely are not going to tear me up over a funny sentence or little mistakes. My mum and dad always say: "Only if they speak a foreign language as well as you speak English, then they can judge you." That's not a bad ankle to this topic either...

On other news: It feels like fall has arrived in South Carolina. It has been pouring down for the last two days and they say it's not going to get better over the next couple of days. If it's not raining, fall is my favorite season of the year... It's not too hot and not too cold and whenever the fall leaf foliage is coming into full swing, it's just plain beautiful. In the meantime, it takes some adjusting. I don't feel like running or cycling in the rain, so today I decided to try out something new and joined a Boot Camp class this morning. It was really fun, the workouts were tough and it felt good to do things a little different for a change. I think I might go back for more next Saturday... Depending on the weather... If it's nice than I just have to be outside, while I still can this year!

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