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Thread: Are there any English literature major students whose native language is not English?

  1. #1
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    Are there any English literature major students whose native language is not English?

    Hi I am a freshman from Korea where is far from anything about English literature just as much as its distance from American continent or the island. I just found out English is one thing and Eng literature is another thing. My understanding ability in some practical English is not bad, actually good. However, When it comes to literary world where unfamiliar grammar is all over, one verb gets arbitrary with its meanings, I feel so lost and frustrated. Poems hardly reach my heart. As I give a shot to writing any story, no proper word hits my head instantly. Truly painful as if I woke up after massive car crash with memory loss.

    I want to know how others in the same position as mine feel or if theres anyone who overcome this kind of pain, want to hear how. Welcome anyone's comments who has experiences of studying literatures not in his/her mother tougue words.

  2. #2
    Registered User krisgil_aguila's Avatar
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    Feb 2010
    i took highschool in the philippines, and now i'm freshman here in US,...
    i'm in the same of your position, i think?
    i can write english, but not as clearly,...
    but when it comes to speaking, it takes a lot of time to think before i speak,...
    it's kinda frustrating but i hope that i can speak FLUENTLY,...

  3. #3
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I studied German and my mother tongue was Dutch. Granted, German is very similar to my mother tongue, so easier to understand for me, but still it's not so easy if just some of those words are not the same as they are in Dutch... We even needed to read medieval German. That was scary .

    I just, unfortunately, have to tell you: keep on reading, speaking and thinking. Also, watch a little BBC/CNN on your PC. The BBC has a whole load of clips of the news and a lot of other things on the net. I don't know about CNN, but it shouldn't be a problem.

    Reading literature is another matter, of course, but do not get frustrated, it will come. Just practice. Of course it is easier said than done because if you have to read something and you can't understand, then you have a problem. The only thing is: keep trying. You'll be surprised at how much one learns when one doesn't do anything else but that in a year.

    And buy a dictionary English only that explains the words in English. Like Oxford or Collins. That should help you a large bit in understanding without translating and finding the right word when you are writing. A dictionary Korean (in your case)-English is good, but it's limited to words only. There is no context and that is what makes connotation, and connotation makes literature.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'me ne se vide ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scne VII)

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    I graduated and specialised in English and American literature in Italy and will apply for a Ph.D. abroad. I absolutely agree with you when you say that knowing the language is one thing, while being able to read and appreciate the nuances of a literary work in the original is a whole other matter. It takes a lot of time and dedication and there's no shortcut or easy way around it, unfortunately, but the results will eventually come.

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    I am a native English speaker, and my goal is to be able to read Spanish literature with ease. I've started reading popular fiction in Spanish with the hope of one day reading more complicated works. I know I miss a lot, but by the end of each book I've learned much more than I've missed.

    My advice to you is to read in English as much as you can, and you will pick up a lot of grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary more quickly than you might think!

  6. #6
    Bonafide...Savage. Neo_Sephiroth's Avatar
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    My ancestors are from south-east asia and english was not my first language but I love english literature. If you're able to comprehend, and it is not that hard to comprehend, it can be very inspiring and beautiful.
    "The Lord work from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of the people and then they take themselves out of the slums. Christ changes men, who then changes their enviroment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature."

    ~Ezra Taft Benson

  7. #7
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    My first language is Hebrew, though I am far more proficient in English now. Personally when I was about 15 I really started trying to perfect my style of English, so that's how I learned how to write.

  8. #8
    Registered User the facade's Avatar
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    Mar 2010
    Due to constantly moving and speaking differing languages at home and outside, I never real felt like I had a mother/native tongue. It has kinda become a mishmash of Swedish/Polish/English/Hebrew. Nowadays I'm most comfortable with English and I'm an English literature major as well.

  9. #9
    Registered User PSRemeshChandra's Avatar
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    Feb 2011

    Reliable way to master English as a foreign language.

    The only real solution to tame English as a foreign language is to read English Literature extensively, as kiki1982 advised. You atleast know all the letters. Even if you know it or not, you certainly will be knowing at least 5000 words in English. A vocabulary of 3000 word strong is enough to go through good, interesting English books. As you go on, more and more words will become known to you. Remember that reading a good English book is like speaking with and listening to an author in English. You will be automatically absorbing words into your memory. They will remain ready at your tongue-tip and your finger-tip to be used any time in conversations and writing. The only thing that troubles will be finding the good things to read. It is good in another way also. We will be learning the perfect text-book language. Writers are the most well-versed and refined in the use of a language. Therefore we will be learning a very learned, refined, polished and sophisticated version of the language too. After good fiction and other kinds of prose, poetry written in perfect rhyme and metre can be attempted. Always begin from the far dead poets. Their works have survived till now, so it is evident that they have something good and interesting to part with. This contributor is an Oriental whose native-tongue is not English.

  10. #10
    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    It doesn't apply to me, as I'm a native English speaker, but I will say this: the quality of the English of some of the foreign students in my department is utterly astounding. Some of them, who have only been speaking English for a few years, far surpass most native speakers in terms of their vocabulary and eloquence. I know one fellow who only began to learn English three years ago, and who writes the most amazing poetry that vocalises complex and abstract concepts with a sense of flow and grace that makes me envious.

    So, it's certainly possible!
    Last edited by Lokasenna; 02-20-2011 at 10:33 AM.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    Cool Nabokov and Conrad did not have English is a first language ....

    and look how they succeeded. Conrad didn't speak English until he was 21 and many classify him as one of the greatest of English authors.

  12. #12
    defying description inbetween's Avatar
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    I'm german and have bin learning english in school for more then 10 years now... I even manage to dream in english and the key is really literature... try something you like.. with me it was agatha christie and rita mea brown... an electronical dictionary (no translator) is very useful as well... they are expensive but if you treat them well they can become a valuable friend to you... you look much more words up when you can do it so quickly... and while reading write the looked up meaning of an unknown word down just above it in the book... and about vocabulary.. regard it as word-shopping. if there is a word you have come across and like the meaning or the sound look all its surrounding up.. collect words and idioms. I don't know if you are interested in ethymology but if you are, bye a dictionary ... I can recommend the chambers dictionary of ethymology .. with this you can follow words to sanskrit... that helps to understand the language (the way of thinking) you get the links in languages... you see how things are linked and vocabularies are eayiere learned when you know where they come from..
    and last but not least... try films..the originals are better anyways (puns and stuff...) and song lyrics.. look them up, understand them
    if you like language the beauty of the english toung will come to you

    enough... have written too much anyways, hope there's anything useful about it to you
    Friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies.

  13. #13
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Try watching films in your own language with English subtitles. The main problem with speaking in a foreign language is that people use formal words that don't really fit with what they're trying to say.

  14. #14
    Dust of universe ChinaRose's Avatar
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    I am from china. soemtimes I have to find the translation of english books to understand . However, I have found listenning to music or wathcing english movie benefit me a lot. For example I have watched the BBC '96 "Prejudice and Pridness" for more then 5 times... then I read this book in english again, found I can understand the Austen's humour there..
    Rock in the ocean ...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    And buy a dictionary... Like Oxford or Collins.
    Be careful which one you buy. The full Oxford English Dictionary is very expensive, comes in several heavy volumes, and is probably too detailed for your requirements. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is a good dictionary to begin with.

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