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Thread: forum contributors with english as a second language

  1. #1
    Registered User manuscript's Avatar
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    forum contributors with english as a second language

    some of the forum contributors have mentioned that english is not their first language.

    once i read a personal experience story by a woman whose first language was english and was devoted to learning french. she would go and stay with a family of french friends in paris. when speaking about her usage of the french language, they would refer to her "song". thats what its like for me when i read your writing in english - it is as though there is a song in it that i can listen to. it is different from the usage of people with english as a first language, and it sounds lovely to me, like the song of a beautiful bird.

    i am curious about your experiences learning and using english and your perceptions of the english usage of those with english as a first language.

    was it difficult to learn english? what tools have you used to learn it? why did you decide to learn it? are you still engaged in the process of learning?

    does the english of first-language english speakers sound different to you from your first language, the way that your english sounds like a song to me? how does it sound different? is it cold and clinical and precise? is it messy? are the words we choose and the way we first english speakers use them lyrical and flexible or are they empty and jagged?

    i am just interested in all of your experiences with learning a new language and your thoughts about the language of english as someone who has encountered it as something foreign rather than something that has always been known. thank you!

  2. #2
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Aaaah, that's lovely, I sound like a bird !

    English was forced down my throat when I was 14. They had decided that I was to learn English for me. But then I had more chance to talk to people from different countries, so that was a plus.
    Although, by the time I was 18, I spoke it, but not by far as well as now. It was my hubby's relentless BBC-watching that got me a good level. And the practice with him... I think after about 3 months the Present Perfect and Past Simple finally clicked in my head . Maing a cup of tea,I suddenly said without thinking, 'I have made yu a cup of tea.'

    Although I do notice that when I am over there, my understanding of people speaking is not that good. I suppose because they are less precise or don't care, or something. Last time I learned a different meaning for squint.

    I always say that English is easy to learn, but it's not easy to learn well. Most of it is conjecture and wet thumb stuff. There are twenty different words for expressing exactly the same thing, but they re ust that little bit different. So it is etremely precise. It's a good thing. Hubby and I make translations from Dutch (Flemish Dutch is my mother tongue) into English and it's always precisely what is expressed in the Dutch text. If it has to go the other way round, I get frustrated because it's never precise enough. In the modern version of my language, you can't say half the stuff you woud like to say, because it's hopelessly outdated. Sad that.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

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

  3. #3
    Registered User manuscript's Avatar
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    thank you very much! kiki that was fascinating.

    i have never encountered the expression "wet thumb".

    as someone who has always spoken english, and only speaks english, i agree with you that it is not easy to learn well. i always feel like i do not understand it properly. there are so many rules. for example i am reminded by what you wrote that i find it very difficult to use the different ways of talking about time correctly. i know that people understand what i mean when i talk about time in the ways that are accepted in popular usage, but i know also that those ways of talking about time are actually not correct, and do not mean what they are popularly accepted to mean, there are actually more accurate ways of talking about time. i think i should learn some formal grammar. i admit i dont even know what present perfect and past simple are.

  4. #4
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manuscript View Post
    there are so many rules.
    As an ESOL speaker, I find that rules are not the problem but the exceptions to those rules.
    i admit i dont even know what present perfect and past simple are.
    Ask an ESOL/EFL speaker. They might be able to help you!
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    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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    It was the summer of 1986 when I finished my first year of English lessons. Free education at state schools in my country never covers languages decently, so if you really want to learn a language and get a certificate you have to take classes at a specific language training institution, which is what I did for 9 years. Nowadays, English classes are much more frequent at free state schools than they were when I was a kid, but they lack quality, so it's nowhere near an option if you really mean to get somewhere. I keep all report cards and diplomas with final grades always above 90/100, but there was this one particular year when I went downhill with a 67/100. Arrogance apart, a 67 in English-related subjects is not like me. It pissed me off, and then and there I decided I'd never get a low grade in an English course again. I can swallow low grades in subjects that don't matter at all to me, but not in languages. The only explanation I find is that I must have been in a crisis at the time, because it never happened again.

    Contrary to kiki, I never managed to sing it like a bird. According to my judgment, plus what I've been told, I seem to do better at writing. There's something in my voice I strongly despise; a sort of low pitch, low volume, low everything that doesn't sound at all pleasing to my ears when recorded. I like it a little better when I hear myself directly from myself, but whenever I record my voice it sounds like an evil foreign toad attempting to seize a pond under threat of murdering all other creatures with an unbearably ugly utterance. Some people tell me I am exaggerating, suggesting that they like how I sound, but I feel they are just being condescending. A couple teachers say I have a sort of Irish/Scottish accent, but I also feel they are just being condescending. I have all the sounds properly articulated in my mind and they sound awesome in my imagination, but whenever I utter them the result is overly objectionable to my ears. I don't know how to solve this

    Also contrary to kiki, nobody forced me into English. Quite the opposite, I pushed my parents into paying for my 9-year lessons after becoming enamored with the language of the movies. The first English-spoken/Spanish-subtitled movie I saw was Rambo: First Blood, so I figured I could learn to speak like tough Sylvester... until I realized my voice wouldn't help me at all for that matter. Anyway, as I didn't understand a word I began wondering if the speaking actually matched the subtitles, which I was suspicious about, and so I decided I wanted to master the language of the movies. My life has always been attached to English, one way or another, ever since I picked it as the language to learn besides my mother tongue. It's the first best choice I made on my own and I didn't make it out of spotting future convenience, but purely because I wanted. I was 11 when I began my relationship with English.

    Now I'm back at university, training to hopefully become an ESL teacher/language researcher after attempting an unsuccessful career in the IT field for over a decade, of which the first years were okay until I realized I wasn't fit for that profession. When I finally came to my senses, I switched back to English and enrolled in a school of remarkable reputation in training language experts. I'm supposed to be on the right path this time, for a change.

    Browsing the web I sometimes run into purported language teachers who claim to be native speakers, yet they seem implacable enemies of the comma, their spelling is but a little less than apocalyptically chaotic, nonparallel structures are their plaything, and run-on sentences seem the only sort of sentence within the range of their imagination. The only punctuation mark they seem more or less keen on appears to be the period, but just after a mile-long wild succession of words, and yet they assure they work in the language teaching field. I can take linguistic flaws in dyslexic people; they suffer from a cognitive disability. I can take linguistic flaws in people from underprivileged backgrounds; mom and dad never provided either a book or notebook. But how can anyone teach a language when they are incapable of spotting and correcting their own absurdities? I can't help thinking about the damage they cause and how they are allowed to cause it, supposing they really work as teachers. None of my teachers is a native English speaker, save the language assistants who generally come from the US, and I've never seen these inconceivable flaws in any of them so far. Then again, I have classmates who provide personalized lessons, a good number of whom can't manage to pass a course with a grade higher than 60 (the minimum passing grade in our system), still ignoring that the plural of child is children and not childrens, and yet they give lessons and are allowed to. I see damage being brought about in several ways by all these people and it pisses me off. At times I make small mistakes in a test, mostly due to distraction, then feel frustrated, and my teachers tell me "if you feel frustrated over two or three minor mistakes, how should your classmates feel?" Well, I don't see frustrated classmates over a 60. Rather I see them giving lessons as though they were qualified to teach anything. I see them happily earning a salary despite their lack of linguistic skills. Rookies on the verge of a heart attack every time they are assigned an essay are dishing out wrong lessons, and I never cease to have a reason to get frustrated over my small mistakes

    Sorry for the long post. I felt like expressing myself tonight

  6. #6
    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    I need to compulsively edit and proofread my work, or else it comes out terrible. My native language is technically English but I received rather poor education in the language. I did my primary school education entirely in French, and our English classes amounted to useless vocabulary lessons. I learned to read and write English on my own, though my French literacy and spoken English made that less difficult. I spent most of my secondary education in an immersion program, so I continued half of my courses in French. By the time I finished high school I had mostly caught up in English, I even managed to lose my acquired French accent in English. I did my post-secondary education all in English, I believe my French has probably regressed more than I'd like, I didn't put in the work to develop it as much as I concentrated on recovering my English.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    I need to compulsively edit and proofread my work, or else it comes out terrible.

    It doesn't show at all.

  8. #8
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    I would say it doesn't show at all precisely because of the compulsive edition I also edit compulsively whenever I write anything. I'm often obsessed with this fragment that might read better by touching this and that, and that word that doesn't look so good, and so on. The main drawback in being a compulsive linguistic corrector, if that's a suitable term, is the amount of time it takes to write a final version that looks satisfactory to one's taste. This is why I often refrain from posting whenever I eagerly feel like expressing my opinions at length. An obsession with correctness, plus my not so fast brains, would prevent me from dealing with urgent matters that shouldn't be postponed for the sake of composing a long post. For example, my previous post on this thread took me more than half a day, which I could afford just because I'm having a few days off duty. I can't devote more than half a day to write anything off-school when I'm doing assignments, writing essays, taking classes, or training to take an exam. I suppose it's an absurd amount of time for a fast brain able to write lengthily and correctly in a short time, but mine tends to be slow.

  9. #9
    Snowqueen Snowqueen's Avatar
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    What's your first language, Max?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snowqueen View Post
    What's your first language, Max?
    Argentinian Spanish. I can understand most Spanish accents, slang and whatnot, but it's easier for me to pick up on my country's regionalisms. Matter of habit

    Yours is Hindi?

  11. #11
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    I wonder if "obssessive revision/editing" is more of a "character trait" than an ESOL speaker trait. I tend to edit non-stop as well but I do that in my mother tongue too; not only in Engish. And I do it for myself. Sometimes I come across something I had written years ago and I don't mind sitting down to review and edit it even though I know perfectly well that no one else will ever read it again.

    I can never hand in an assignment before its deadline either because I cling to it, editing and re-writing until the very last minute.
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    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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    No, sorry Scheherazade, it is not.

  13. #13
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    I go with the character trait option. I suspect that no one actually reads in detail what I devoted so much time and care to write, such as birthday interviews or lengthy opinions about any given subject, to name but two examples. I suppose my school assignments are more likely to get a few reads, since there's a teacher who has to grade them but I guess most times one makes the effort mainly to please oneself.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    I can never hand in an assignment before its deadline either because I cling to it, editing and re-writing until the very last minute.
    I'm as well in the same syntony

  14. #14
    Snowqueen Snowqueen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maximilianus View Post
    Argentinian Spanish. I can understand most Spanish accents, slang and whatnot, but it's easier for me to pick up on my country's regionalisms. Matter of habit

    Yours is Hindi?
    I know Hindi a bit because it’s somewhat related to Urdu, which is our national language and I’m more fluent in it.
    My mother tongue is Saraiki – a local dialect.

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    So your spot must be in Pakistan English is widely used over there, isn't it?

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