Learning “the” English
As a foreign student whose first language wasn’t English, I found learning English a tremendously rewarding experience. Part of it is to express myself clearly with confidence, but part of it is the doors that this can open for me. I can engage myself in talking with people from different countries using a common language, enjoy different accents (including my own of course), and the different shades and colours of the use of the English Language.
While learning English, the grammar of the language is important for a solid grounding, it is also the vocabulary and the expressions that are very important to understand. Many expressions and puns relate to a certain era or e.g. to a certain TV series that was on air ages ago and I still ask for its meaning if I do not understand it at first. By learning all these, I can enjoy and appreciate conversations at a different level and get the cultural understanding at a deeper level.
Normally I always try to write down the new words and expressions that I come across and then try to use them appropriately as soon as possible.
Many foreign students dread the pronunciation more than grammar or spellings. They know that this is the right word to use but somehow their audience completely fail to understand them. A friend of mine was notoriously famous for using the strange pronunciation, and sometimes even adding words from his native language, in a way that normal ordinary talk could take a while to digest. Once he said to the teacher while standing in the queue in the cafeteria “How is my taste”. The teacher replied jokingly, looking at his tray “Don’t know really, seems quite bizarre to me”. My friend turned blue. Thankfully, the teacher realised that actually he was asking about the class test that he took earlier the same day and assured him that it was ok.
I say, do not ever feel embarrassed about your pronunciation. If possible, try to think about an alternative word or phrase. Also, try to listen to what pronunciation others are using for the words you already know. I myself used to read the word subtle (su-ttle) as sub-tel and precious (pré-shious) as preeshious. Watching BBC news and other British channels also help a lot. Just keep your ears open, if you know what I mean.
I would like to share some words that I learnt in the beginning and you could test your vocabulary to see how much you know yourself.
Now looking back many years in past, the only regret I feel is for those times when I didn’t learn, felt unnecessarily embarrassed and didn’t ask what I didn’t understand. I hope that you won’t have this regret ever.
By Waqas Ahmad (22-May-2009)