In this post (and in the one to follow), I’d like to share how I improve my English in two ways. As it’s longer than I expected, I divided it into two parts.
Number one – speaking/listening.
This is the most important part of studying a language. You can’t learn a language without oral practice. What would be the point of knowing a language without being able to use it orally anyway? I understand that it’s quite scary, especially from the start. You’re afraid that you’ll make stupid mistakes, won’t understand and embarrass yourself. I know how intimidating it can be. I learnt English, Russian, Spanish and German myself. When I first came to Scotland, I had a really hard time to understand some Scottish speakers so trust me, you’re not alone. However, when you push yourself to talk in the language (either sober or with a glass of wine), it’ll give you an indescribable feeling of success. Not only it is a great achievement, but your fluency in the language will become gradually better.
When I came to uni, one of the first people I got to know was James. I met him at one of my English Language lectures. We kinda liked each other and therefore hanged out. I got used to his Scottish accent and after a while, I asked him if he fancied a flatmate. He said yes (btw I discovered just yesterday that he was too scared to reject me – see the respect I got here?) So I moved in. That was the time when I began to learn English in a completely new way for me and I’d say that I improved dramatically.
I had so much fun taking these pics. In this one, I asked James to tell me a joke to make it look more natural. He came up with: ‘Do you know why was the mushroom invited to the party? Cuz he’s a funghi’. I was laughing so hard. The best joke ever.
By living with a native (especially a Scottish one), I’ve been learning so many phrases and words I’ve never heard of. Some of my Scottish colloquial favourites are: steaming= drunk, jobby = shit, wee = little, aye = yes, pure = very, dinger = microwave (cuz it dings ya know, how cool is that?). Obviously, these words and expressions are exquisite for Scottish English, but I get to improve the English English too. Having wee evening chats with James (that sometimes last till midnight) is like having free conversation lessons. What’s more, I genuinely like them. It’s not like ‘now, we’re going to discuss the water pollution’. Aye, an interesting topic, but it’s not something you’d like to talk about on a daily basis.
When James and I talk, it’s usually an everyday conversation complaining about all the essays we have due, talking about the uni, life or James’ adventures with girls (which are my fav btw). Honestly, I think that if he started writing a blog about his Tinder experiences (e.g. Tinder Tales?), it’d be a huge success. Sometimes we get even more philosophical and talk about stuff like abortion or the purpose of life. James is a great speaker and writer, so I find it really easy to talk to him.
Just like all people, we quarrel from time to time. For instance, about the best language in the world. Apparently, I claim it’s Czech, but he says it’s English. James: ‘Who was the greatest writer of all time? Shakespeare. You know which language he spoke? ENGLISH.’ I get your point James, but you don’t speak Czech so you can’t really tell. Sorry. Normally, I’m not the type of person who’d like to have arguments, but these kinda fights are fun. I’m glad he didn’t finish his law degree, otherwise he’d definitely beat me.
Me: ‘Just act natural James, as if we were drinking coffee.’ James: ‘O.K.’ holding the mug limply… because this setting is so NOT fake. Let’s pretend I always wear jeans and makeup. Let’s pretend the living room is not freezing and we always chat here. At least we could’ve filled the mugs.
Of course it’s not only James I talk to. I have plenty of native and non-native friends here, with whom I hang out often and who contribute to my learning too. The other man featuring the story is my friend Alex, my gym buddy (he likes to say he’s my poodle cuz he goes where I go). He is bilingual – German/Scottish and therefore thinks he’s native. But we both know you’re only 50% native, Alex. He loves to slag off my use of articles, because sometimes I just forget to use them. But so does he (or uses them incorrectly). Although it’s the most irritating thing ever, I’m actually quite grateful for his remarks.
With Alex, I get to listen a lot. He’s so talkative I sometimes catch myself not listening anymore. I know it’s not nice of a friend but… I can’t actually think of any valid reason to defend myself. Sorry. I believe we all have those friends who just can’t stop talking (which I don’t mind as long as it’s not about football – that’s the only topic I prohibited Alex to ever mention). It’s hard to keep up and concentrate your ears all the time, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just me – Alex, if you’re reading this, don’t get it wrong, you know you’re my wee poodle. Hashtag friends forever.
Even though Alex’s never used Tinder (at least I think so), he’s got a considerably high amount of interesting stories with girls too. Again, just like all love stories, they’re extremely entertaining to listen to. I’d tell you the stories, but I’m afraid he might kill me after. Bearing in mind the fact he’s joined the British Army recently, I wouldn’t take the risk.
The conclusion: live with a native and find a super annoying German who’ll remind you of your mistakes, even though he makes the same ones… Surround yourself with English speakers as much as you can. Even if you’re not abroad yet want to progress, there are ways to find English speakers even in your country. Become friends with Erasmus students, your English teacher, join forums, Facebook groups or maybe use Tinder? – I don’t know, I haven’t used it so ask James. Talk to them and listen. Slag them off back.
#PartTwo to be continued… (with photos of Alex!)
A picture by me from our trip to Edinburgh in 2016.