What inspired me to write this post was that today only five people asked me where I’m from because they heard me speaking “in a different way”. Two of them said “you’re accent is beautiful”, third one “you have a really cool accent”, fourth “you have a great accent and your English is awesome” and fifth one “I really like your accent… too bad you’re married”.
I want all of you to feel well and cheerful so I’m adding a photo of April for the beginning ;).
I don’t remember if I was ever worried about my level of English language but I don’t think so. When I got here my English was good but even then I didn’t feel comfortable speaking. In Poland I didn’t have anyone to talk with in English so I was kind of in a shock here because I had to change everything. After a while Nathan told me something that I realized then and it made perfect sense. He said that at the beginning I was speaking pretty quietly and it was hard to hear me. Why did I talk quietly? Because I was afraid I’d make mistakes and people would ask “what did you say?”. But, you know, it was kinda stupid because they asked anyway. Not because they didn’t understand but because they simply didn’t hear because I was so quiet. It went away fast and I started taking risk because there was no other way.
I think that during this whole time my English skills went up significantly. I’m very confident, I’m not afraid that I’d make a mistake. I can talk about every day stuff and about more serious ones as well, including medical topics now too. I understand songs I listen to but if I started listening to rap or something I’d probably have no idea what they’re saying. I don’t have any problem with talking on the phone and earlier (for a long time) I hated it because I had troubles with understanding someone who I didn’t see. I’m not afraid of speaking in front of a group of people and earlier I was scared to do so even in Polish so it’s a huge and positive change. Of course it happens that Nathan says something I don’t understand and he needs to explain some words, this is the way I’ve been learning. People say I speak a very good English and sometimes they’re surprised that I’ve been here so short but, to be honest, I sometimes think they exaggerate because I personally don’t think I’m that awesome. In most cases I don’t have problems with understanding people speaking British and I couldn’t get any of it a year ago. I’m saying “in most cases” because if someone talks very fast then I need to ask them to repeat of turn on subtitles if it’s a movie. And by the way, I don’t like the way British accent sounds, never did and I think I never will.
The only thing that bothers me now is that it seems to me like I’m stuck in one place, like my English isn’t improving anymore and I know there’s still more to go.
When I was in Poland several people commented that I speak differently. I heard that I sometimes put accent on words in different ways or something. If there’s a word that’s similar in both languages (for example “massage” – Domcia’s favorite example – “center”) I’ll pronounce it more in English than Polish. Moreover, when I talk in Polish with someone and I put there an English word (for example a name of a song or something like that) I’ll continue the sentence in English unless I control myself very hard. The last thing is easy to manage and solve because I correct myself or think about it earlier. However, if it comes to putting an accent in different places of a word or pronouncing them differently, I don’t have any control over it. It happens that I ask Nathan or Alicia about some word I can’t remember or I don’t know as well.
Because yes, I do use Polish language but mostly in writing or when I watch a tv show. Or when I see Jagoda from time to time, or someone else from Poland. Besides that I use English only with everyone around, my friends are Americans, I read in English, listen to American radio stations, watch movies in English, when I go to a bank or a post office I speak English. My brain is set for this way and when I speak this language for 90% of the time during the year, and I’ve been here for almost 3 years, I’ll catch some accent if I want it or not, it’ll be easier for me to say some things in English instead of Polish or I’ll happen to forget some Polish translation (this happens rarely), I think in English too. And let me tell you, when several years ago I watched a Polish talk show about people who fell in love with the USA and I saw a girl who came back from the States after three months of living here and who was speaking this weird and fake American accent and putting English words in Polish sentences because she “doesn’t remember”, I facepalmed. I thought it was so stupid and impossible because how she could have any problems with her native language that she used for around 20 years after barely three months of speaking a different one. And yes, I still think that three months don’t do much of a difference but a longer time does. Someone who keeps in touch with Polish people on a daily basis and talk to them will not have problems like this or at least not as often as someone who doesn’t speak Polish almost at all.
I want to note that I don’t speak with American accent. First of all because there’s not such thing as American accent because each state has its own way of speaking. Second, I speak with Polish accent but with a correct pronunciation of English words in most cases. Third, I don’t even know if it’s possible for someone who spent 21 years in a homeland to catch a foreign accent just like this, especially after three years which isn’t a long time. Also, it’s important to remember that Polish people while speaking their language use their tongues in a certain way that American people won’t know because they use theirs in different ways. That’s why Americans sound so cool and funny when they try to pronounce Polish words – they simply aren’t able to put their tongue the way that will allow words to sound the way they should. And what’s more, note that most of Chinese people have huge problems with English pronunciation because… Chinese is just a different story.
And yes, I agree that if I took care of my Polish I probably wouldn’t have any problems with finding translations and so on but… I don’t care. I don’t mind that I sometimes say things with a different accent while speaking Polish and I don’t mind that Nathan sometimes still corrects my pronunciation. Some of you might be surprised but I really don’t care which accent I’ll have because what I care about the most is that people understand me without mistakes on my part. That’s why I don’t do anything to forget Polish or anything like that. If I did it, I wouldn’t have a Polish version of this blog but I’d write in English only. I don’t put any effort to imitate American’s way of speaking but I’m here with them, I listen, talk, see how they use their lips and so on. And I just catch it without any effort.
Talk to you next time,