Wednesday, 14 June 2006

A, B, C

Neil asked me, surprised, in which languages I read two novels a week. English was my reply.

I remember the first book I read in English. I didn't read it, really, was just pretending to. We were living in Niger and it was a book one of my father's étudiant forgot at home. I went through it, pretending I had an idea what it was about. How was I to know that it was in my destiny to come to a country where the official language is English and where I'd have to learn the language?

When we moved here, the teachers thought my case was hopeless. My maths teacher kept telling me to go to a French private school. That's when I fell out of love with math and been bad at it ever since.

The Librarian was a real nice guy. He looked at me with compassion, asked me what I knew in English. The Alphabets and the colours of the rainbow I said. He didn't blink. He didn't laugh. He said, wait, I have something for you.

He gave me an illustrated book. One word per page with a picture. 3 years old book. I was so ashamed. Now am grateful.

The purpose of this post is to thank. To thank all those who have, knowingly and unknowingly contributed to making it possible for me to post in English Today.

Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist. For all the humiliation I was subjected to in class while reading aloud to prove to the teacher that I could do it. I read everything in French. "Eyes" turned into "Et-yes" and "Please give me some more" sounded like "Ple-a-ce jeev meuh someh moreh". The snickers and laughter gave me courage.

Prince. Yes, the singer. "Could you be, the most beautiful girl in the world...". The first song in English I sang and realised I understood what I was singing.

Christopher Pike. The writer. It took me a month to read half of his writings. When I was done I sat and wondered. When did the transition occur? At one point did I turn from completely Englishically ignorant to the opposite? I had no idea and still don't.

Texas. The band. For inspiring my best essay. Read to the class by the teacher. She smiled at me and said to the class: Just listen to this sentence. I miss you, like the desert misses the rain. Isn't it just beautiful? I thought, Oh my God, she actually never heard them!

The Backstreet Boys. I thought they were beautiful and learned their lyrics with translations just to understand what they were saying. It turned out, not much.

Mrs J. My Indian English Teacher who, not once, treated me as an Englishically ignorant and encouraged me to write. I once asked her what does primordial mean? (It's the same word in French but I didn't know that either). She thought and said. Say you're in class now and there's a Cyclone Alert and you have to leave the class quick for a shelter, what would you take with you? I said my lunch box Miss. She sighed.

My Indian friends R. & R. I remember how I was telling them about this guy I'd seen and how puzzled they were looking and how I thought they were dense not to follow. It turned out, I said the guy was wearing yellow "sockets" and that he was "bald". I actually meant yellow "socks" and that he had a lot of nerve "bold".

Eventually, in the second phase of my English Evolution, my gratitude goes to Stephen king, Danielle Steel, Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, The Ragratz and the Boyz II Men.

I now listen to Shaggy. Can anyone tell me what he says?

Tags: :.: :.: :.: :.:


ChickyBabe said...

Great post, Fitena. Some of it I could relate to with my franco-english ways. The question is, in what language do you dream, think, do your maths?

Fitèna said...

Thank you CB!
Well that depends: When I have imaginary conversations with my imaginary Prince Charming, they're forever in English. I dream in Arabic most of the time. A little french and italian since i set on learning the language. I dreamt of J. Bauer once and that was in hindi!
I think in all of the above languages. Most times in English though. Because its the language I do my writing in.


Neil said...

From a typical American, who only knows English (and not even that very well), I'm amazed at the fluidity you have with different languages. Were you also taught more than one language in school?

Lil Bit said...

What a cool t/y post!
I'm impressed & a lil envious at your command of diff languages. ^5! ;)

javed said...

lol thats funny specially the cyclone alert one hahahha ... i remember my first englisht word was MONEY!!!

Fitèna said...

Neil, thank you! :-) I went to a Franco-Arab primary school. Arabic is my maternal tongue. I started English second year of secondary level and the other languages I had to pick up.

Lil Bit, whats a "t/y post"?
(still learning!) :-)

javed, now am surprised. I thought the first english words you'd know would be shoes and sisit! lol! English is supposed to be official language here but no one speaks it. I find it irritatting the way parents go with the children asking the met tes shoes! viens sisit ici! :-)


javed said...

huh well not really i speak english all the time , many of my colleagues are either in Netherlands or UK , although it does happen that i occasionally do let out one or two french words.... english rocks!

Egan said...

I don't think Shaggy knows what he's saying.

Growing up multilingual sounds like a rough time education wise. I'm glad you're feeling comfortable with your English skills. You do quite well. Tu parles anglais mieux que moi.

jackt said...

I was once on a tour in Thailand, and the guide spoke very good English, so we asked him how he learned to speak English so well. He said from watching "The Terminator"! That's the movie with Arnold Schwarzenneger speaking English with a thick Austrian accent!!!

Claire said...

I think t/y stands for 'thank you.'

It used to throw me that people from places with other languages would want to blog in English, but now I just think it's pretty cool. It gives me a glimpse into life somewhere far away.

Claire said...
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beej said...

Your command of English is better than many Americans boast.

And trust me, Shaggy's not saying anything important :)

Great post!

Fitèna said...

javed, what I meant, and you'd agree, is that, Mauritians, not you particularly, do not speak english. It's creol they speak. And they're self conscious speaking english. Right?

Egan lol:-) I actaully was thibking about Sean Paul but its all same thing.

Hah! Do I speak it better than you?! lol! Allow me to think otherwise! You flatterer!
You're right, it was tough at one time; the begigining!

jackt, lol! I watched "Terminator" too! When I was a kid. But French dubbed!!! To think that I actually would have been able to learn english from it if hadn't been dubbed! grrr! :-)

Claire, that makes sens! Thank you!
:-) Yeah, that's what blogging is all about, right?!

beej, I know what you mean. I had this friend whose mistakes just amazed me. But I think its normal you know, I write french well if it weren't for the mistakes. There are so many rules to follow. Grammar, conjugaison....
I figured that out about Shaggy!:-)


Margaret said...

What a gift to be able to communicate with so many people! How old were you when you started learning English?

M said...

All you gotta know about Shaggy is he's Mister Lover-Lover. And they call him Mr Boombastic.

That is all that matters.

Lil Bit said...

Oh, lol, sorry girl... I get carried away w/the chat lingo sometimes. My bad.
t/y = thank-you.
Understand now?

Fitèna said...

Margaret, I was 13. And a "gift" it is! Never thought aout it that way. But you're right!

M, lol! Actually those are about all the words I make out in his songs! lol!

Lil Bit, lol! It's ok! Claire was kind enought to explain! Yes ma'm, undesrtand now! :-)


Egan said...

Ca va bien?

Fitèna said...

Oui Egan! Bien merci.... heuh... pourquoi? :-)


Adeline said...

I love language learning and the fact that some of those artists and writers I truly do not like helped you...well for that they have redeemed themselves as far as I am concerned.

I rate Shakira as the number one for helping me with some Spanish.

Fitèna said...

Adeline, what did they do to you huh?! lol! No, I know what you mean.
Shakira? I don't know about spanish but I really do not understand half of what she sisngs in English. in that single I only make out "Don't bother" and that's because its the song's title! :-)


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