English: Loving the Frankenstein Language


English, you're lucky most of the things I like are in you.

I’ve never really thought about or appreciated the language I was born with. In high school and university, I had a lot of boring, pretentious conversations about different languages, and English was usually filed pretty low in the rankings. French and Spanish were romantic, Indian languages earthy and exotic; Japanese, Korean, Mandarin all alluring and bewildering beyond measure. I liked these other languages because I didn’t speak them, and thus they were somehow more fascinating or special than my own gutter tongue. I would never put work into learning any of them, because that would require effort and forethought and dedication, and all that stuff was for losers. I was to be stuck a unilingual, with the most boring language of all.

As a Canadian child, I endured numerous years of government mandated French instruction, which I abandoned as soon as I was legally able to. It was hard to nurse fantasies of French as a mysterious, fluttering language from afar when I had to actually speak it every day, and learn about the gendering of various sexless objects. During those years in school, French was basically English’s uncool relative, who I had to visit and play with because my parents thought French would be a good influence on me. When I ditched it, French  went back to being cool and aloof, and French speakers once again became silk-voiced soothsayers.

When I began to travel, the charm of foreign languages grew still greater. Fancy European people spoke Fancy European languages. They laughed and ate croissants and and fine cheeses straight from the teat, and drank wine by the riverside or downed immense tankards of stupendously good beer.  They hopped on trains and were in other worlds, completely unlike their own, immersed in still other cool, refined languages. Britain and Ireland at least had wacky accents to make their English slightly more suave than my flat, newscastery Canadian usage. Still later in Asia, the languages seemed almost otherworldly, as though wrought under the boiling sun and passed through alternate dimensions before finally arriving in human people’s mouths. They used writing systems completely different from anything I knew, they wrote in different directions across their pages, and their words spilled out in orders that I didn’t think possible.

It was easy to think of languages acquisitively, like cool accessories to don and impress others with. Whatever few piddling morphemes I managed to learn in the various other tongues, I generally employed with delirious elan. I liked to think I was in with the locals in some way, colluding with them, even if they were both unaware and not really in any place to give a shit what I was doing or saying. I wanted to be worldly and special and not rely on the boring language I spoke pretty well.

Moving to Korea, being surrounded by a language that was not my own, at first propelled this to greater heights. My Korean study is still a work in progress, but every step I’ve managed has made me feel more independent, more global, and also more ecstatically full of myself. But English here is foreign and alluring, and moreover a symbol of status. People want to speak it, but not in a way similar to how I’ve ever really spoken it before.

All right, let's enunciate carefully.

It was only here that I started to notice how much I liked English.

On an average day, I interact thousands of English learners, both children and adults, and still others who aren’t really interested in English at all. My English, generally, is decimated from the way I usually speak it. I abandon huge swaths of my bountiful vocabulary, I utterly restructure my grammar, and I whittle away my meaning to the barest, bluntest points. I care about effective learning and communication with my students more than anything, so my English has spawned a more approachable sub-language. A Korean co-worker once asked me to speak at my regular pace, just to see how much she could catch of it. With trepidation, I spat out a flurry of English phonemes at about three-quarter speed, but stopped when her horror became too vivid. I speak a different kind of English language here, and just as often employ my laboured but economical Korean to do some of the communicative gruntwork.

Openly speaking whatever free-wheeling, fantastical sentences my brain could generate is something I had grown to take for granted. That others would understand my weird vocabulary, my whack sentence construction, my bizarro slang. That I could speak and be spoken to and not really worry about comprehension, and that I could speed and slur my words together until it was a phonetic mush and know that it would simply click for those around me.

I suddenly began to realize how valuable my English-speaking friends were. They were islands of comprehension where I never had to really think about my words, or carefully consider how I could pass along a message to them. My apartment grew to become an English oasis, where books, and movies, and music, and language all live. In there, I write out English in as fanciful and pretentious of tones as I desire. In there, everything makes sense in ways that I don’t even really need to think about.

English is in my brain. It’s what that internal voice in my head speaks; it’s the way I manage and process the world. It’s the language of the music I listen to, the books that I read, (many of) the people that I know and love. It’s the language that my mother read stories to me in. The language that I learned math, and science, and art in. The language that I learn other languages in. It flows from my mouth and hands without effort or care. I can make it do tricks in ways I can’t yet achieve in other tongues. With its ductility, I can mould, and contour, and forge words into strange new shapes and configurations. I can use it to make others happy, or sad, or want to laugh, and others can use it to do the same to me.

I’ve come to appreciate it in ways that I didn’t before, and also to appreciate what it means when others try to learn to speak it. To communicate to me in the language that is so comforting and easy to me, knowing that every flaw and error will be glaring. And how difficult it can be to try to speak outside of one’s own comfortable, safe, brain language. That my students, and many of my Korean friends,  try it every day with me is amazing: as basically the only person they use English to speak to, they risk a lot of face and put in a great deal of effort, speaking to me in a language so different from their own. And in turn, I understand why they are so happy, so amazed, and so appreciative when I try to return the favour.

English may not always be pretty. It’s basically the monstrous CHUD-baby of a dozen European-language gang-bang. For the last few centuries its been rampaging around the globe like a juggetnaut, pilfering vocabulary and grinding other languages to dust in its mighty, destructive jaws. But English made up my first words, it will probably make up my last, and its made up a great deal of the ones in the middle. For all its faults, I’ve come to love this great lumbering ape of a language.

The laptop. My portal to the English world.

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203 thoughts on “English: Loving the Frankenstein Language

  1. So true, so true. I’m italian but when I learned to read and write it was in English. Incredibly though my mother tongue is really the way my brain functions.

    • There are some things in Korean now that my brain can comfortably process alone, as having meaning in Korean. But otherwise, it’s still all incredibly fast translations to understand anything.

  2. Once again Michael you have written a great blog. I love reading your stuff and checking out your great pictures.

  3. Being in the midst of a semester abroad I can definitely appreciate the sense that English is not as cool, but like you I am learning to recognize its worth. This was a great, thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    ps. I think the various Irish accents are my favorite English accents — better than my American accent for sure!

  4. Have you read Bill Bryson’s “Mother Tongue”? This post really reminded me of it. If you haven’t, I would highly recommend it!

      • I will arrive in Shanghai as a sweaty, disheveled mess on July 31st. Then I will spend the better part of August 1st being poked, prodded, scanned, and groped by the Chinese Immigration Authority’s crack medical squad in order to obtain my residency permit. Then, pending some paperwork (and some actual teaching work), I will be free to roam Asia with impunity! I can’t wait!

        • Hey, just like Korea! We arrived similarly disheveled, and were herded into a hotel for a week. Then a big celebratory day in the hospital to test us for AIDS, heroin, and whatever the hell else dirty foreigners tend to carry. Enjoy your Chinese Federal Mandate Grope!

          I am excite. You will, of course, be visiting Korea? You have at least one futon in a room the size of a closet with your name on it! Thanh and I have also been discussing making a journey to China.

  5. “English may not always be pretty. It’s basically the monstrous CHUD-baby of a dozen European-language gang-bang.”

    Oh my GOD that’s an apt description!

    As a writer by profession and a lover of language — specifically, the English language — I whole-heartedly agree. Wonderful post…thank you!

    • I think learning English is hard because it’s kind of whack-a-doodle most of the time. But yeah, I’m always amazed by people who speak a great number of languages. When I moved to Korea, one girl told me that Korean was her 5th language.

  6. As a fellow Canadian I understand your pains of having to learn French.. I ditched it as soon as I was allowed to do so too. I LOVED this post and thought it was so well written!

  7. What YOU do with English words is so darn intriguing! You’re a fantastic writer and I love the way you link words and phrases together to get your ideas across. Your description of various languages is exactly what’s always been in my head, but I don’t think I ever could have described it to someone if I had tried. Impressive. Love this post!

    • Thank you very much! I’ve always had those descriptions jumbling around in my brain, and they’ve become clearer ever since I started writing regularly about language and processing my thoughts on it.

  8. Pingback: English: Loving the Frankenstein Language (via Stupid Ugly Foreigner) « My Writing Life

  9. I really appreciate what you’ve written here. As a bilingual poet, language is very often at the forefront of my mind. I grew up learning both English and Spanish, yet I think almost exclusively in English. As you say in your post: “I can make [English] do tricks in ways I can’t yet achieve in other tongues. With its ductility, I can mold, and contour, and forge words into strange new shapes and configurations.” So true!

    I use English in my speech and in my writing not simply because it’s easier, but because it’s the language of my creativity. There are ideas and emotions I can’t quite get to if I tried to describe them in Spanish. I can heat and forge English words into art in a way I simply haven’t mastered yet in any other language. You articulate this so well.

    And no matter how low English may rank on the language totem pole, there is something beautiful, even mystical, about speaking in your native tongue, the language that taught you about pain and beauty.

    Fabulous post!

    • There is definitely something special about the first language you learn how to talk your emotions through. I am getting places with Korean, but I don’t have the nuance yet. I can tell someone I’m sad or happy, but I can’t describe the exact nature, and I can’t floridly explain the reasons behind what I’m feeling.

  10. You’re so very right! I’m Dutch and thiis is the language I grew up with. Now I live and work in China and all I speak is English and all I hear is English and Chinese. I miss Dutch, eventhough I thought it was a boring language and I love English eventhough I thought this too was a bore.
    Great post! Thaks for charing!

  11. Yes, I recommend “Mother Tongue” as well. I’m an English major and have come to love the history of the English language 🙂 Great post!

  12. I often wondered what it was like for Korean students to come to the American college I graduated from. For me, and most of my fellow students, Engilsh was our first language and we’d never given serious thought to what it would be like to go somewhere English was not spoken. It’s amazing how little some of us think about language and how much it impacts our lives.

    • I can only imagine… to a large degree, I can still communicate in my daily life in my native language, even if it’s slightly warped from how I want to speak it. It would be difficult to imagine sitting on my native tongue for most of the day until I could find the few others around me who spoke it.

  13. Its amazing how many people wax on lyrically about the english language. The British were responsible for introducing english to indians and I dare say there are
    many many indians who speak, think, and express themselves far more elegantly in the english language than probably a present day brit. It ultimately all boils down to the amount of reading you have done in your life for that is where the intracacies of a language are best imbibed. I am glad to be able to put my knowledge of the language to use by my writing.

  14. I see Dune. English so as to read Mr. Herbert’s all 6 books. Definitely worth the pain it takes to pick up the language.

  15. It made me think…. and from the way I write you’d think English wasn’t my native language 🙂 In a way, the internet might be the best thing ever to have happened to our language. I love the way you put your thoughts together, Thanks so much for sharing

  16. Interesting post. You have to remember that to people in the U.K, Canadian accents sound very cool and unique. I sometimes think that it’s the lure of anything different or foreign that makes us believe that our own accents and language is dull. Sometimes we don’t appreciate our own nuances.

  17. Great post! Also, I’ve always wondered why phonics are taught in English, being that English is not a very phonetic language. Spanish maybe, English no.

    • Maybe because the phonics are so wacky and often counter-intuitive to how one would think most words are read. “This is how the language is supposed to sound. It probably won’t, but isn’t it nice to know?”

  18. This is very insightful, I’ve always wanted to learn another language as well. I never thought of English as a symbol of status or how wonderful the language really is. Thanks 🙂

    • Especially in countries that are investing great deals of money to improve English-speaking ability (and Korea is big into that right now), English speech, especially amongst locals, is definitely a status symbol. I’ve read in multiple places about how speaking English in public is not a neutral act.

  19. As an ESL who likes English very much (still love my native language of Spanish, even if I’m not as good with it), I always found it interesting to hear native English speakers say that English wasn’t cool, or worse, that it had crazy rules that didn’t make sense. The more I live in Japan and have to explain English to my students, the more I think, “English makes a lot of sense!” It may have more influences than, say, Japanese, but that doesn’t mean that people just sat around one day and said “let’s make up a language with no rhyme or reason, just to screw people up!”

    Haha, anyway, before I start rambling, I just wanna say I enjoyed your post. : )

    • Oh, there is rhyme and reason. It’s just that occasionally, English decided, “Hey, I want some rhyme from French and some reason from Latin, and maybe I’ll get drunk in Germany for a while and blend the two together.”

  20. I used to wonder how the foreign students who came to the US to study hard sciences managed. I could barely understand some of the professors half-mangled German attempts to speak English. How on Earth a non-native English speaker managed it I’ll never know. I think they just went to class for the sake of taking notes, and then got together afterwards to figure it all out themselves.

    You’d be surprised at the tricks you can pull in a language that you aren’t native in, though. 🙂 You don’t do the same tricks the native speakers do, but you can have a weird flavor of fun that they’ll love. I once blanked on how to say “I’m hungry” in Welsh and ended up just saying, “I need food like a wild wolf.” They loved it. 🙂

    • This is definitely true. When I speak Korean, I often can’t approach the regular phrasing of sentences, and thus I’m left to being weird and inventive whenever I want to express something.

  21. super post! I’m an English speaking Canadian living in Italy. I didn’t speak an ounce of Italian when I moved here three years ago and to hear myself speak English to my Italian friends (who comprehend very little) is so very different then the Canadian slang English I was brought up with.
    Congrats on Freshly Pressed. Well deserved.

  22. Oh French… despite being forced to learn it, I don’t know anyone who actually learned to speak it in school…
    English is the only language I know well, but I do love the variety of words you can use, and how you can just change words and grammar as you please without the language police cracking down on you 🙂

    • The only people I know who picked up French fluency from the public system in Ontario invariably went to immersion schools at some point. I regret not working harder at it now, but at the time, I couldn’t wait to get away from it.

  23. As a Southern American just out of high school, the language I was expected to learn was Spanish. I ran from it as quickly as possible (after two years to earn my high school language credits) and have no intentions to return to it unless I’m learning it in Spain. I, however, have run to French. I’m teaching myself (having gone to a small private school that only offered Spanish and having no spare cash to take classes). I learn via music, dictionaries, and various websites. I’m learning Brazilian Portuguese the same way. This doesn’t matter to you, though. I just thought it was funny that you ran from French and I ran to it.

    Anyway, I loved this. I feel much better knowing that I’m not the only one who sees English as a Frankenstein hodge-podge of words our ancestors must have found appealing in other langauges, but failed to pronounce properly. I appreciate English too. I just think it’s ugly.

    Merci (hopefully that didn’t just drive you up a wall) for sharing with us what was on your mind. Peace out!

    • French doesn’t repulse me much anymore, it shames me that I can’t speak more of it. Enough rattles around in my brain so that I can still understand some things, but pressed to speak it, I would wither in fear.

  24. Good article, but that last para is rather negative! Surely it is the heterogeneity of English which is its strength. Living as a writer in Wales, a nation with a beautiful but far more limited language, makes me particularly aware of this.

  25. Pingback: On the English Language « Lynne Melcombe: Writer, Editor, Wordworker

  26. This is beautifully written – I love how you’re definitely making the most of your mother tongue here! I’m just coming to the end of eight months teaching English in a Spanish secondary school and the experience has made me look at English in a completely new way.

  27. I have delved into many languages in some depth, and it is clear that English is among the most malleable and ductile and adaptable. I believe it is changing now, very rapidly, but most English professors have not yet noticed. Future historians of the language may compare this era in magnitude to that of the Great Vowel shift. 감사합니다

    • In what ways is English changing, if you don’t mind my asking? The possibilty of another shift fascinates me.

    • 읽어 주셔서 고맙습니다!

      I think it is changing, and ultimately so consumptive of other languages, because it is so adaptable. It’s willing to absorb and take on the nature of the local languages, and in turn spread that elsewhere. Korean English is unique because of the influence of Korean on the English spoken here.

  28. By the way, US Americans need to begin the study of foreign languages in their first school years. Two years of study in high school, by traditional methods, accomplishes almost nothing.

    • Indeed. In Canada we at least start earlier, though not with the kind of pedagogy that creates a lot of lasting motivation or fluency. Korea is trying to push this earlier, but their system also has its own problems in terms of effective language learning.

  29. My mother tongue is German and after writing English texts for over 25 years on an almost daily basis, I still feel handicapped using it.

    It took a while to realize this has nothing to do with lack of vocabulary or grammatical mistakes. It has a lot to do with culture. I am German, that’s a whole cultural background not just a language and it is plainly impossible to transfer that to another language.

    And why would I even try? Additional languages are additional ways to express thoughts, no more, no less. They broaden the learner’s horizon and experience, but don’t replace anything. And that’s great – no matter where you are from!

    • Indeed, and it’s not something to feel bad about. We shouldn’t worry about approaching native level fluency in a language that we haven’t natively spoken. Reaching any degree of fluency is still a pretty impressive goal, especially considering how set language becomes in our brains.

  30. I remember well the moment when I first realized how easy it was when the other person(s) involved in the conversation also spoke English as a native language. I could just…talk and not worry about it. I could be so effortlessly polite (or rude, for that matter) or use sarcasm, or make a silly pun.

    I didn’t hear native English for months after I moved to Istanbul. I used to go to movies just so I could be the first one to get the jokes or understand the drama. I was so desperate, I even paid money to see “G.I. Jane”. Oof.

    Other languages will always seem cool and mysterious, and I will continue to spend time trying to learn them, but English is still pretty great all by itself.

  31. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! As a longtime reader of your blog, this is great to see.

    I speak French and Spanish, and take English as my first language for granted. But I recently spoke to foreign students at a language school in my town, visiting from all over the world to learn English…in front of that audience, I was for once when discussing my new book, very aware of speaking much more slowly, clearly and trying to convey the larger cultural context of how I write and think.

    I love conversations about language and meaning. Hard to find people to have them with.

    • It’s happened before, but I still get deliriously excited. Sign into email, see bazillion wordpress emails, know something good has happened.

      I also like talking to people about language and meaning. I need to spend a little more time studying linguistics to process all of my thoughts and gain some more knowledge, but I find it fascinating.

  32. Spending some time in Kenya, where they teach english in schools, I was told I spoke, not english, but American. I had to enunciate and speak slower . . . dropping the slang, which took a lot of thought.

    Great post!!

  33. I was terrible at languages in high school. I got a 1 on my AP Spanish test. Speaking Spanish in class was the bane of my existence. Then I spent the ’09-’10 school year in Belgium picking up Belgian culture and French, a language I’d never learned one word of prior to my departure. I love to write and I missed using English on a daily basis so much more than I thought I would. As it did for you, being in a different country where, for the natives, speaking fluent English is close to unfathomable (probably less so for Belgians than Koreans, but still) made me realize the beauty that does lurk in the “chud-baby” that is English. Thank you so much for this post.

  34. I especially like your sunglass holder…
    I can only imagine what it is like to go from a latin based language to an asian one, they ARE otherworldly!

  35. Pingback: English: Loving the Frankenstein Language (via Stupid Ugly Foreigner) « Stellalunatic's Blog

  36. Loved this! I know exactly what you mean. I have gone through similar stages with English, esp when living overseas. I started my blog because I felt I was losing some of the finer nuances of English through speaking only to ESL learners. Of course that only made me realize what an impossible task getting thoroughly fluent in another language was!
    Aren’t languages fun?

  37. I was always fascinated with other languages (i.e Spanish) b/c they seemed foreign and pretty to me….of course when I got to learning them in a classroom the allure of it kinda went out the window!

    One interesting thing though, is that when I was learning spanish, my teacher emphasized that it’s important to think, as well as speak in spanish….I never that we THINK in the language we speak, until I had a tough time trying to shut off my “english” thinking and think in Spanish! 🙂

  38. I must truly say your blog today was most interesting…I’m a teacher of English living in Italy. I also have the same pangs when speaking English here as I can totally relate to what you expressed. Good luck as I will be following your blog…

  39. The English language really shines in the hands of a master. Read a few sentences from, yes, Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, or Char;otte Bronte. More recently add Canadian, Margaret Atwood. Thanks

  40. English is such a silly language & difficult for ESL students because words are not pronounced as they sound, each vowel has many sounds & it has rules which aree made to be broken.

  41. Loved this post! I can relate to you in two ways with this post; 1)I too dropped French after grade 9, never thinking I would really use it again as well as being extremely frustrated with the way they taught us. They taught us so we didn’t actually know anything, could never speak it, and then all of a sudden the government expects us to be able to read, write, and speak with at least some level of fluency. Bah!

    2)I am spending a year in Belgium and even though I had many years of French studies (and I sung many a French song in University)I feel self-conscious and terrified to speak it allowed to anyone other than the almost-three year old I work with.

    I was talking with a friend from home (Canada for me too) and she mentioned that it must be nice to speak to someone from home…and I realized it was. Fortunately the family I live with speaks English very well. Well, that might not be so fortunate because I’m not forced to learn as fast.

    I know French is a lot closer to home than Korean, but I get what you mean about appreciating English. And I know people always say that German always sounds angry, but it’s not true! I studied it for two years in University and I think it can be very beautiful. True it’s not as fluid as French or Spanish, but it has it’s own beauty and at least I can wrap my mouth around it better than French!

    • German sounds great. It’s like English. The vowels aren’t musical, but it has a drumbeat rhythm to it that you don’t get in a lot of other languages. Opera sounds better in Italian, but Edgar Allan Poe could never have written his poetry in anything but English.

    • French I’ve always found easy to say, and though I can still see the beauty in German, every time I’ve learned out to say something, it’s sounded like I was trying to club a child to death with my words.

    • German can sound pretty harsh, but if you ever listen to really great classical singers bring life to the music of Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, or Mendelssohn (to name a few) you can see how beautiful it can be. ^_^

  42. I had a similar experience to yours when growing up, I grew up in a Scandinavian country where Swedish was the other official language (although a tiny minority of the people speak it as their first language) and the fact that it was firced upon you in school- took all the joy of learning the language…to this day I have no interest in learning it nor understanding it… shame, really.

  43. The first language I learned to speak and spoke for the first few years of my life was Urdu. as I started school, English quickly became my dominant language– in fact, now, 24 years later I think in English and have to make a conscious effort to speak in Urdu. I really wish I had nurtured my Urdu speaking skills and applied myself to learn to read and write.
    Oh well, c’est la vie!

    • When did you, or did you, stop really speaking it? It may be far back, and English may have taken over, but if you work on picking it back up, there’s probably the bare bones still rattling around in yyour brain.

  44. Pingback: English: Loving the Frankenstein Language (via Stupid Ugly Foreigner) | Epic Behaviour

  45. Great post! I thoroughly enjoy reading it.
    As long as I can remember I have always found other languages to be prettier, more interesting, exotic, etc. I guess it’s a matter of thinking that the grass is greener on the other side. It’s hard to think about your native language as being something special or beautiful when you use it everyday.

  46. We tend to think of our native tongue as language and the rest as cultures. I am always baffled, amazed and pleased when someone questions my culture using their rendition of my native tongue. Great post.

    • Heh, this is certainly true of myself, and the people I meet. It’s always interesting to meet some of the young kids at my school. Many of them approach me and begin prattling away in Korean, until someone informs them that I can’t speak it (or, more accurately, that I speak it at about a Kindergartener’s speed and complexity). They always seem perplexed. But he’s a teacher. And a human. How would he not speak Korean?

  47. I go to Mexico a lot and it wasn’t until I started learning and paying attention to the Spanish language when I was there that I realized people were paying close attention to my English also. I am much more careful with slang and nuance now when I am in Mexico as I realize they are trying to learn from me as well. Terrific blog

    • That’s something I have to watch out for, too. Many of my friends like learning slang from me, but when I speak to them, I have to be careful not to use so much that none of them become understandable.

  48. I’m an asian and I see that English is the most valuable language. It can take you to places. But I really want to learn French and Korean too. 🙂
    Your post is very well written! Congrats for making it to the freshly pressed! 🙂

  49. A well deserved Freshly Pressed! Your post has articulated everything I’ve ever thought about the English language but was too clumsy or bogged down with inadequate words to express out loud. THANK YOU! 🙂

  50. English is not my native tongue but I can however speak 4 Indian languages “almost” fluently. It’s taught to us right from school. Yet, when I have to converse informally with an American(I live in the US), their sarcasm or their quirky sense of humour is lost on me. I do think in English too most of the time.

  51. Nice. I’m asian. . I started learning english before pre-school. I love english because of wide choice of words. I learnt maths and science in english. I learnt deutsch for 4 years. Mostly fascinated by the sounds. Now, i’m going to learn Mandarin. I love language.

  52. Great articulation of what it’s like being an English speaker in South Korea. Friendship becomes based more on common language than anything else when living as an expat.

  53. As a student at The Sorbonne I lived in a foyer run by nuns. They had a music/rec room there where we could play records…yes, lp’s…I never new Billie Holliday until I listened to her and played about the only English lp they had from the US. There, I discovered her and very much missed one of my languages. Amazing talent, voice, perspective.
    I’ve asked foreign speakers what English sounds like to them…they invariably say it sounds like whispering.

  54. This was a truly wonderful read from an English speaker. I can relate very easily to the yearning feeling of wanting to speak something foreign and beautiful. I have always wanted to speak Arabic, for I think it is written and spoken beautifully, but this reminded me of the beauty of my own English language and how it will always be mine.

  55. Pingback: Of Bamboo and Daleks « The World Of Rob Kaas

  56. Nice post! loved reading it 🙂

    Ironically here in India, people want to learn and speak English the “Phoren”(Indian way of saying foreign) way…

    • That’s the big thing in Korea now, too. Hence why they’ve carted my ass over. There’s a real desire to try to approximate the “native” way of speaking, while Korean English is also just sort of growing alongside in the process.

  57. Pingback: English: Loving the Frankenstein Language (via Stupid Ugly Foreigner) « thedesertdreamer

  58. This post was great! I really love your style of writing.

    English isn’t my first language, but I have lived with it as my first.. and it is amazing what you can do with words you know so well.

  59. The psychology of language is mother interesting. Though im still a little confused as to what my mother tongue is and while it may be so much simpler to just be unilingual, i wouldnt trade in my multilingual self for anything.

    super great post and kudos to stepping out of that safe zone to learn a language!

  60. Thanks for this. I have also come to greatly appreciate English after working in Thailand for the last two years. It’s something we take for granted when we use it at home, but living in a foreign country – where you often have to express yourself in simplified terms to make people understand – you really begin t appreciate the diversity of the English language. It’s great to know, for example, that we can create complex, beautifully crafted sentences in English, despite the fact that we struggle to string a sentence together in our second language. I, for my part, have been learning Thai, and it has helped me to appreciate the brilliance of English. This, perhaps, is the greatest benefit of learning a second language.
    Thanks

  61. Hey man!I come from South Africa and as such speak Afrikaans and English, Afrikaans being my first language. English is way better. Afrikaans has great swear words but English is just way more versatile and descriptive, plus it doesn’t sound like you are smashing bricks with your voice when you speak. So yeah, go English!

  62. From a fellow North American English speaker and teacher, I say “Huzzah!” for this post. It is a well thought out and beautifully written piece on communication and meaning. We do speak a Frankenstein language, but typically, things that are “mutts” live longer, are smarter, and generally manage to survive where purebred things do not. I’m a proud English speaker, and I was a joy to communicate with you in it today!

  63. Great post – fine control of the nuances of our language (I too have learned to love my first language through learning a second, Italian). I note also the novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on your bookshelf. An excellent story and excellent writer.

  64. Some of the people working in our company have English as their second language. It’s hard to think and speak in English for those who didn’t receive enough English education. For those who live everyday surrounded with the English language are able to switch on the way they think(native and English) with ease. English too, is a status symbol in the Philippines especially in the workplace.
    Thanks for the post!

  65. Pingback: Saturday Links (6/4/11) | The Screaming Kettle at Home

    • It’s quite apt for the author to dub English ‘the Frankenstein language.’ Like the book character made up from bits of many bodies, a very large portion of English vocabulary is made up of loan words from loads of other languages, often with strange usages (even meanings) that differ from the original source. Like Frankstein too, it morphs and mutates at a high speed, becoming better in some parts and worse in others, leaving native speakers and other users wondering if it is good or evil or something in between – which is what makes it so versatile.

  66. I appreciate your honesty. Few people can realize what you have about yourself through language. I implore you to look deeper to see what else you find there.

    Ariel Ceylan

  67. Pingback: English Words and their Foreign Origins « bardicblogger

  68. I’ve heard on several occasions that English is the hardest language to learn because we use a lot of slang and the the same word will sometimes have many different meanings. But when I took 3 years of high school spanish and 3 years of college Spanish, I feel like I have little to show for.

    • I think that all language-learning is hard. It’s just easy to say that English is the hardest because it’s currently the thing that people are desperate to pick up quickly for a lot of economic and cultural reasons, and it also tends to be heavily idiomatic and regionalized.

  69. “necktie is female, necklace is male. Bless you, French.”

    the reason I argued with my French teacher every day in third grade and probably the reason why I got F’s in that class…I still don’t get it

    • It’s also one of those things that if you are raised with a language, it comes so implicitly that it’s hard to see why others can’t get it. Teaching about articles is basically the same pain.

  70. Pingback: English: Loving the Frankenstein Language « Stupid Ugly Foreigner | iamnotastoryteller

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