Home & Away

Learning a Language

I will address two topics today. 1) What it’s like not speaking the country you are in’s language and 2) What it’s like to learn that language.

Landing in Britain, I knew 3 phrases. A) Hello, my name is Tosia Altman. B) I am Polish and C) I know none English. And that was it. That was all I knew. That was all I had to get me through school and life in a foreign country. I knew none of English’s foreign grammars and pronunciation. I definitely did not understand the humour and sarcasm they use. Even now, I do not understand there phrases and get reprimanded often for using the wrong word to describe someone.

The most used English word I picked up was “Sorry”. Sorry, for when I stammered like an idiot as I tried to understand the currency as I bought a pack of polo mints. Sorry for when I didn’t understand class. Sorry for when I knocked something over and tried to apologise more profusely but couldn’t because I didn’t know the English words.

The second most used English word I picked up was “Thank you.” Thank you to the teachers who tried to make me understand them by gesturing and attempting to speak English words with a polish accent, as though that would somehow make magical sense. Thank you to the people who would help me with the currency, instead of looking at me with disgust or anger. Thank you to the Polish people at school, who when they noticed I couldn’t speak English, helped me by translating and teaching me words.

Learning any language is hard. The phrases and correct pronunciation is hard. Spelling it is even harder. You may think that my spelling is pretty accurate, but this is because my British Partner goes over my posts and corrects my spelling, my ordering and the format I write in. I am no means fluent in English. There is still so many words I don’t understand. However you learn to adjust to the language. You pick up there odd sayings and humour. You learn what they mean, after a few rough starts of awkwardly using them in the wrong situation.

You pick up the accent quickest I think, because you hear it before you can understand the language. Though the words are garbled, you still hear the accent.

I am proud to be Polish. But I am also proud that now, not only can I call myself a British Citizen, I am also fit in.


Tosia Altman



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