learning

We talk a lot about words here at home, Gerry and I. He being a linguist, and me speaking my second language … I think that’s only natural. We’re both interested in words.

Almost not one day goes by, without me having to look up a word in English … check them out, getting the full gist of them. Now, that I have the online tool TYDA.SE, it’s gotten so much easier … Websters online is great, but reading it in your native tongue is different … you get the full essence of it. Quite often I do that, when I feel that I don’t have the full grasp of it after we’ve talked about it. I don’t think it really matters for how long you’ve been gone from your own language — sometimes you need that.

One ‘phenomenon’ that I’ve noticed though … a word isn’t fully ‘incorporated’ into my own vocabulary until I’ve used it. I forget so many words I look up, but once  I’ve used it … either in speech or in writing … they stick! Before, I used to jot them down by hand each time I’d looked them up, and that was a good method. Unfortunately, somehow the computer has made it so I hardly ever do that anymore.

Almost from Day One, online, I’ve communicated with English-speakers. The thing about this is that only THREE persons,  have corrected my English. Two online and one in “real life”. The interesting part about this is that all three were non-native English-speakers! Well … the ‘real-life one’, I guess could be considered almost native speaker but the other  two spoke English as second language, as myself! I, myself could never bring myself to correct anybody else … perhaps that’s the same phenomenon. I admit there are times when I’m just itching to do it, but I’m too afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.

I can only imagine all the bizarre things I must have said in the beginning, even if all the any good examples escape me right now … and all the grammatical mistakes I must have made  … none, of all the English-speakers I communicated with, said a word to set me straight. I quickly got good buddies online, and I was totally at ease with asking when I didn’t understand. There are so many expressions in the English language that you just won’t learn in another country. For example, a friend told me about how she had been ‘stood up’ and that didn’t make any sense whatsoever to me, but she explained it. ‘To go whole hog’, ‘I made a hog of myself’, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’ …. the list could go on and on… Have you noticed, by the way, how many of all those expressions are related to animals?! That was a parenthesis, though 🙂

Two words come to mind, that I had problems with: “ignorant” and “eventually”. I had them totally wrong. I didn’t use them, myself, but I kept reading them online frequently, and misunderstood them totally. If you’ve tried to learn a foreign language perhaps you’ve heard about ‘false friends’. These two words were examples of that. All this has made me admire all the people that came to my own country and quickly learned the language! Many of them from countries with a different way of writing too … and a totally different culture to boot.

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