The significance of writing and reading were often emphasized due to its ubiquitous use as mean of communicating. Specifically in the English language, it is required of you to be precise and logical. Nevertheless, the sentences must be structured with wide scope of vocabulary. Mastering the language would require considerable amount of attention to remember the rules, the syntax, and the pronunciations; even for a native speaker. As a child growing up in a third world country where the literacy rate was substandard and shockingly low, I wasn’t too invested in books, or rather it wasn’t much of an option. I remembered the first time I was able to read to myself the One thousand and one nights of Arabian stories. I spent hours and hours reading and often fantasize about being part of the exciting heroic adventures, and the venturesome characters, making the stories came alive.
It was the most miraculous and extraordinary experience that a child could wish for. However, the grimness of reality struck and washed away the fantasies in an instant as I became aware of my surroundings, particularly my family dynamic. Kids my age were on the street carry little bowls begging for food hoping not to starve before lay down for bed. Robberies, burglaries, and gang activities were ordinary headlines of the daily newspapers. Every family struggled to find a job that was sufficient, including my own. As pleasurable as burying myself in the stories, the taste of reality proven to be quite the contrary. Until this day, I still reminisce on the past occasionally, despite the harsh reality. Once I’ve arrived in the United States, it was no great surprise that learning English as a second language was an absolute must.
Similarly to many other “FOBs”, as they call it, I’ve experienced the obscure of culture shock. I faced a disoriented experience due to the unfamiliar ways of life and laws. Not to mention the awful means I had to use to communicate because the only two things I knew to say were “Hello” and “Thank you”. I went through a silent phase where I tried to absorb the vocabulary as well as the culture from TV shows and friends in school. It was strenuous trying to make out a sentence, much less keeping the conversations rolling. The English grammar was complex, making it more demanding to master and use correctly. To ensure I was constructing a sentence correctly was challenging, particularly when I was engaged in a conversation with someone who spoke at brisk pace. I had to remember to adjectives before nouns and adverbs before verbs, which was entirely opposite to what I was accustomed to.
The use of punctuation was crucial and was not stressed enough during my journey of learning English. In sixth grade, one of my essay caused my English class to shred tears as my teacher was reading it out loud to my classmates. Not because it was tragic or depressing, but simply due to the lack of punctuations. It cracked up my classmates, while the laughter echoed all the way across the hall, when I wrote “Cody finds an inspiration in cooking his family and his dog.” . But what I meant was “Cody finds an inspiration in cooking, his family, and his dog.” Although it was hysterical, yet it gave the sentence a different meaning entirely.
Similar to constructing sentences, pronunciation had also proven to be quite a challenge for beginners like myself. Many English words bear a peculiar form of spelling which it’s almost impossible to pronounce it correctly on your first try. Take the word “mischievous” for example. At first attempt, most people would pronounce [Mis-chi-eevus] when it’s actually pronounced [Mis-chuh-vus]. In another instance, where read is the past tense of read and it is pronounced [Red] like the color, whereas the present tense is pronounced [Reed]. There’s no way to differentiate between the two pronunciations beside to base it on the context of the sentence. Once in a while, I would encounter a pedant who would obsessively criticizing my dismissible grammar mistakes as well my slurred pronunciations. The bleak comments were often disheartening and embarrassing. On the bright side, it taught me how to speak correctly since I wouldn’t want to be in the same situation.
Likewise, some people were constructively criticizing my missing “s” and correct my poor designed sentences with good intent to improve my English skill. From my experience, learning grammar is comparable to cooking, I could learn and read all the rules and theories, however, the food won’t taste good the first try. It’s only get better if you spent time practicing. Until then, it became a natural reflex where I didn’t have to doubt myself, thinking about all the possible grammar mistakes I could’ve made or translating words between the two languages to express myself . To be able to comprehend the English language was no smooth sail. It desires an extensive measure of consideration of many factors such as grammar, syntax, punctuation, and pronunciation.