My association with the English started way back in nursery school; where I had my first English classes. At this tender age, I immensely underestimated the importance of the English language in my life since I could not communicate effectively in the language and was just fine using my native language in studying other subjects and interacting with colleagues in school.
My attention in every English class as a young school kid was affected by my belief in my native language and the ease in which I could communicate in it and learn subjects instructed by the use of the native language. I made a habit of sleeping in every English class, a behavior which my English teacher found unacceptable and sent me out of class one day. It is now laughable that I found this pleasing for I could do other things I could not do during class time.
I had the first serious talk on my attitude with my English teacher after he had sent me out of class. He asked me a couple of questions, some of which were; “why don’t you show interest in the English classes?” I could not find any answer that seemed right and justifiable and I blatantly answered, “I don’t know”. After this, my English teacher explained to me the importance English and the language being the world’s number one language. He told me of the positive attitude that every student in my class had towards studying the English language. At this point in time is when I realized that English would not only be vital to my studies, but also all through my life.
I loved the moments we spent away from school, and especially during the long holidays as I would play games with friends all day long and keep out of the boring classes I had at school. I looked forward to the holidays of the 2005 with much optimism as there would be so many friends to play with. However, my father had a different idea which seemed exiting when he passed the news tom me, not knowing how the experience would be.
My father was scheduled to have a business meeting in the United Kingdom during the holiday period and he chose to tag me along. I was barely ten years old at this time and had never been in a country different from my native home country. During this trip, I met my father’s friend who was from my native country and he was accompanied by his daughter who was just eight years of age.
During the course of our stay in the United Kingdom, I came to realize that the eight year old girl exuded eloquent English skills. Her English skills not only surpassed mine, but also her father’s. I remember one time when her father wanted to buy gifts for the people back home and since he could not express himself eloquently in English, she acted as the translator between him and the English vendors. It was easier this way and whenever they went shopping, it took them just minutes to get done.
As a young boy and owing to the fact that I was older than my father’s friend’s daughter, I was taken aback. I admired her fluency and mastery of the English language. I reflected on the English classes that I used to sleep in and the pieces of advice passed across by my teacher and I felt a bit stupid.
There was a time that I wished I was the girl, or at least fluent and eloquent in the English language as she was. This time, my father asked me to go to as store nearby our hotel to buy a bag I would use for school when we went back home. It took me almost an hour trying to figure out which part of the stores had bags on display because I could not as for assistance due to my bad mastery of the English language.
When I got back to the hotel room late and my father asked why it took me so long, I told her my fears in using a language I had not mastered in expressing myself as the reason. From this, he told me that I ought to be focusing on my English classes more. He also told me to take my experiences in the United Kingdom positive, as an exposure that leads to expansion of knowledge. He vowed to take me around a few countries in my next holidays so I could be able to appreciate what I learnt in school and get adequate exposure.
My father reminded me that as a five year old, I had dreams of studying in the United States of America and asked if I was willing to give up on the same. I realized that I had to push myself to study English. Skills improved rapidly and I made trips to Switzerland and France where I could exercise my English prowess. I took challenges such as IELTS, with improved results on every trial and finally enrolling at the University of Arizona, eventually realizing my dreams; as a fluent English speaker.
Birdsong, David, and Michelle Molis. “On the evidence for maturational constraints in second-language acquisition.” Journal of Memory and language 44.2 (2001): 235-249.