Learning a Language Is Difficult

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Listening, speaking, reading and writing are four of the most essential steps for people learning a new language. English is not my first language, it is my third, and I have spent a lot of time and effort to going through these steps. As an individual learning a new language, I can definitely say it is hard. Believe me, there is no way that a person can learn to run before he learns how to walk; the same applies to learning a new language like English. One of my English teachers from De Anza College said, “English is one of the hardest languages in the world, so you guys don’t need to be too frustrated as all of you did pretty well in this essay.” I really appreciated my English teacher who always encouraged us, as international students, to try our best on our essays. Moreover, at De Anza I have met a De Anza college student named Christine who told me, “Non-native speaker is not an excuse for doing badly on your essay, as all of you guys are in America now, and we speak English.” I think I need to thank Christine because she made me realize that English is only a basic skill for me to survive in America. Although I cannot speak perfect English so far, I believe one day in the future I will speak better English. Also, I really enjoy learning English. I read essays from Amy Tan who is the author of “Mother Tongue” and Chang-Rate Lee who wrote “Mute in English-Only World.” They both did a great job on describing and giving the examples and I understand that learning a new language is difficult.

Amy Tan, writer of "Mother Tongue," is from a Chinese background, but grew up in California. Tan, of course, speaks English very well, but she also speaks in another language, her "Mother Tongue." Tan has reluctantly described it as "broken," "fractured" or "limited." But that is how an outsider’s ear hears it. To Tan, her mother’s English is "perfectly clear, perfectly natural" (121). This dialect, Tan says, became their "language of intimacy, a different sort of English that relates to family talk, the language [she] grew up with" (120). This type of language creates an identity for Tan, one which she was ashamed of growing up. This feeling of shame later backfired as an adult in her fiction writing. She began to write stories using "all the English" she grew up with. As she found out, this change of her own conception of language enriched her writing and added to her ethos, "That was the language that had helped shape the way [she] saw things, expressed things, made sense of the world" (121). Her "mother tongue" is her identity as a writer, and she learned that someone’s English does not reflect the quality of what he/she has to say. When I just arrived in the U.S., I was shy and always avoided talking. I felt jealous about my cousins because they could speak English perfectly and Cambodian fluently. Even though I had been learning English in my country for 5 years and I could use it in general conversation, when I got in the U.S.A. I realized that the English I used to learn in my country was totally different. For example, when I was in my cousin’s house and I asked them in English for some “water”, they didn’t understand my pronunciation of “water”. Finally, I told them I needed something to drink in my native language. Then they knew what I needed and they corrected my pronunciation how to say “water” in Americans’ accent. After that I totally understood how hard it was to learn a new language, especially since I had to start my college in the U.S right away. I tried to improve my English. Also, I found some part-time jobs at De Anza Dinning service which I must speak English only. I thought this was a good chance to learn American English. I need to thank all of my co-workers and everyone who had a lot of patience when talking with me. I think I was in the same situation as Tan’s mom because I could only speak some words and hoped that they could understand what I was trying to talk about. Most of them tried to talk...
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