Keep Passing the Open Windows! (John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire)

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The English Language
I am fond of the English language. My goal is to make it the second language I can easily speak.

Despite the fact that I have been using English for 20 years, the last three years have become the period when the language became my hobby and a subject of unabating interest.

I would compare learning English with getting a particular skill. This holds true for learning any other foreign language.

Let us have a sports analogy. If one wants to run fast, they have to run, starting from a slow jogging and eventually switching to a higher pace. If one wishes to jump high, they have to jump, putting the bar higher as the progress is achieved.

At the same time one should not forget that, being an amateur jogger, it is impossible to reach the speed of a Jamaican runner or stamina of a Kenian athlete. These are professional sportsmen who have mastered the sport by bringing their speed to the record level. No matter how hard we run, we can hardly catch up with those athletes.

The same holds true for foreign language learners. For reading well, one should read. For writing well, the one must try to compose some texts. Listening comprehension is achieved where the one listens to the radio in the chosen language, watches TV, listens to how native speakers communicate to each other. However, the best result is gotten where the person, aiming for improving their listening comprehension, talks with a native speaker. A preferable native speaker is the one who does not speak at all the learner's mother's tongue. But beware of a snag: English is spoken differently in the UK, in Ireland, in the USA, in Australia, in New Zealand, in India, in Hong Kong, in African countries. It is, of course, the same language, but the pronounciation may differ as day and night. The accent one hears and catches from their teacher may be completely different from that used in a country the one travels to. A classical example is a student who learned to speak English with an American tutor and who arrived in the UK.

When I turn on CNN or BBC or any other TV or radio channel broadcasting in English, I understand that I cannot emulate the language of the program anchor. And this is natural, because I live in a non-English speaking environment. Yet I keep trying to get closer to that anchor.



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