Teach English in Guomeng Zhen - Yancheng Shi

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Is living abroad essential for the acquisition of a new language? My personal experience has brought me to different places around the world so far that helped me gain the knowledge of few foreign languages like English, German and a bit of Arabic. I’m not able to fully explain when I started to develop my interest for foreign languages. I grew up in a small village in Italy, where English is unknown to most of the people I encountered during my childhood and adolescence. Nobody in my family held even a passport and the furthest trip we took was one hour away from our house, in the coastal area of Venice. My memories are made of Italian books, Italian translated movies and songs and my interactions with a second language were scarce. I still remember my first English and French classes once I reached middle school, that passion that started to grow and never left me until these days. I was amazed to have the keys to understand people talking in new ways and to learn that every language is strictly connected to history and culture. My excitement was so big that I used to come home to my mother and have one-way conversations with words she couldn’t understand just for the sake of practicing how they sounded with my voice. I don’t know if my love for foreign languages is strictly connected to the feeling I had of never belonging to one specific country or citizenship and wanting to discover more. I left my homeland when I finished my studies and moved to UK to be a cabin crew. Soon enough, I realized that my language skills were insufficient, and my fantastic multilingual world started to collapse. I felt like I had to start all over again, understanding a new accent, reading challenging instructions, interacting with new cultures. I used to ask myself if the English I learnt in school was a different language from the one I was practicing daily. I forced myself to reevaluate my pride and my stubbornness. It was hard to accept that my passion for the language didn’t take me to the satisfactory level I thought I already had. I had to avoid being in contact with my fellow Italians and using our mother tongue for communication, I had to write down on my notes thousands new words, I had to ask passengers to repeat the questions multiple times and I had to make my speaking much clearer. I was fully immersed in English, even in my dreams people were not speaking Italian anymore. Challenging is one of the worlds I would use to describe those years. Then, after I started to feel comfortable with my language level, I relocated to the Middle East for another adventure. Again, my convictions were fragile, and the confidence was trembling. Why did so many people speak in so many ways? The United Arab Emirates are a true different planet made of hundreds of different nationalities, everyone contributing with new cultures. English here is not what you expect in an English-speaking country, though it is the language everyone uses to communicate. You end up incorporating in your conversations words from other languages that became part of the way we communicate. Our English talks have a mix of Arabic, Tagalog and Hindi ways of saying. I still remember one of the first days I arrived in this country. Our training teacher for the airline I was about to work for told us: “Forget the English you know, here it will adapt to the greatness of this melting pot.” It looks like native speakers here are also trying to make their language easier and adjust to the variety of nationalities they interact with. In Dubai I have learned to have a new approach to languages. I carry with me a small notebok where I can write down new sentences or the ways words are pronounced and I have fun experimenting with languages and accents. We are surrounded by friends from Ireland, Thailand, Australia and Brazil to name a few. The way we communicate is not static, instead it is a result of our influences and experiences in life. Learning a foreign language is a unique path for every person and it must be celebrated in every form. I’m grateful for all the places and people that helped me improving my skills and I cannot wait to see how much I can still learn. I feel these experiences have made me a better citizen of this world and grew my love for different languages and cultures even more. Now I am a parent of two beautiful children and it is amazing to see the process of them being raised bilingual. I envy how easy it is for them to learn so fast and surely, I will discover more from their own experience!