To begin with, I want to introduce how I learned some of the languages I already can call myself rather fluent in. Each language I started to learn has a different story and place in my heart.
To begin with: English, the everyday language.
Everyone in Finland starts to learn English in elementary school, so I’ve been studying it since the age of 9, all the way through high school and upper secondary school. But obviously, I didn’t only learn it in school, since English is everywhere: the TV, internet, movies and music make sure you adopt some of it almost automatically.
In university, I’ve had just one English course, but I need the language on a daily basis: for reading study materials, writing reports, doing group assignments with international students. Even most employers expect you to have professional proficiency.
So English, above all, is a language I need. But you could also say it is a language I trust. It’s like a good old friend. Or like a cup of tea with a scone. Speaking it comes quite naturally to me, I don’t hesitate to switch into it whenever necessary. Even my thoughts seem to slip into English from time to time.
You could also say it is a language I trust. It’s like a good old friend. Or like a cup of tea with a scone.
At some point in learning a language, there’s not much to learn from books anymore, and the only way to learn more is by using the language in as many different ways as possible. My English is past that point. It’s far from perfect, but it feels difficult to make an active effort to learn more.
I would still like to improve it. Firstly, one can never have a vocabulary too rich. Speaking a language fluently is not about nuances of grammar. The more words you know, the easier it is to speak.
Secondly, I would very much like to improve my pronunciation, to sound like a native speaker. Preferably to speak a lovely, sophisticated Queen’s English.
At least I wouldn’t want to sound like this:
Well, I don’t, exactly, but it is still hard to get completely rid of a Finnish accent. Not that it’s entirely a bad thing! At least most Finns speak English quite well, so nevermind the accent.
And the English pronunciation isn’t exactly simple!
As Gerard Nolst Trenité brilliantly put it in his poem, The Chaos:
“Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!”