Coming from a French speaking country with little English knowledge, learning to speak American can be a daunting task. I remember back in Lycée 2 Fevrier, we had an English professor who told us he has spent quite some time in New York, and try show us how to speak American. Needless to say, it was funny hearing say ‘What time is it’ very fast. Now that I think about it, I wonder how much time or if any has he spent here in the States.
Anyway my shocks came in 3 waves. The first came as soon as we got off the plane. This American accent was nothing like the British English we were taught in school (and it wasn’t like we particularly paid attention). It totally different from what we were expecting, at least us kids, at the time. Still it wasn’t too bad, and my parents could manage to get directions.
The second wave came after we settled in a hotel (yea man, in a hotel, story of that here). I decided to go to a nearby park cause it had a soccer field, and a basketball court. Well, there was a pickup game going, and I couldn’t understand a word coming out of those teenagers mouth. They talking trash in slangs, and it sounded nothing like English to me. To this day, every time I think about or hear Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour say ‘Do you understand the words that are coming out or my mouth?’, it brings me back to that moment. And my answer was a resounding No.
The third wave came from watching Cartoons on TV. It was hard at first, but slowly we picked up the nuances of the languages, and that’s how I really started to lean English. The great thing about cartoon and kids is that eventually, you start to associate the word with the actions on the screen, and bingo, you are on your way. It also helped when I later started school, and had to take Esol (a story for another time).