I do not know how things work in other countries, but in Romania, for many people of my generation, knowing English was like a challenge.
Coming from a culture that was very attached to French, I hardly replaced “je taime” (sic!) with “I love you” — and I could not have done it if the times had not dictated it. Everything was possible because of the way the social, cultural and scientific fields evolved.
The academic preparation period almost passed, therefore our only chance of studying English was… to act like a Guerilla.
We felt like as if we were trying to approach to the language in the same way combatants do to an unknown field that has to be conquered. We had to keep going and we couldn't admit we had a chance to be defeated. I must confess that the battle was not easy at all, and very often our attempts to express our opinions were followed by the perplexity of the people who listened … but I always thought that they deserved a second chance, so I reiterated the idea in other words and most often I added some gestures that enriched such a poor linguistic universe….
The decisive moment for me was a teacher’s speech that I listened to. It was Petru Creția, the Romanian translator of the most beautiful Plato’ dialogues, in a popular show of the time (90s) — Musical Soiree — who said these memorable words:
”I do not speak almost any language. I read them all as a “dead language”.
I know that the combination of death and life in this picture is rather morbid, but the author’s intention was, paradoxically, the one of a resurrection, of a rebirth of the interest to learn foreign languages. At the same time, the respect for “the word” came from a deeper understanding of Knowledge that is distributed more democratically than we would like to believe; no language owns the universal Knowledge and wisdom in the whole world!
It is true that the classical period favored some languages, such as Greek and Latin, to the extent that any chance to become a “philosopher” was considerably reduced if somebody did not know Greek and Latin, but the modern ages introduced into the equation a different language, English. When I say English, I don't mean ‘to speak English’ but ‘to read English’ meaningfully,
”to have access to a source of highly original thinking.”
So, although my verbal attempts were never higher than hills (because the dizzy heights of the mountains were reserved by birth to the native speakers or to those gifted with a stunning native talent), I proudly face my mole destiny and I can dig into the depths of a language that is foreign to me through a mechanism that involves reflection over the written word. I think I am, in this respect, a powerful Guerilla….
Storyteller: Zoe Radulescu, Colegiul Economic ”Ion Ghica” Targoviste, Romania — partner in the Erasmus+ project GuLL
More info about GuLL: www.pleasemakemistakes.eu
Guerilla Literacy Learning is a project co-funded by Erasmus+ (Agreement no. 2014–1-BE02-KA200–000472)