About languages, identity and culture.
Esse texto eu sinto a necessidade de escrever em inglês. Não para esnobar ou qualquer coisa, não para provar meu ponto, mas simplesmente para ele soar, pelo menos pra mim, mais coerente em si.
I was the first one in my family to learn English. Well, not the first one in fact. My relatives had a moment in their life in which they had to study English, including my parents, but I cannot think of anyone who in fact learnt English in my family which is closer to me, only a physicist aunt, who is self-taught and still have a lot of problems with the language, and a great-aunt who is a linguist, but mostly studies romance languages.
I haven’t started this text just to say how great I am in a language that is not my native language or to undervalue the efforts of any relative. It’s just to express a thought that always comes to my mind, by any random way and stays there, but I never try to develop something with my reflections.
I started learning English very early. By seven or eight years old I started having classes in school, and I don’t remember very well, but I think I liked it a lot or my family perceived that I had any kind of ability with it and they enrolled me in an English course that was pretty near to the house I lived in by that time. It wasn’t the best thing in the world, but it wasn’t awful neither. An year later, impressed with the results that I had, they also enrolled my younger sister, I think she was five or six by that time. That’s a case that I think it’s even more peculiar, because she was basically literate in two languages at the same time.
As I studied more and more, I started learning in a kind of self-taught way, thanks to a modality of classes that the course had, and that was the point where I grew exponentially. By the end of the semester, teachers ended up making me skip a level or more, depending of the case. I even remember that at some point, when I was thirteen, I went back to a normal class, but I was the younger one there, and all my classmates were in college, working, and even some of them had kids. It was a pretty strange time, not only in the English course, but it doesn’t matter that much to this text. I constantly had problems in this class, either for still learning things my own way and doing lessons even before that the teacher passed them or by having a more fertile and creative mind than most of the students, and they ended up by don’t understanding me and making jokes, after all, I’m a thirteen year-old in an adult-filled class.
An year later, I after skipping some more levels, I was almost finishing the whole course. I was pretty pissed off about a lot of things, you know, adolescence is a shitty moment, and one of the things that I wasn’t pretty satisfied about was the English course. So many years, and I’m still in it. Sometimes it bothered me a lot, but I was almost at the end, so my family started talking about how I was almost finishing it, and everything went well. At the same time, I was invited by the coordinator of the course, who was my first teacher when I just entered the course, to be a monitor. Basically, I would help teachers in class twice a week and receive a discount for it. Also, by that time, every staff member knew me, and I had classes with almost every teacher there, and by that, the classes where I was monitor, the teachers wouldn’t bother too much, and I basically gave classes with them, as absurd as this sounds.
I finished the course eight months later, always with grades of 90/100 and over, with few exceptions. I started also giving classes to my school friends who had problems with school’s English classes and occasionally working as a tutor. Just imagine a fifteen or sixteen year-old and confused boy, as every teenager, giving classes. And I was pretty good at it. Everyone ended up with good results.
Well, let’s take a moment to go back to my family and I’ll talk about things that happened at home.
At home, after years and years of good grades, I became a reference for everyone who ended up needing some help with English, and I still am. Translating some important things and explaining English for the kids when they aren’t doing very well at school.
I always read a lot, so by thirteen I discovered Edgar Allan Poe and became fascinated with literature and poetry. I always played videogames and listened to a lot of songs, and that’s pretty interesting: most of my identity, as a person who likes stuff, comes from foreign countries, in which the spoken language is English. That, once again, I think it’s one of the reasons behind my internationalist feelings.
As I talk to friends and other people, I am always labeled as the ideal of the “fluent speaker”, and I don’t quite get it. Maybe, because English always had a major role in my life, sometimes I have the feeling that I got literate in two languages at the same time also, like my sister, even if I just started learning English two or three years after I got literate in Portuguese.
So, there comes the big point that made me start writing this text.
“Why I hardly ever write in English, if I know that I have the capacity for it?”
That question have hit me hard a couple of days ago. I have already written stuff in English, but if the language plays such a major role in my life, why isn’t it an habit? An then, a got to two obvious answers:
1) Comprehension — By living in a place that most of the population doesn’t know the simplest forms of the English language, it would be like dumping myself in a graveyard, where only few groups of people could understand what I’m saying, if they get to know me.
2) Culture — I’ll never write so well in English for the simple reason that, even that I have the knowledge over the language, I haven’t experienced it in a more day-to-day lifestyle, I only experienced it through the consumption of cultural products, like films, books and music. Even if I get a good glimpse and notion about a lot of subjects and life, I think that I wouldn’t have the control over it to write it down perfectly in English, not as I write in Portuguese, with a lot of unique remarks and characteristics.
With that said, should I stop trying to writing in other languages that are not Portuguese? Absolutely not. And this text is a proof of this. I have this capacity, I just need to develop it more, and try to not worry as much as I worry in Portuguese. I just have to keep in mind that nobody reads me in Portuguese, and even less people would read me in English, even on the internet. I’m not a relevant and well-know person.
Some day, I hope that I could write more in English, and even translate stuff, including my own stuff, and help to introduce to lots of people my own culture and daily experiences. But for now, I should stick with what I already have and just try to find a way to get some coin with it.