We’re All Interconnected Through the World-Wide-Web
United, not divided. That’s what I believe, and I’m almost never wrong.
Thanks to the WWW and to Umair Haque I connected with Muhammad Rizki Aditya, an Indonesian student — studying English literature in Indonesia! Oh boy this is fun. I haven’t told him that even Americans don’t understand much of what I say.
Anyway, here are the raw transcripts (well, slightly edited) of our letters. I only have the first one from Rizki, but I’ll append more when I can find them or he writes the next one. I’ll bet his English gets better fast.
Dear Mr Fred
My major is english literature, so yeah technically it has no connection with what i ask you.
But you see, i am very interested in politic and various culture around the world and that’s why i am really curious about the current state of america.
Like what umair said, the condition of america and britain is quite unique and much more similar with weimar germany and therefore i want to know your story while living in in states to help me increase my point of view and satisfy my curiosity.
I hope that reason is enough, and can you please answer my question too?
Of course you can take it easy, i just want to know some old man story after all(≧▽≦)(≧▽≦)
Sincerely, your indonesian friend
Interesting. I never declared a major, but I studied all the math, sciences, and economics that I could. But at the same time I studied (in the Honors College) the writing and science of the Ancient Greeks and other historical stuff. And also at the same time I studied a *lot* of English literature. And writing, grammar, and technical writing. I was an older student — I graduated in 2003. I was born in 1953 so I guess I finally finished college at age 50. Funny, I started university at age 17.
At any rate my degree is Bachelor of Science in Arts and Letters. No real major specified, but I really loved English Literature. Of course by then I’d been reading it for 40 years, or you could say, I’ve been reading English (and other) literature for 60 years now in 2021. It gives me an unfair advantage, but I did the work! I seem to have a photographic memory of what I read, so I *really* have an advantage over other readers and writers.
I think to explain the United States I’ll write an article and dedicate it to you. The US in the 1950s was a strange, postwar land. Then in the 60s, when I was growing into an adult, the counterculture happened, and I was deep into that (and I’ve never changed really). Then starting about 2000 the US became sick and stupid. So yeah, that would be a whole article. But I’ll write it and refer to you as the instigator…
In English literature you might want to pay attention to Shakespeare. He was amazing. He also invented a large percentage of the English language. He just made up words. Here, I’ll make up a word: “Wordforging.” or maybe “wordcrafter.” You’re allowed to do that when you write in English. Alright dude, I gotta split.
I have noticed your English gets better every day. That’s all you can hope for with this impossible language. Luckily for me it’s my primary language. My third or fourth language is Spanish, and I do okay with it, except when I read articles from the Panamá government. Then I only barely know what they’re talking about!
In my childhood there were two people from Amsterdam living with my parents. They spoke German and Dutch. I know those languages got imprinted in my brain, but the couple left when I was just 4 years old. Still, I can sing and understand a pretty nasty Dutch folk song, about “the weir and the wine and the war and the wimminee…” No,I don’t completely understand it, but when I was crazy from covid and sang it out my door the neighbors called the police. Somebody out there understood Dutch! Or German, which is what my ancestry is.
My life has never been boring, I’ll tell you.
Well, I gotta stop writing so I can get back to my writing. No, it’s not that you don’t understand what I just said. It’s that *nobody* understands half of what I say. I’m just giving you a trial by fire as you learn English.
I write back and forth with other writers who spoke no English when I first read their work. But it’s amazing how we humans can make some sense of any language. But beware: Chinese is dangerous. I learned this from the novelist Kevin Kwan. Every other word in Chinese (which has many dialects) is “Fuck.” Or worse. No joke. Here, see for yourself. You could probably read the article in Indonesian in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cantonese_profanity
I’ll get back to you, and thanks again for writing.