Sometimes English is not English

Since I am studying in the United Stated of America the language used at my exchange university is English. In my opinion I had a pretty good knowledge of the English language even before I arrived here. Still, I faced a few challenges which are linked to the English language. One of them was that there was one exchange student from Australia and one exchange student from England and their English was a little bit different than spoken in the US. From time to time it was pretty challenging to understand them, especially because I heard the American English all day and then all of a sudden you are listening to a different kind of English. But I made the experience that it is no problem when you just ask them to repeat their sentence.

Another challenge involved texting with American people. Even though I think in general I didn’t have that many problems texting in English there were a few challenges. One of them being understanding unique sayings which don’t make any sense when you translate them word by word. Another one is abbreviations like ttyl (text to you later) which I just didn’t know before I arrived here. A good solution in general when you don’t get what the other person is saying is to ask. I made the experience that the other person often doesn’t realize that they are using terms which are not understandable to non-English speakers. But in my opinion, I picked up a lot of terms and sayings relatively quickly because you hear them a lot and just start using them automatically.

A very common problem which I think happens to almost everybody is when you try to make a point and then just can’t remember one word which is exactly the one word which is essential to understanding your point. A good advice that I used during my stay here is instead of thinking about the word is rephrasing the sentence. Most of the time it is quicker and easier than searching for a word that you don’t know. In my opinion, it also makes it easier for the person you are speaking to.

What was surprisingly easy for me was the understanding of English speakers. I generally thought that it was pretty hard to understand American English speakers because they use a lot of shortcuts when they are speaking. But I generally had no problem understanding the people here. It was especially surprisingly easy to understand the professors during class which was almost no challenge at all.

What I learnt during my stay here is when you are speaking to other persons in English you will get better at it. I recognized with surprise that I was using words that I seemed to just know without looking them up. That is a very encouraging feeling because it shows you how you have improved your skills in a foreign language. It is also important to have these little moments of success to realize that you are making progress in a language and you are learning a lot of things even though you might not realize it.

To have knowledge in the English language is something very important in our society. Not only do you have to have a basic understanding of the English language in most jobs. It just makes things easier to have a language which everybody understands and when you know that language too, it opens doors to so many different things. For me personally, a lot of courses in my master’s degree are going to be in English. It will be easier for me to follow these courses because I know the English language now and it is not going to be a really big challenge to understand the professor.

Dominik Roth

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