My ESL Book
Day 19 of 365
This is the book that I used to learn English, as my mother tongue is Polish. My grandmother came to the US in her 60’s, immigrating primarily because of me. She didn’t speak a word of English at the time, and for several years we lived in Greenpoint, a Polish neighborhood where everyone spoke Polish. So there was no need to speak English.
But when we left Greenpoint to an area where few people spoke Polish. So even though she was in her 60’s, my grandma tried to learn English alongside me. She held onto this ESL book for a very long time, saying that she would learn English, but using it more as a coaster for her tea while she worked in her office.
She never learnt English. She only knew greetings and small words such as “Hi” (pronounced “haj”), “Good” (pronounced “guut”) She made her own words—“Tudi”, an anglicanization of “Tutaj” (means “here” in Polish). But despite this language barrier, she somehow managed to communicate with everyone. When she went to a store, she was able to ask for help and get what she needed. She even managed to communicate with my friend’s grandmother, who spoke mostly Spanish and a little bit of English. It was always magic, watching her exchanges with non-Polish speakers—at least that’s the way it looked to me. She always managed to get her message and her needs across without much speaking….as if somehow the whole world spoke a language I never knew about or was privy to.
She was the kind of person who tried to find solutions to problems and issues. If you failed, she’d ask “Ok, so, you failed. What are you going to do about it? What are you going to do next?” From her I learnt that learning languages is important. But even if I haven’t learnt the language—or you’re unable to—you should never give up trying to communicate. There’s always a way. And never give up.
This I cherish; this I hold precious.