My English will never be as good as my Polish, but it will not stop me from imposing my funny accent on anyone who would listen.
The key to learning a foreign language is allowing few bruises on your ego. You just have to get over yourself and speak even if you may sound to a native like you’re slightly retarded.
My high school English teacher, however scary person she was trying to be, had thought us a very important skill. Normally students have to memorise lists and lists of words, but we learnt how to talk around the word we wouldn’t know. One cannot possibly remember a dictionary by heart, but it’s easy enough to describe what you mean in simpler terms.
First it was easier for me to communicate with other non-native speakers (except for Spanish). If for example I wouldn’t know the word “chair”, I’d say “a piece of furniture you sit on”. An Irish person would start guessing: “do you mean chair?” Of course without that word I couldn’t either confirm nor deny it. My Finnish friend on the other hand, was usually saying: ‘I don’t know that word either, but I know what you mean.’
Polglish can be funny. We don’t like waste so we pronounce every letter: Anna is An-na and ‘com-for-table’ sounds like we’re offering furniture. I noticed that the more clear I’m trying to sound, the less they understand me, so mumbling is the way to go. There is an old comedy where a flight attendant makes an announcement in Polish, then stuffs her face with potatoes and in fluent English welcomes passengers to London.
Polish accent is perceived as something worse, something less properly English. Granted, there are instances when the foreign accent is coupled with a very poor grammar or just plain lack of any ability to speak the language. I heard of a guy who when asked if he speaks English, replied with great confidence ‘yes, I don’t.’
There are few words I cannot pronounce like ‘availability’, but I don’t have to use it as a noun. I am however capable of saying “w Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie.’
Saying all that, I still prefer my own a bit exotic eastern accent than Kerry’s atrocities against spoken word. I overheard a conversation between two men from South and North Kerry. It consisted mostly of ‘huh?’
Using a second language is known to help to deal with ambiguity. When you don’t understand everything, you have to fill the blanks, sometimes by yourself, sometimes by asking questions.
I had a boss who was utterly incomprehensible, so I had to learn to pick up keywords and ask yes-or-no questions. I shared my difficulties with his wife and she confessed she had the same problem. For all we knew, he might have been walking around saying over and over again that nobody understands him.
Usually people compliment me on my English, but it’s probably just politeness. I know how few Polish words one must know to impress me. Anyway I’m not complaining, most people understand me, some with this particular squinting of eyes, like they’re trying to do some complicated math or expel something from their bodies. I’m not even trying to mimic Irish accent as I remember my friends’ ranting about Hollywood stars that can’t do it without sounding like mad leprechauns. If Oscar winning actors are failing, I’m sticking to my Polish accent for all I want is just a bit of understanding.