A letter to English

August 19, 2010

The following is an entry from my journal. This was the first day of language immersion, and the day we told to kill English from our tongues for the duration of immersion. For a good chunk of that period, I spoke, wrote and listened to only French. Eventually, I gave into an English book and American music. C’est le via, I guess.

Mr. English, For my whole life, I’ve known you. We haven’t always synced but we’ve stuck together because you’re all I had. Tonight, though, we must depart.

No, you haven’t wronged me and, yes, we’ve grown closer in the last year as you forced me to see the rhythmatic beauty of you are capable of with reordering of simple works and the addition of those that give my just jumbled mess a new meaning. But, for the first time since we’ve met, you are not useful. In fact, you are useless to me.

Yes, I’ve invited new languages to my tongue before, but for only a few hours at a time. In the early morning and late evening and most of the time in between, it was you who helped make my thoughts cohesive, in my soul and out. Now, I am in a place that relies on a different set of sounds and structure. Some things are similar but not enough to count. I need this new language to survive.

So, tonight, I must kill you – for two weeks at least. You will always be my native tongue, but tomorrow, you are dead.

Sincerely, Heather

A soon-to-be French speaker.

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3 thoughts on “A letter to English

  1. Loved your letter to Mr. English but it scared me as well. Are you immersed in French because it is the regional language around Niger or because you are a teacher? Are you also learning Hausa? My husband and I are working on Hausa as we were encouraged to do as invitees coming to Niger in October. I can’t even imagine learning Hausa AND French! French for Dummies is about our speed. Will we survive?????

  2. Judy, THANK you so much for reading this blog and following along. SOrry I haven’t been able to respond to your comments until now, but we are SO excited to have you in country. I learned French because I work with the education system and they all use French. As as an ag volunteer, you’ll learn either Hausa or Zarma. It’s unlikely you’ll have to learn French, because most of the people you’ll be working with will speak a local language. Don’t worry about language; if I can do it, anyone can. Enjoy your last bits of American time and we’ll see you here!

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