When I speak, write or read my language, English, I feel at home. The words make me feel comfortable or at least most of them do. There are those too exotic for my taste that I treat with respect but when I see them coming, I avert my eyes. They are too splendid. I make a mental note to look them up in a good dictionary. You never know, someone will ask me what they mean one day. Others on the other hand have that welcoming look. They are eager to be used. They are like dogs wagging their tails at me and begging for a chance to be taken for a walk. Then there are times when a word escapes me. I know it in my head but it won''t reveal itself. I''ll have to make do with another and there''s bound to be another coming along. It''s like waiting for a bus at a bus stop in the centre of London. A bright red shiny one will drive along any minute. It might not be just the one I wanted but it''ll take me on a journey anyhow... And there is so much to choose from.
When the Romans were busy educating the important people in England and teaching them Latin and then some hundreds of years later when the Norman French were teaching the important people''s descendants, French, the peasants were eavesdropping and picking up the odd Latin or French crumb. They hadn''t a clue what they meant but they liked the sound of them They sounded foreign. They told their children: You remember that one; it''ll come in useful one day. And it did and when English started to wake up, it didn''t know where to turn. It had a veritable host of words to choose from. And they all had to be used in a particular way. Use it in the wrong way and you commit a faux pas - now there''s a couple of foreign words for you. You can also say you made a blunder and that word is from Middle English but even then it probably came from somewhere in Scandinavia. There is such a heritage that choosing the right word is difficult even when it''s your native language.
Although I can never aspire to reach the heights, scale the mountains, climb the hills (I''ll stop there!), I sometimes dream a bit and try and ape my betters. If I''m feeling really imaginative, I''ll momentarily become a mini Shakespeare. If Latin happens to suit my mood, I''ll try and be a John Milton but I have to admit that is rare. When I want to go to town with descriptive enthusiasm, I''ll play the role of a Charles Dickens. And if the sun is shining and I''m feeling in a good mood, I''ll fall under the influence of my good friend, P G Wodehouse. But I shouldn''t forget that if I''m being transatlantic, I can chance my arm and dip into American English and have a nice day.
But of course it''s quite different for our learners of English. They don''t have the advantages I have. They have to learn from the beginning, from scratch. The odd English word may well have popped up now and again before their eyes but it''s a different kettle of fish when it actually comes down to writing and speaking the language. This is where I invite you to come into this language pool called English. You don''t have to dive in. You can paddle on the edges and see how you go. Soon you''ll start wading and before you know where you are you''ll be borne up by the sheer force of the water. Don''t worry, there are no piranhas here that will gobble you up. You might meet the occasional whale but if you don''t bother them, they won''t bother you. One day you might feel like having a chat with one of them but leave it for later.
You will bump into a very lively and colourful bunch of fish that call themselves idioms. They''re a bit slippery and you won''t always find them to your taste. Sample one. You never know, you might like it. One variety that you''ll see a lot of and they''ll really irritate you I''m sure, are the fish that go by the name of prepositions. They lead you a dance but approach them with caution. Watch them at work and try to work out what it is they are doing. You''ll soon figure it out and before long you are bound to follow what they are up to. So come on in, the water''s lovely. It''s not too cold, honestly. We''ll make sure on this site that you won''t drown and before you know what''s hit you, you''ll be swimming like a fish.
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