English is Hard

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, was the furthest I could sing the alphabet. It seems like it was yesterday when could not sing to the letter Z. I still can remember the horrifying first day of school. Tears were rushing along my cheeks and making a small pool of water between my feet. I was not scared because it was my first day of school. I was crying because I did not understand English. English is hard.

I was born in the United States, but born to speak my language, Hmong. As a child I did not understand English until I was ten years old. By then I was reading at the level of a second grader. The only song I remember from School House Rock is “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”

I did not understand the function of conjunctions because English is my second language and it made no sense.

The proper English is hard to master even for the English speakers. Many people tell me I should understand English because I was born in the United States. I do not know the proper English because my parents did not know. How can my parents teach me if they are also leaning English themselves?

Through the process of learning English it felt as if I was climbing an endless mountain and my parents were not very far behind me. I was able to get by speaking English, but that was not my problem. My problem was reading and writing. For many Hmong people we find it hard to transition from Hmong to English. Our grammar structure is different from English.

For example, in English we say, “The red ball.” In Hmong we say, “The ball red.” I started to see these mistakes in my writing. The process of going back and forth between the two languages can be quite confusing.

From authors of bestselling novels to someone like me who is still I the process of learning English, we all need someone to proofread our work. We all are still growing and trying to perfect our writing skills. We are not perfect; we are all human. Native English speakers should be patient with non-native speakers who are learning. We all should be patient with each other because English is hard.