Personal Narrative: My English Language

613 Words 3 Pages
Like most children who grew up in a bilingual environment, I had trouble discerning Japanese and English when I was growing up in California, since I spent most of the time with my mother’s family. Because of that, any English I absorbed through PBS shows was mashed together with Japanese to form Japanglish. Then I briefly attended preschool in Naha, which made it even worse. I barely made it to elementary school. My kindergarten teacher recommended me to stay another year, but my parents refused to allow it. I was placed in the lowest-level reading group, and eventually to one-on-one lessons with an ESL teacher. Although my English was terrible, my mother was more concerned with my Japanese, afraid I would become like some Nisei who couldn’t …show more content…
I managed to join the higher-level reading group and make the straight As my mother wanted; I couldn’t be happier. Until, of course, I wasn’t. For my 11th birthday, I returned to Okinawa. Seeing the beautiful island again for the first time in five years was elating until I actually had to interact with other people. When I was little, I never let my garbled mess of Japanglish get in the way of making friends and having fun, but I couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room any longer. It was one of the most awkward moments in my life. Unsuccessfully, I tried to start conversations with cousins who were my age and figure out the comedy show on TV that everyone laughed at. That wasn’t the end of my mortification though. I ran into one of my closest childhood friends. Her mother quickly caught onto my incompetence and prompted Serina to talk in English. It was stiff and painfully formal for a twelve-year old, but it was definitely superior to my Japanese. It wasn’t meant to be humiliating, her mother was only concerned that I was feeling left out, and I was able to help Serina with English homework, but it was embarrassing nonetheless. However, that experience strengthened my …show more content…
I had to completely immerse myself, and I wanted to pick it up as soon as possible. At the time, I was convinced my mother was embarrassed at my inadequacy as well, and I wanted to impress her. So I turned to TV shows, all the classics I vaguely recalled watching with my older cousin. Switching between listening to the Japanese and reading the English subtitles became easier, and I swiftly picked up words. I practiced with my mother, who rectified my usage and all the weird lingo I was picking up. The worst instance was my habit of referring to myself in the stereotypical arrogant male ‘I,’ which I still can’t shake off occasionally. My gradual improvement wasn’t noticeable until my great-grandmother visited us for her 90th birthday. She remembered me and was delighted to talk with me. Although a bit shy and stiff, I managed to converse with her. One of my cousins had been there, and she was shocked. She had gone to after-school lessons just to learn Japanese, but she couldn’t even understand what we were talking about. Until that moment, I never realized how much I had

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