4 stories about moving to an English-speaking country: paranoia, polysemantism and Bieber

Together with the TutorOnline project , we prepared 4 stories about the biggest language difficulties faced by people who moved to an English-speaking country.

Natalia, 27 years old, journalist


3 years ago I moved from Moscow to London. Before that, I had experience of a language internship in England, and I already had some idea where I was going and what I would encounter. I have always had a good English language (profile class, tutors, travel, self-study). For this reason, I was least worried that they would not understand me or I could not fully communicate with the British.

However, for the first six months, almost every day I came across very strange situations when I seem to be talking, you understand, but something inside tells me that you need to read between the lines. It felt like everyone was trying to trick me or they were not saying something. The work generally reached paranoia. I perceived every polite remark of my colleagues as a hidden threat. I constantly tested well-known words for polysemantism.

The lines from Justin Bieber's song illustrate my condition well:
What do you mean?
When you nod your head yes
But you wanna say no ...


After some time, I realized that it was not a language barrier or my lack of preparation, but the difference in mentality, cultural norms and rules. For example, the British are so polite that even the most severe criticism is clothed in a soft and tactful form.



My advice : if you want not only to learn a large number of words and grammar rules, but to understand the language at a deep level, take it wider and learn as much as possible about the mentality, culture, customs and habits of the country you are studying.

Karina, 34 years old, teacher


I have been living in San Francisco for over 10 years. She left immediately after graduation after her husband. I am an English teacher by education, so I was least worried about difficulties with English. However, it quickly became clear that for many years I was learning some kind of wrong language. The difference between British and American English, of course, was explained to us, but in practice, everything turned out to be much more unpredictable and interesting.

There were a lot of funny everyday situations when I confused my interlocutor. And the old joke is always remembered:
A duck walks into a bar and says to the bar man 'have you got any bread?'
The barman replies 'no!'
The duck asks again: 'have you got any bread?'
The barman replies 'no!'
The duck asks again: 'have you got any bread?'
The barman replies 'no!'
The duck asks again: 'have you got any bread?'
The barman replies 'no!'
The duck asks again: 'have you got any bread?'
Finally the barman gets fed up and says 'If you ask me for bread one more time I'll nail your bill to the bar !!!!'
'Do you have any nails? 'asks the Duck.
'No'
'Have you got any bread?'


My advice : if you are learning a language with the specific purpose of moving to another country to work or study, do not learn “English at all” for 5 years. Immediately choose a tutor or courses that are honed, for example, under American English. Of course, in the process of living speech practice already in the United States, you quickly fill in the gaps, but if you immediately need to go to work or submit some kind of study projects, insufficient language skills can interfere with your career.

And try to penetrate the subtleties of local humor. It also helps a lot.



Artem, 26 years old, student


I study for a master's degree in England. He taught English, like many, from grade 1 to victory. After moving for a couple of months at the lectures I understood no more than half of what the teacher said. There were no problems in everyday communication, but I wrote an essay on philosophy with a tutor for 3 days.

The most difficult thing for me is to learn “different languages” at the same time, because it turned out that for interpersonal communication it is one vocabulary and one English, for the academic level it is different (and this is not only a matter of vocabulary, but also of which language constructs you can and you need to use, and which ones can offend the interlocutor). At first, I talked a lot in Russian. Three children from Russia study with me, and we, as in that old joke, instead of learning English, taught half a group of Russian.

After a couple of months, I decided that I only speak English and spend as much time as possible in companies with carriers.

My advice : ищите носителей языка, где только возможно. It is impossible to learn a language without speech experience with a native speaker. Of course, if you move to another country, then after some time everything will come with experience. But if you don’t have the opportunity to leave for a long time, and learning a language at a level higher than Upper-Intermediate is your goal, use every opportunity to practice the language.

Anastasia, 22 years old, student


For me, the most difficult was not the language, but the psychological barrier. In Russia, I studied English at school and 3 years in high school, I was an excellent student, the best student and student. Now I understand that I myself have formed my own complex of excellent student, who has no right to make mistakes.

Having left to study in Scotland, having gone through a very long and complicated procedure for submitting documents and confirming the language level, I suddenly realized that I was simply afraid to open my mouth in the company of native friends. I scrolled the most faithful linguistic construct in my head 30 times to ask an elementary question. Moreover, in the student audience, I immediately managed to get together and communicate completely normally, express my opinion, and complete tasks. But in personal communication, I turned into a silent zombie.

The first six months, in fact, I did not communicate with anyone. Only with a few guys from my economics group, because we were united to carry out a joint project. The funniest situation happened when a young man tried to meet me in a coffee shop. I was so scared that I forgot how to say hello.

A year later, of course, I coped with fear, I made friends, my first job and even a young man. But so far, when dealing with a local resident, I’m afraid to seem insufficiently ... competent.

My advice : Do not be afraid to make mistakes and do not be too ardent perfectionists. The psychological barrier is difficult to overcome, but it builds up very quickly. It is enough to tell yourself a couple of times: "I have to be better. I know better. I have no right to be ridiculous, funny or admit that I do not understand something." In any country, people calmly respond to the speech errors of foreigners. To become one, one needs not so much an impeccable knowledge of the language as a willingness to open oneself and be sincere.

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