English as a First Language
By Ken Delpit
If I could learn a foreign language that I currently do not know all that well, I might choose English. That’s silly, you might say. You’re writing in English now. What’s to learn? This is a legitimate question. Allow me to explain.
My comprehension of English is OK much of the time. I can get by. Once in a while, it may approach pretty good. In disturbingly frequent other times, though, even moderate fluency is sadly lacking on my part.
For example, I would like to learn the English spoken by people whom I do not understand. Crazy as their thoughts might be when heard by my ears, I would like to hear those thoughts through theirs. Or, among everyday geniuses, when people reveal astute perspectives or brilliant insights, I would love to grasp the language that gave rise to those sparks. And for those cherished rescuers among us who are able to find the funny or the bright in the darkest of hours, I would be delirious to have that kind of language facility.
But my deficiency goes beyond not comprehending the English used by others. Sometimes, I don’t understand it for myself. I can find myself searching hopefully, perhaps naively, for words that describe situations appropriately and accurately. And, too often for my liking, those words are nowhere to be found. I can be left slack-jawed, sometimes literally, when trying to express my own thoughts and feelings, whether subtle or extreme. Although the word “dumbstruck” is typically used to describe audience or reader, I confirm that the word can apply equally to speaker or writer.
English is a wonderful and versatile language, a copious toolbox of practical and artful utensils, just waiting to be deployed in infinite varieties of forms, and for unlimited types of purposes. Would that I could know the adept English of all those who speak and write it well now. Even better, would that I could find a fluency of my own, a constant companion who helps me to express myself ably and naturally, no matter the circumstances. English As A First Language. Sign me up.
Ken Delpit has been writing for quite a while, that is if you count computer programming and technical documentation as “writing.” Since leaving those professions behind, Ken has discovered an exciting new world of creative writing. He is now giddily exploring new devices, such as adjectives, subtlety, mystery, and humans with emotions and feelings.