Monday, June 14, 2010

I make typos...but please love me anyways

English is not my first language, but I believe that I speak it fluently. When people compliment my ability to speak the language well, I joke that it didn’t take me too long to pick up on words like “ya’ll”. The word “ya’ll” is a part of the southern tradition, and I learned to love it.

When I was in the 5th grade I started to learn English as my second language at a school in Belarus. Words like food, banana and walk made up my English vocabulary until I had the privilege of attending American high school. It was extremely difficult at first not being able to understand every single word spoken, but I was surrounded by understanding teachers and curios students. Plus the desire to fit in and understand conversations of my peers intensified my desire to speak and comprehend English fluently.

I will never forget walking through the Animal Kingdom Park, when visiting Florida and pointing out at different objects asking my American family the meaning behind the word. At that time I was a huge Hanson fan and loved their song called “Weird”. As much as I liked the tunes to the song, I could not comprehend the meaning behind the word weird. I would point at all sorts of objects and would ask if it was weird. Before too long I pointed at a sheep as we were passing by and asked if the poor animal could be classified as weird. Needless to say, I caught my American dad off guard.

As time passed my English progressed and my vocabulary expended as well. Although most of the English words were familiar to me by college time, I still struggled with grammar in some areas. For example in Russian language there is no such thing as articles (a, an, the) and no matter how many grammar rule I read it still makes no sense to me when to use them. I mostly rely on my intuition and stick the article when it sounds good to my ears. It is hit and miss game. Mostly miss than hit.

There are also times when my mind completely blanks out and for the life of me I can not remember the English words that I try to explain. However, a Russian word at that time perfectly comes to mind. Oh, and spelling can suffer because of it. I recall a time when I was in college and was planning to come home to visit my American family. My American dad fixes the world’s best steaks, so I sent him an e-mail asking to fix a steak when I come to visit. Our e-mail went something like this…

Me: Dad, can you please fix a stake for me?

Dad: A what? When you spell it correctly I may consider it. (He always encourages me to write properly without mistakes)

Me: You know what I mean. I want a stake. (my mind wen completely blank on how to spell steak).

Dad: I just don’t know what you mean.

Me: Will you please cook beef on the grill when I come home?!

Spelling or making typos are not the only problems that I encounter from time to time with the English language. According to family and friends, I am good at creating new words and phrases. When I first came to the US at the age of 16, I didn’t understand 35% of English words (maybe more than that). During a casual conversation at dinner table I did something that prompted my American mom to tell me that I was a blonde (she referred to my silly ways). Hurtful I looked at her and said, “I am not blind, I have contacts in”. Needless to say it took me 30 minutes to figure out why everyone at the table laughed hysterically at my comment.

My college roommate and best friend always said that she would start writing a book about all the phrases that I make up (I do not make them up intentionally). Below are just a few funnies that she recorded during our college years.

Oxana: the hairdresser said i couldn't have swoop bangs
because i have a um...
Paula: a widows peak??
Oxana: no, umm... a callous
Suz and Paula: huh?
Oxana: she said i have a callous
Suz: haha, you mean a cow-lick

Suz: I want some fried fish
Oxana: you could go to Captain Silvers tomorrow
Suz: Long John Silvers?

Oxana: i almost dropped my mom's marangu pies.
Suz and Lindsay: hahaha, you mean Meringue

(at Barnes and noble looking at children's books)
Oxana: my nephew loves George the Curious

Oxana: i can't think of her name... it's on the tip of my brain
Suz: you mean, tounge...hahaha

May be one day I can receive a small payment from the book that my friend plans to write.

Finally my co-workers laugh frequently. No too long ago I was having a bad day…it seemed like nothing was going right at work. So when someone came up to me and asked what was wrong, I responded, “I just woke up with the wrong foot”. My co-worker’s laughter filled the room and confused I wondered what I said wrong this time. Come to find out, I should have said, “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed”. But oh well, unintentionally I made my co-worker laugh and introduced a new phrase that is now used pretty frequently at work.

So why would I share with you all my struggles with the English language? Well… because I know I make typos and mistakes on my blog. I hope that my mistakes do not offend you and you laugh with me and not at me. I promise that I read and re-read the post 100 times and somehow still manage to miss a misspelled word here and there. But I hope you will love me anyways, just the way I am… a Belarussian girl, who is still learning her way through English language.


  1. I love your blog! Your English mistakes are few, but they are endearing!

  2. We all love you here and could you get any cuter?

  3. To tell you the truth, Oxana, I'm always so absorbed in what I am reading when I come to your blog that I really don't notice anything out of order. For me it is much more about the content than whether a word is spelled or used correctly. You are such an inspiration!

  4. I LOVE hearing the story of where you came from! Maybe you will share more?

    And your English is very good. :) I have the same problem of typos sneaking into my writing. (And English is my first language!) :) I read and re-read and somehow still miss things.

    I love though how I can totally hear your voice coming through the writing, and I haven't even met you. That's what good writers do.

    More please. :)

  5. Oh Oxana!! I LOVED this post. I laughed so hard I have tears in my eyes. I still remember thinking some of the things you said in French class were funny, though right now I cannot remember what they were. You are so sweet. Who cares about typos? I make them all the time and I only speak/write English. It's no big deal. :)