learning english language sitraka ratsimba article

Learning the English language

My past frustrations with the English language

Maybe learning the English language started with my Mom who always wanted to be an English teacher. She infused in me the love of the language of Shakespeare. In my childhood, I remember she liked to jokingly say “I eat babies” or “Mischievous”. I never really understood what she meant at that time but I just knew it was English.

Little did I know I would be forced to learn the English language. Early 2014, knowing I would move to China, I started looking for an English club in Rabat, Morocco. We usually had meetings every Saturday where we would gather around a drink and talk in English. I managed to hold a conversation but realized how limited my vocabulary was. I would mostly talk about books and personal development (even until now). This sometimes makes the conversation boring, even worse when the person shifts to another topic I’m not familiar with.

learning english language at the library

Moving to Beijing, China

After moving to Beijing for my Master’s degree, I vividly remember my first corporate finance class. I barely understood what the professor said, not because of his accent but because of the wide range of jargon he used. It was my second Master’s degree but I couldn’t express what I knew. I felt like a total illiterate: I understood only 80-90% and struggled to clearly formulate a question, let alone explaining a concept in English. I even had a headache at that time. For instance, the teacher mentioned words and expressions I’ve never heard before. He would mention for instance: LLC or Limited Liability Company. And I was aghast, what is Limited Liability Company? It turned out that I knew that in French, it’s SARL (Société à Responsabilité limitée).

I rarely talked to my Bulgarian roommate at that time because of the language barrier. Once, I remember he asked me where the washing machines are. I replied: “it’s downside”. Frowning his eyes, he just nodded and I understood that I made a mistake, mixing “downside” and saying “downstairs” instead.


How a Russian girl helped me learning the English language

It was a Friday night and we usually go out on the week-end. At an open-bar party, I felt a bit tipsy even drunk because I drank beer with a straw. I couldn’t really evaluate how many beers I drank.

Suddenly I saw a slim and beautiful brunette girl with very light dress because (it was the end of summer). Instantly, I didn’t know why but I was literally attracted to her. I offered her my hand and she grabbed it. Then, I swiftly grabbed her on my arms and carried her all around the club.

I could feel how much she enjoyed it so when I put her back on her feet she directly asked me: “Hey, where are you from?” Enthusiastically I replied “I’m from Madagascar! And you?” She said: “I’m from Russia!” and she replied: so what’s your name? I replied I’m Sitraka!

And to be honest: I don’t remember her name!” but after that dull conversation I instantly ran out of things to say. I invited her to take a picture with me a said her goodbye! She was a bit disappointed but after that I would be the one who’d regret it the most. I felt so bad, I told myself: Oh Gosh, if only I knew how to speak English, maybe I would’ve at least kissed her.

Russian girl smiling

Photo by Isabella Mendes from Pexels

From making excuses to taking a decision

But those were mostly excuses and I knew I could change so I decided to stop going to class especially in the afternoon and really learn nothing but English. I boned up especially on the grammar and pronunciation.

At the same time, I also started reading personal development books so I really decided to read nothing but English and write only in English. I remember I wrote on my journal, starting from today, I will just write in English.

The mix of hose past frustrations really pushed me to decide and make learning the English language as a journey.