Have you ever tried to learn a new language? If you have, you’ll know it’s hard with a capital H.
My parents were both born in Italy and my mum was 11 years old when she came to live in Australia with her family. I’ve often thought about how hard it would have been for her, not only learning to live in a country so different from the one she was used to, but also the massive challenges that came with the inability to speak a word of English. My mum is seriously one of the smartest women I know, despite the fact that she never had the opportunity to attend school. As a young girl, she cared for her younger siblings while my grandmother went out to work and it wasn’t long before she too was working full time at 13 in a factory sewing men’s suits. I’m 37 and I can’t even sew a button on a shirt.
There were no tapes to listen to or language classes to attend, so when it came to engaging in society, Mum said she communicated in a form of sign language. She would go to the shops and if she needed to buy something, she would try to convey what she needed with her hands. When she was told what the word for the item was in English, she would soak it in like a sponge and store it in her memory bank. When she met my dad at 17, her English was still broken and because he could speak it well, he taught her as much as he could.
When we were little, mum would sit and do our primary school readers with us. Even though we didn’t realise it at the time, as we pointed to the words and read to her, she too was learning. If we stumbled on a word, she would tell us to sound it out and we would learn it together. It gives me goosebumps to think about it now and I’m so bloody proud of her. She is so intelligent in ways that I’ll never be and even to this day, when she learns something new, she holds onto it like that little 11-year-old sponge she once was.
This Christmas ad called ‘English for Beginners’ from Polish online auction site, Allegro, touched me so much that at the end, I may or may not have blown a snot bubble or two. It shows an older man learning to speak English for the most beautiful reason, and gives us some insight into how hard the process actually is. It’s being shared the world over and has been viewed over two million times already. It’s warm and it’s funny and it will definitely tug at your heart strings. Grab a hanky and enjoy…
If you’re wondering what the words at the end of the ad say, it’s “And you? What are you looking for?”