I was born and raised in Russia, which is where I learned to speak, read, and write. Unlike America, where the Language Arts class is both reading and writing, Russia’s school had divided it into two classes: Literature and Russian. In Literature class you read, and in Russian class you learned grammar and spelling.
When I was little, I wanted to be a Literature teacher because I loved to read. My parents would “ground” me as punishment by kicking me outside to play instead of letting me sit at home and read. I looked forward to Literature class because it meant new stories. I hated Russian class because it was hard. So many rules and exceptions.
So you can imagine how much of a shock I was in after coming to the United States and seeing just how much worse the English language is. I was 11 and starting 6th grade. I didn’t actually go to the regular classes but spent my days in ESL learning the ins and outs of why there’s a silent e that doesn’t actually do anything, or why in the world English has so many useless filler words like the and a (words my parents still don’t use because why?).
I would say I did pretty well in learning a second language and making it my own. I think in English, I imagine in English, and I write in English. I can still speak and read Russian but that’s not the point of this post. The point is, even though I am in many ways an American, it still feels like a huge roadblock in my writing.
First of all, there are words I know exist but can’t think of. I’ve heard it before, or read it before, but I just can’t think of it and it’s the perfect word for this sentence so I’m going to spend a half hour skimming through similar words on Thesaurus.com until I find it.
There have been days when I spend more time on Thesaurus.com than actual writing. I’m so grateful for its existence, because without I would never be able to actually say what I see. And that’s the hardest part. The scenes I see in my head sometimes seem impossible to put on paper because I feel like I don’t have enough words.
I’ve told myself many times I can’t do it. I can never measure up to anyone who writes in the language of their birth. But then I remember back in high school, a teacher pulled me aside one day and told me that my writing has a special style. It’s simple, but elegant. I use the least amount of words but still get my point across. And I feel hope.
Maybe I can do this.
And I hope that others who struggle like me find hope too.
Because you can do it too.