Imperfect English is nothing to be ashamed of

April 27, 2017

We stared at the extended fractures that zigzag across one of my brother’s tablets as my mother cuts off the roaring car engine. We eventually walk into the store with my brothers happily beaming and jumping from one foot to the next in hopes of getting their tablets fixed.

A man is standing at the back of the store behind old furniture as my mother approaches him in a friendly matter. She begins to speak, but immediately the man begins to grin and chuckle under his breath.

My mother was trying to explain what had happened, but he refuses to fix the tablets. He then turns to me to talk about the tablets, avoiding all eye contact with my mother, as though she disgusted him. With every word she got out, he would laugh and roll his eyes in the opposite direction.

The tablets never got fixed.

That is when I realized how harsh people can be to the sound of imperfection. And honestly, I was on their side for years, embarrassed of what I had to go through.

As a child I was ashamed, and I had a misconception of what broken English actually was. I had the idea implanted in my head that if my mother didn’t know English perfectly, she was considered lazy and uneducated.

She started off learning English at a local Asian market in Chicago. Hand gestures and expressions exchanged with the Asian woman started off her journey in learning English. Her determination for a better life for herself and her kids pushed her to learn the language.

For a time, my mother took classes to get her GED. There would be nights when she would have trouble with her homework and I never wanted to help her. I felt like it should have been her helping me with my homework instead of the other way around.

Parent-teacher meetings seemed to be the worst. I often dreaded the thought of my mother going into the classroom to hold a conversation with my teachers. When something was misinterpreted, I always sat there uncomfortably trying to translate what was being said.

Now that I am fifteen, and I know what my mother went through to learn our language, I know what an amazing woman she is. If anything, I am ashamed now more than I ever was.

I am ashamed because I never encouraged my mother.

I am ashamed because I failed her.

I am especially regretful for the things I have done and for my past feelings and thoughts of her.

I see now the intelligence behind every word that comes out of her mouth. The intelligence of knowing two languages. The hard work of gaining knowledge and her dedication to build something from nothing. My mother means everything to me, and my fondness for her will always be there.

No one has a right to make fun of or disrespect those who can’t speak a language perfectly, because not even native speakers speak their language perfectly. Instead of tearing down people who can’t pronounce words properly or don’t comprehend sometimes, we should offer help and teach them. If all of us put our differences aside, our world and our grasp for a better society would grow into something beautiful.

I love my mother, and not only because of what we’ve been through, but because of who she is.

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Imperfect English is nothing to be ashamed of