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Jan Kasparec's Art Studio 109, 1000 Parker Street, Vancouver

ESL dilemma part 1


Good day reader,

This is my first published blog written in English and quite honestly I am bit nervous about the outcome. Let me warn you- might you choose to read the following lines, you will most probably stop in various spots wondering what the hell I meant to say. You have to understand, I am an ESL guy. Or better said EST (English as Third language?). Not sure about that either. My linguistic background is quite complex.

I grew up in Czech Republic (back then Czechoslovakia, so I am fluent in Slovak too- no, not the same as Czech!), took off for adventure to France when I was fresh 19 and ended up spending 6 years there. French thus became my second language, with my so-much admired 'accent de Sud', acquired in 'hoods' of Avignon, Marseille and Nimes.

During my first year in France I started to study Spanish. Out of boredom. Or more precisely out of lack of intellectual activity. My job in France was nothing but intellectual. It could be defined as manual but 'voluntary long-term enslavement for exertion of multiple unpleasant mostly manual tasks' might describe it better (It's quite secret but I might tell you some other time if you ask me really really nicely). I felt my brain gradually slipping to ice-age mode (close relative to stand-by mode, predecessor of comatose).

I guess that in order for you to understand me better, a brief glimpse of my childhood is due. I grew up in a modest household in suburb of a small(ish) town with 3 brothers during the communist Czechoslovakia era. We did not have warm dinner every night but intellectually, I was challenged and pushed and shaped in many different ways. My parents were intellectuals, which in communist country meant trouble. They were not party members either, which meant double-trouble. We were one bunch of unholy'n'wild'n'hyperactive'n'fearless kids which meant trouble to the cube root of x (x being scarily high). Nevertheless, my mom graduated in Mathematics, performed all kind of jobs from software programmer (remember those PCs as big as a wardrobe?) to private chartered accountant. My dad had a degree in programming and he programmed the first computers of Czech Railways. They were both physically and musically talented. No wonder I started playing violin when I was six, studying English since I was 8 (not the most beloved language by institutions in Warsaw treaty block), attending art school and an organized group of nature lovers who specialized in all sorts of local flora and fauna studies and environmental volunteering when I was about the same age. At school I excelled in all subjects without ever opening a book after the final ring of the last lesson and the only reason why my parents were frequently called upon was my behavior, which was, in all sincerity, OK and MUCH fun for me and many of my classmates, but somehow unacceptable for teachers (saying 'you are totally wrong' to old school teachers who were sitting in the same chair since shortly after Swedish invaders made it all the way to our lands or fighting with bullies from upper classes did not help). Despite my wild spirit I managed to finish my secondary education, kept on being engaged in my interests (music, nature, painting) and stayed out of major trouble until my mid-teens. Major meaning I was still free to wander my long nature-exploring walks and organize my lads into all kinds of adventurous activities (sneaking into the huge metallurgy factory on the border of town and climbing a 150feet tall chimney, travelling around downtown crouched on the rear bumper of a tramway to much amusement of passengers to name a few, the list is virtually endless). After my 16 th birthday the shit hit the fan, but that's another story. Back to the France now.

Except learning French, which came somewhat naturally in an environment where everybody spoke it as easily as you spread jam on a toast (plus I studied French in High-school), the left hemisphere of my brain encountered little challenge. So I purchased a book of Spanish grammar. When I had a spare moment in my voluntary confinement, which was usually at night, instead of writing letters to my girlfriend (at the time), I dedicated my efforts to memorizing the past participate of the verb Hablar. Funny that 'to speak' is usually the first verb quoted in language textbooks, but in real life it's more likely the 'f' verb (of course I knew that one way before I bought the book). Anyways, the pool of my Spanish words grew exponentially in direct correlation to number of lonely nights spent with my textbook, which soon enough became my good habit and ignoring my so-far-away girlfriend my bad habit. She kept on bugging me to come back home and face the mess I left behind, which was the second best option next to getting buried alive. I'd rather dig holes in concrete during the day and study Mandarin at night.

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