Learning English from Internationals

Anyone who has studied the English language, either through literature or language learning, will have picked up an array of words not often used by native English speakers. The most fascinating thing for an English speaker to hear is their language being used by second-language-learners, as they are often very conscious of which is the correct preposition, word or sentence structure.

And this is true for any language, the native speaker, when faced with a learner, is held accountable for a skill they acquired early but have not considered practicing with the aim of honing it to perfection.

It is a strange realisation that most of us treat our native language as a skill that is akin to riding a bike. If you get it once, you’ve mastered it. When in reality a language is akin to a muscle. If you got in shape once, it’ll deteriorate as soon as you stop training!

It’s very common for people to form opinions about how intelligent you are based on how you use your language. And at the same time it’s culturally acceptable to laugh at subjects like English Literature. This is a strange sort of paradox, on the one hand we value good communication skills, and on the other people will question and often ridicule your choice of studying how to perfect said communication skill.

Is that not strange? That something capable of changing the very very foundations of your thinking is publicly underestimated and considered a hobby than a way of life?



Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón


I gobbled up every page in this book (all 500+ of them) in a matter of days. I’m a slow reader but by abandoning all my daily responsibilities, showering less, and taking the book with me to the bathroom; I was done reading in less than a week. And I regret nothing! Except maybe that I didn’t read it sooner (because I thought it would be just another generic work for the popular fiction isle). And someone may disagree but this is anything but generic. Inside this heavy tome lies a plethora of genuine and original thought. The main theme of these thoughts could be categorised under ‘Spanish history’ but under that there is still more; layers of it, which you won’t even pick up on your first reading.

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Ten Classics in One Sentence.

  1. Nineteen Eighty-Four

The how-to guide to taking out your sexual frustrations  – “The proles are the future!”

  1. Pride and Prejudice

I thought he was awful but it turns out he’s okay, now we’re married. The End.

  1. The Great Gatsby

That long-lost love should’ve stayed lost.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird

Racism is bad, I can’t believe some people needed a whole book to understand that.

  1. Wuthering Heights

She’s dead but I still prefer her over you, sorry.

  1. Jane Eyre

I’ll marry you if you don’t tell anyone about my pyro wife living in the attic.

  1. Moby Dick

This book is so long sometimes they print it using bible paper.

  1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

A world where children scam other children to win a Bible competition.

  1. The Catcher in the Rye

Growing up is hard okay!

  1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

…so I’m gonna drink tea and get high, bye y’all!

What is Literature?

This seems like a fastidious thing to debate but bare with me.

The Debate

‘What is literature’ has been a hot topic of discussion for centuries, definition has always been important for academics, and they spend a large amount of time on prolonged discussions of outdated ideas. This also means new genres or contributions to literature won’t make it on the agenda for a few more decades.

Countless essays and books have been written to argue on the point of what makes literary writing literary, and not just ordinary. Often, however, these essays were written simply to argue that a genre (penny journals during the 19th century, for example) has no literary value on offer. The whole debate can easily turn into a dull gyrating war of terminology.

However, the whole debate can be simplified and broken down into two parts:

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When Rain Clouds Gather by Bessie Head

“Gilbert prided himself on being an unusually well-informed man. No doubt the sun did too. No doubt the sun knew why the clouds formed and why the wind blew and why the lizards basked in its warmth, and all this immense knowledge made the sun gay and bright, full of trust and affection for mankind. But there were shut-away worlds, full of mistrust and hate, and it was about this side that Makhaya was particularly well informed.” (p. 89)

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Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie 

“How [do you] explain to the earth that it was more functional as a vegetable patch than a flower garden, just as factories were more functional than schools and boys were more functional as weapons than as humans.”
Kamila Shamsie, Burnt Shadows

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The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi 

In all its optimism of the 90’s this story speaks in favour of hybridity and fluidity of identity. To not allow ourselves or others to put us in boxes of race, class or gender; to just be anything you want at any given moment and not be constrained or expect such things of others. But here, the characters only find this freedom in drugs and alcohol. The most intoxicated are the most liberated because they are too mentally disengaged from societal structures to participate in dogma or obligations.

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