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Why I started taking English classes at the age of 46

I’m generally happy with my level of English. I’m fluent at speaking, I’ve been using the language at work for the past 24 years. I’ve spoken at conferences and read a good number of books rarely resorting to a dictionary. I believe that my first job as a junior developer at Philips was granted to me for being garrulous at the interview, rather than for any other skills.

About 3 weeks ago I realized it was not enough any more.

The expression “resorting to”, which I used a couple of sentences prior, would not just pop up in my head in the middle of an otherwise lively English conversation. I actually had to look it up.

In Russian, I would use the expression “to resort to” without even thinking.

This puts together my main point. When speaking my mother tongue, I’m used to expressing my thoughts in somewhat more sophisticated ways. I enjoy myself trying to keep an engaging conversation, using resonating words and phrasal expressions, putting in an occasional wordplay, or cracking a joke. And all that is mostly hidden from me when I use English. So, I plan to change that.

In a later post I’ll go into some details of my approach to achieving such a goal, but finding an online native tutor was my first step.

It’s only a part of the motivation, though. Here’s a very condensed list of other things that, just like puzzle pieces, suddenly came nicely together and made me think, for the first time, that I could pull this off.

  • First of all, I found a tutor whose personality instantly clicked with me. It’s a big deal when you can’t wait to show off your best homework.
  • I always wanted to blog more in English, but never felt confident with the result, and hence it always felt like a chore. With the help of my tutor, I’ll be much more confident publishing my writings. And suddenly it becomes fun.
  • I’ve been journaling in Russian, on and off, since primary school. Recently I also started a weekly written review of things that made an impact on my way of thinking, or otherwise are perceived as highlights of my week. It would feel good to be able to share some of those. So, it means, hopefully, that I won’t have a problem finding what to blog about.
  • As Paul Graham recently said, “A good writer will almost always discover new things in the process of writing. And there is, as far as I know, no substitute for this kind of discovery.” On my quest to becoming a better writer, I notice that writing definitely has that effect on me - well, given I’m enjoying the process.
  • Last but not least, a big dream of mine is finding those “likeminded” people that, in my point of view, is essential for anybody’s happiness. Personally, when I come across someone whose thinking resonates with me, I feel like reading everything that person has to say, no matter whether they are famous or not. Maybe there’s someone out there that will find my writing engaging at least to some degree. I’ll be looking for my rat people by simply doing what I like.

See discussion on Hacker News_