How learning English has enriched my life

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I first studied English in high school and, if I’m honest, found it difficult because I couldn’t practise it enough. Years later, when I was in a long-distance relationship with Angela – who would later become my wife – I met many English-speaking tourists on the train when I went to visit her. These passengers, who came from England, the United States and Canada, gave me the opportunity to speak the language regularly.

Since then, many of the choices I have made and pathways I have followed have been dependent on me being able to speak English. I consider myself to be a citizen of the world and the language is very important to me – both in my career and my personal life.

When I joined IBM in 1997 all written communications were in English. As part of an international company I needed to be able to speak to my colleagues in different countries – and we all conversed in English. My grasp of the language improved and I was helped by the language lessons the company provided.

My skills improved again in 2004 when I met Katrin, who became a very dear friend. She was German and was studying English and Italian at university. She was fluent in English, but not Italian, so we helped each other. I then started to contribute to photographic forums, where everything was written in English. By reading the responses I was able to see how the words I was learning could be used in conversations. Katrin passed her course with a high mark – we had both made great progress and I was very proud of that.

In 2005, I was able to take part in The Genographic Project, which is run by National Geographic. I provided a cheek swab and they used DNA analysis to inform me that my lineage was Central Asian. I wondered how I could find out more about that part of the world, and when social networking became popular it provided the solution I was looking for. In 2007, I started using Facebook and Tagged to find and speak (in English) with people living in Central Asia. I made some great friends, including Jenneva, who was born and grew up in Uzbekistan; Nasiba, an English teacher; and Olga from Perm in Russia.

Nasiba invited me to her wedding in February 2012, but at the time my wife and I were completing the process of adopting our son, Ashu, from Ethiopia. However, just a few months later, I was able to fly to Russia to visit Olga for the christening of her daughter. Two years later, in August 2014, I travelled to Bukhara in Uzbekistan to finally meet with Nasiba.

Being able to speak English has made it possible for me to interact with wonderful people like Olga. It is a pleasure for me to show interest in what others are saying and to share views. As a keen photographer I’ve been able to visit some wonderful places and compile photo books about my experiences – written in both Italian and English. I’m also interested in global themes such as international relationships and geopolitics, and I review the main British and US newspapers every day, as well as some international politics and military blogs. Most of these are written in English, so my knowledge of the language is invaluable to me while I broaden my views. Reading newspapers is a particularly effective way of learning English, but I would advise any beginners to look out for any slang terms and to make sure they understand exactly what they mean.

If I hadn’t learned the language my life would be very different. I truly love communicating and I’m not afraid of holding conversations in English. After all, I think better communication among people might lead to a better world…

How has learning or teaching English changed your life? If you would like to tell your story, let us know in the comments section below…

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