During each summer night, I would recite my prayers to God that I learned as a child while watching the night sky. The night sky was often beautiful on my side of the city of Karachi. Although, it was the complete opposite on the other side with nothing but gunpowder and fire lighting up the night. I knew transitioning to America would be hard, but knowing that there would be a language barrier made it much scarier.
Nonetheless, life in the United States is much more different. I feel as if I am isolated by everyone, by everything. In Pakistan we had the aroma of freshly made naan which filled the streets, children laughing and playing in our native tongue of Urdu, and we cannot forget about the beautiful night skies. In America, the pure isolation makes me feel as if nothing is mine, that I cannot even look at the skies the same way I did back in Pakistan, that I am living in a nonexistent world. Anyways, how could I come from Pakistan and expect it to be the same or somewhat familiar? How did I not know that knowing English was a must? I spoke English but with brutal butchering which made it seem as if I was speaking “gibberish.”
Since I can remember, Urdu was the first language I learned in Pakistan which made sense, because it is the national language. Some say the best way to learn a foreign language is to physically move to that country, which in my case clustered me “home” to El Paso, Texas. Everyone back home knew how to speak Urdu; it was the language we were raised speaking. Only the rich kids of Karachi had the opportunity to go to an English school in Pakistan and learn English, making them bilingual.
I believe the exodus of my family to the United States was inevitable or in other words, was part of our destiny. Many families were forced to leave Pakistan because of the dangers of the Taliban—a terrorist group, but my parent’s decision of moving came upon the basis of that they wanted us to have a better life with more opportunities to make it in this world successfully—service to the man kind. Although we left the dangerous world of Pakistan, it seems I had arrived to a different kind of danger zone; Hornedo Middle School. My horrible accent of English, and the way I butchered the language made me target of disrespect and hate. Sometimes I asked myself, why did we have to move here, why? The only thing that comforted me and gave me light in the tunnel of darkness was reading.
Learning English the correct and proper way was one of the hardest sections of my life. Reading was the only way I knew I could not butcher the language because I was reading the words in my head. Sometimes I felt as if I needed to explain myself to the teachers as to who I am and why I came to this country in the first place. Although I never did, I always felt outraged as to why foreigners were treated so unfairly. In my world of unfairness, it was making fun of me because of the fact that I had a thick and heavy accent. During long emotional nights reading put sense into my mind. Reading opened up the doors of comfort and stability that I did nott have in the United States as I once did back in Pakistan.
This led me to have a sincere passion for reading. One day I read the book an Unseen Angel which made me feel as if I were home, home back in Pakistan. I felt as if I did not need to clarify myself to people. This book gave me the motivation to learn how to speak English the right way and with sincere effort. I was done being insulted by other classmates for not knowing how to speak English, I was done trying to fit in.
English was not as hard of a language as I thought it was. Reading book after book helped me expand my vocabulary and helped me with pronunciation, while working on my accent. My accent was something I was sure I could never get rid of but I always tried speaking like an American. Not only was reading the comfort of my heart, but it was the key to learning English for me. As I thought about it, the United State was not a bad place after all. What made it seem as a horrible place was the fact that communication was a hard part for me. Communicating in English at first was like trying to ride a bicycle. First you have your training wheels which is your teacher, then as you practice and practice, you get to take them off and explore a world of freedom not restrained by training wheels. That is what reading was for me, a place where I could open up doors and lock them behind me and dream about virtual reality where no one could stop me. A place where bullies, teachers, the lack of knowing English, and insults could not stop me from doing what I wanted. My imagination from reading is what kept me going during this rough part of my life.
I thank reading for the successes I have had to this day, including how to speak English and the ability to comprehend and block out all the negativity going around. With hard work and patience, learning English was probably my easiest task yet. I just thought it to be as the worse because I did not have my heart and dedication into it. As I go about my days, I go in a more positive and productive way. Reading taught me that once time slips out of your hand, you can never get it back. As a young foreigner, it felt as if the United States was not a welcoming country, in fact, it felt like the opposite side of Karachi where gunpowder and fire lit up the night skies. But as life goes on I have learned to live by a quote I hope will influence you, “Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality,” – Les Brown.
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