Things I Have Unlearned

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Unlearning is as important as learning in our life, and often unlearning is harder than learning because unlearning requires the wisdom to recognize the unsuitability of the past learning, the will for the change, and the diligence to apply the change. A lot of time I just feel that I am too lazy to make the change even if I know the change is necessary. For example, I know that I’m consuming too may packets of sweetener every day, but I am just too inept to change this habit.

However there are several things I have successfully unlearned in my life and here I want to share them.

a. English Phrases

A lot of English phrases we learned in schools on the Asian side of the Pacific are not used at all in America or are used to refer to different items. For example, quilt, trousers, petrol, pardon me, not at all. The list is very long and I think I should do a new word post about it. The unlearning is absolutely necessary and I have been quite committed to this change. Still, even with my daily vigilance, there are still so many slang, hints, connotations, or other subtleties that I don’t understand.

b. Say Something

I talked about this in the previous posts. I was brought up not to say anything. At home or at school, speaking up is not encouraged and listening is mandatory. The social rule is that one should only speak when it is absolutely necessary. However life in New Jersey has shown me that the exact opposite is happening in the English speaking world–silence is considered impolite in many occasions. At first this posed a very big problem since I didn’t know what to say. When I knew I had to say something but had nothing to say, I felt terrible. However I’ve since passed that stage and been able to compile some “harmless filler phrases” to fill the gap when I am called upon to say something.

d. Learning Languages

I had been learning English in a wrong way, especially when I was at school. The word memory and grammar exercises were awful, which practically extract all the fun out of the language learning. Word memory is robotic and mechanical–boring. Grammar exercises are equally unappetizing. Not only that, the exercises actually make one feel that the grammar rules are ridiculous and people who adopt such rules are probably drunk or disoriented. The harder one works on this kind of learning, the worse one feels about the language.

Now I am taking up new languages, and I refuse to do grammar exercises or memorize words. I watch videos and read easy articles to get my dose of vocabulary. There’s no deliberate effort at memorizing. I want to see the result next July. By then it would be exactly one year. I want to see how much I’ve learned without the traditional methods.

e. Being Social

I grew up in a dysfunctional family, where my parents fought all the time. Sometimes I thought that they really enjoyed their fighting, and their hatred for each other was a strong emotional bond to keep their marriage going. And many other unsuitable couples would have retreated to a corner and reduced their interactions with each other, but they were not like that. My father would try to get all the opportunities at his workplace to go on business trips–he eventually found himself a position as a training expert to travel to different coal mines to give training lectures. However when he came back from his trip, he would not hesitate to jump into a new fight with my mother.

And no doubt I’ve had to unlearn everything I experienced at home in order to be normal in the outside world. I learned to compliment others appropriately while not being considered ingratiating. I had not known what compliment was since I never experienced it at home, but my school, my teachers, and my friends loved me–they still love me. The subjects we were learning were invariably boring and many school rules were ridiculous, but still I love my school and everything connected with the school. I think the biggest functionality of my school was not its educational power, but rather it provided people like me, who were from dysfunctional homes, a place to feel normal and connected and socialized.

I learned to reciprocate whenever I received something or whenever I heard some revelation of hidden emotions. I learned to distinguish between when my friends were whining and when my friends truly needed help. I learned to talk with my teachers, which was hard for me to do since they were kind of authority figures, almost as my parents in a new disguise.

There are a lot to unlearn and in some ways I am still unlearning so many years afterwards.

37 thoughts on “Things I Have Unlearned

  1. The launguage is the best for me I “Learned” Spanish for three years in high school then went to Mexico. I Knew Nothing I had to forget what i knew and learn to speak as the people did and then I knew Spanish
    Laugh because… Why not??


  2. I completely agree that there are certain things we need to unlearn over time. Most of the points you made are things I’ve experienced myself such as school taking the fun out of learning languages like English.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Hahaha. I can imagine. How frustrating that must have been. Sometimes school classes are a hindrance to our progress. Language education is such an example. It is so bad that many people end up hating languages, which should be a natural thing to humans.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. The turbulent settings at your home is probably what toughened you up to face the world once you fly out. It made you seek love and affection, which you are able to emit so seamlessly through your written works. I can also see that it’s inspired the good many realistic, wonderful stories you write- things that happen at our homes everyday.
    Interesting, the thought of unlearning things what you were once told to learn- and incredibly difficult Ofcourse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish I am a strong person, but often I fall short of being one. I just try to be normal but often find that most normal people have a good childhood. Their view of human relationship is often different from my view. The problem is I often overdo or under-do things, which makes other people feel awkward about me. The balance is very important. Those who don’t grow up with it have to strive … It’s almost like learning a non-native language.


  4. Quilt is used far more than you might think. You were taught European English as opposed
    to American English. Not to mention American English is so all over the place especially in different regions (words pronounced differently creek can sound like crick, water can sound like wooder. Or multiple words for the same thing like a carbonated drink is both soda and pop or Iced Tea in the South is called Sweet Tea.) I can truly understand your confusion, there is also generational slang.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, I think most of the non-native speakers learned the British English and many of the phrases are not used in American English. That’s very true. If one says water with “t” in the end, people in the fast food places will not understand you. You have to say “d” in the end in order to be understood.


    2. I have to agree. When I was teaching English in Thailand, I was told to teach North American English (no problem since I am from the US) but the textbooks we used were British. Even the Thai English teachers are more conversant in British vocabulary. I once where is the garbage can to which one of the teachers gave me a weird look. Later on I found one and asked what he calls it and he was like “Oh, the rubbish bin.”

      Fun times.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That’s true. We learned “bin” and “rubbish”, but in the U.S., nobody ever use rubbish or bin. I’ve never once heard people using these two words. I really don’t understand why “slang” are not taught in schools since they are used so often in daily conversations. For example, “scrape”, “scrap”, “snippy”, and so many frequently used phrases are never learned at all by us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Speaking from experience, I am on the fence in this issue. Slang does make one seem more native. Sometimes when I speak some Chinese slang, people in China get this impression I grew up there haha. On the other hand, slang is constrained to time. In the 1960s people used to say “Groovy” and “sock it to me”, in the 80s there is “rad”, in the 90s “phat”. But these terms do go out of style and some people who speak old slang do get laughed at.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. So true. It seems that the biggest laughingstock is the one who uses old slang that have gone out of fashion. That’s such a unique phenomenon in English language. I mean other languages have so many different dialects that people are content with just understanding each other and people try to do everything to simplify the language to make communication more feasible. English is doing the exact the opposite. It tries to make things more complicated so that it can derive more entertainment from it.

          Liked by 1 person

    3. I have to agree with this comment. Clearly, you were taught British English which is the one used everywhere outside America. Britain, South Africa, Australia (minimally), etc.. and all common Wealth nations. India is not a natively English speaking country, but the ones who can speak English will only understand petrol, quilt, etc.. If you say “gas” they’ll scratch their heads. I would be confused too for some time, as “gas” is used to refer to fart. Similarly, if you ever happen to go to the UK, say only “trousers”. Pants would mean underpants lol. 😏
      So what you were taught is correct outside the US (and US colonised countries like the Philippines).

      Liked by 4 people

      1. That’s true. Gas is used here to fill up cars, which is not used anywhere else. LOL. You are right. It is very interesting that most people learn the British English as standard English while use it in non-British settings.

        Liked by 1 person

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