Expectation And Reality

I expected that the boxed Narcissus bulbs would grow and thrive and smile back at me in hundreds of blossoms. The word “hundreds” is obviously an exaggeration, but twenty is a realistic number, which is exactly what the little dainty tag that comes with the box is claiming with its picture. However, after a little less than two weeks, only green stalks are visible. One single flower eventually emerges, but it looks like its stem is wilting and turning yellow. Well, expectations. The age old story.

I can’t help thinking about other incidences of mismatch between expectation and reality. Actually whenever there’s an expectation, there’s a varying degree of unmatched reality waiting for it.

I still remember when I was in primary school, I had a little secret crash on a boy living not far from me. We attended the same school. One day we were playing a game together–it’s a very simple game. We were divided into two teams. Big concentric circles were drawn on the ground–the largest circle being 10-15 meters (about 30-45 feet) depending on the age of the participants. One team were running in the center, while the other team threw a cotton sand bag about the size of a child’s palm at them. If it’s a heat, that person will be out of the game. During the game, I warned him “watch out” since he was about to be hit. When he was out of the game, he came to me, blaming me for distracting him and he was kind of angry. That’s totally not what I had expected. Although I had not dreamed of him reciprocating my love and admiration–I was never very confident about myself–I had thought he would be receptive to my affectionate bombardment. The possibility that he could be angry and be resenting me had never crossed my mind.

I have stories about expectation vs. reality when love is concerned, but I will weave them into stories in later posts. Now I want to talk about the expectation and reality of language learning. Whenever one is learning a language (as a non-native speaker), one often hears the message–find a native speaker and practice. This message is repeated so often that one usually expects that the message is describing the high point of one’s language learning process. So when I was a student in a college campus here, I thought I could certainly find Americans–the native speakers–to practice my English. You know, they were my classmates. However the reality was very different. First of all, the native speakers didn’t have the time to practice English with me–they often speak in slang and speak very quickly. It’s impossible to always ask people to slow down or to repeat themselves. Realizing that this was not working, I rationalized that it was because I didn’t find the right person. So I zeroed in on one girl, with whom I had to do a project with, only to find that the girl is an Amish and English is not her first language–she grew up in an Amish village and everybody there speak German. Then I went to join a church group–I forgot it’s an Episcopal or Methodist or Presbyterian. However people there tried to speak very simple English with me, but I wanted to practice more advanced English. More importantly, after several times, I felt so guilty about me being an agnostic that I couldn’t go anymore.

Finally in one of the university labs, I met the lab technician Bill, who was extremely patient and enjoyed talking. I thought I finally found a native speaker with whom I could practice. One day as we were talking, I deliberately used the word “laconic” just for practice purposes. He asked me, “what is laconic?” I replied, “it means simple. It’s in the English phrase book that I thought everybody has to memorize.” He said, “really? Phrase book? Memorization?” He looked at me puzzled as if to say he didn’t know what I was talking about. Later, when he said something–I forgot what he said–that is not grammatically correct, I asked him why he said something that’s not grammatically correct. He replied, “Grammar? English has one?” I stared at him, completely speechless. That put an end to my enthusiasm once for all.

Eventually I found non-native speakers as practice partners, who are more interested in discussing grammar rules and slang and word usage.

24 thoughts on “Expectation And Reality

    1. So true. They don’t care about grammar at all. And the non-native speakers are exactly the opposite. We can even argue about grammars… I think I have a love-hate relationship with grammar.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I think one’s mother tongue or native language comes so easily and also with substantial flaws that one doesn’t think twice about gathering more knowledge regarding it. It’s only when we learn a new language that we wish to perfect it. Great sharing and perspective, Haoyan. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sooooo true. No interest in gathering more knowledge regarding it. Well said. I guess language is just like breathing. It is there but you don’t notice its presence unless it is a foreign language.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you were right to turn to non-native speakers, they have the same problems as you and can help. After a while, native speakers get tired of speaking slowly and without using too much slang, so you don’t always learn a lot.
    Only when I was able to speak more fluently did I have pleasant conversations with the English or the Irish

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true. I have a great time practicing with non-native speakers and talking about complicated issues at hand. We also exchange tips on grammar etc. It is so much fun. On the other hand, talking with native speakers is a different story. Sometimes the native speakers are so kind and try to help, but they don’t understand the intricacies of learning English since they themselves learned it without feeling those difficulties that a non-native speakers will face.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If grammar is a thing for you, I would say talk to a native English speaker who is learning another language. They tend to be more aware of grammar since they usually have to coompare and contrast the target language to their own.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Me too. I just don’t remember these things. Also after all my experiences with language, I am not so eager to practice with native speakers anymore, knowing that one has to understand a lot about the language, the culture, the background in order to have a pleasant conversation.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. So true. It is easy to have mundane conversations. I guess we are all inherently boring–a human trait. We have to work hard to be interesting. LOL. However if one tries too hard, one becomes tiresome. Life is so complicated…

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Where I am, we do speak in slang day in and day out. In fact, the Interenet constantly comments on how Australians speak. However, amongst everybody I know, I can say we, for as long as I can remember, have talked endlessly regarding grammar. Many of us bemoan the fact there is little understanding of grammar in today’s world. I always chuckle when our daughter corrects her brothers regarding certain grammatical phrases.

    If you would like to see something that won’t disppoint you regarding flowers, I have attached a link to a report on our wildflowers this year. It is truly one of the most amazing things to see and we get the chance to drive through this magnificnet display every year – for as far as they can see: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-12-11/wildflowers-of-the-mid-west-of-western-australia/100603360

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So there are people who are interested in grammar after all. Yes, I often hear that people talk about the Australian accent. I don’t understand the gist of it. I mean people from every English speaking country has their own accent. Actually I used to know one or two students from Australians long time ago and I never felt that their accent had any distinct flavor. Now I think of it, they are very polite and gentle and relaxed. Wow, what a beautiful website. The picture and the video can somehow merge together. How interesting. Love it so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. ‘’Grammar? English has one?” Loll I grinned like a moke 😆🤣 It’s so weird that native speakers of any language don’t take grammar seriously. Meanwhile, we non natives are putting so much efforts into practising just that.

    Liked by 1 person

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