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We all pretend it’s normal…
We all pretend that life in NY is normal. Just today I had the day off, which isn’t usually for a Thursday, and I decided to go to the gym before noon. I got on a train at 10am and...

What If I Told You That You Can Have a Different Life?
I know I will sound very naïve now, but I had a recent revelation I would like to share with you. I started thinking about the choices we make and why we actually make them. Those who have rea...

Poor Rich Kids
I have mentioned money in NYC on Just Like NY a few times already. There is a lot of money here, and people spend lots of it on a variety of weird and stupid things sometimes....

Do You Want To Be Famous?
Because I’ve been living here for almost five years now, I tend to forget what kind of place NYC is. It’s where fantasy keeps meeting reality. The longer you live here, the more “...

Double Standard – Why Are Women Treated Differently?
I had a situation that I wrote about on Facebook, but I want to write more about it, because there is more to it.  So there was a guy, a customer of mine who I had met maybe three times, who&n...

Why Having a Boyfriend Will Not Make You Happy?
When I was a teenage girl (that is one week ago… just kidding), my biggest dream was to have a boyfriend. Especially since a weekly column called “Love Story” from “Bravo&r...

What Happens Once You Stop Caring If People Like You?
What happens once you stop caring if people like you…? It’s simple – your life starts changing. Yes, it’s that huge. One day I realized that it happened to me – that ...

Men and Sex
What is it that men want when it comes to sex…? The thing is: they want to have everything. Including a virgin. That’s the funniest part. I didn’t have a lot of sex in my life (c...

The Most Annoying American Family
I must say, I’m so fed up with these fake images and fake lives that are all over social media now. And there is one family that makes me especially angry. You’ve p...

Step 53 - Do You Have A Choice?
I believe I have already written about what I am about to say in this post, but I’ll be coming back to the subject, because it’s really important. I notice more and more often that we ge...

Step 52 - Don’t Assume (Or In Another Words, Don’t Judge)
We’re all guilty of it. We judge. And even if you say or think that you don’t, I have bad news for you – yes, you do. We all classify people based on our knowledge of the...

Stereotypes. Have Enough Class To Not Say Anything
I wrote about stereotypes already, but the longer I live here, the more I see that not much is changing in this matter. Living in NY will help you learn more about other cultures, but it doesn&rsq...

Yes, yes, no... I don't understand

added: 2013-07-23 , category: Living in NY

If you’re afraid to come to New York for fear of your English not being sufficiently fluent (“It was a long time since I had a conversation in English, no one will understand me”), I have some advice: forget the fear. What’s more: the less you try to speak correctly – the way you were taught by your mostly British teachers – the better off you are. Straining yourself to be grammatically correct (“Should I use past simple or present perfect?”) and to pronounce your sentences like you were Queen Elizabeth II herself, will only make you feel more stressed out. Most likely, no one will even understand you. This place is full of people from all over the world, including places that never heard spoken English. You will hear every language there is, as well as every dialect – starting with African languages, Hindi and Chinese, and – when you least expect it – Polish, Russian and the ubiquitous Spanish. Sometimes it will happen that not a single one of your fellow subway commuters will speak English. And none of them will be even a tourist that you are.

It’s often the case that even the immigrants who have lived here for 2, 4 or as much as 10 years don’t know English – which is true for many Poles, too. The truth is that most of them don’t need English to function over here. Transport and getting around are easy in NY; you don’t need to speak any language to do that. Besides, many immigrants live in ethnic-specific neighborhoods among their compatriots, who all speak their native language (same goes for store clerks). All you need is to master some basic phrases you need at work and a couple of indispensable words. That’s why so many foreigners have trouble learning the language properly, and even when they try to use it is often in a simple, rudimentary way (with the present tense serving to describe both past and future) and with no specific accent to speak of – everyone imposes their national accent upon their English.

Things will look much differently, of course, if you end up working for American companies with American colleagues – in everyday life, though, you can get by very easily. All you need to get your message across in a store (or a café, or on a street) are basic phrases, and if they don’t work, you should just smile and narrow your vocabulary down to “yes” or “no”. If you don’t understand something, just widen your smile and say it outright: “I don’t understand”. You can always use body language, too, and simply show what you mean with gestures. If you run across a person who speaks as little English as you do, then (even if you won’t have much of a conversation) at least you will get to smile a lot at each other and finish by wishing each other a nice day (by uttering one of the most useful phrases in American English).



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