My English Language Journey

If you ask people who know me, they will say that English is my favorite subject after Turkish. They will also tell you that I annoyed them greatly with my English language learning by playing loud English songs at home, writing down song lyrics during math lessons, or changing a movie’s subtitles to English. 

People learn English for various reasons. They either work or study in an English-speaking environment or immigrate to a country where English is the common language. And there are unique reasons to learn English, such as studying only to be able to read in English or communicating with a partner whose first or second language is English. 

My reason falls into the second category: I fell in love with English. 

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

My first English word with Muzzy in Gondoland

I remember precisely when I fell in love with English. It was the summer of 1998, and I would buy newspapers to read their supplement for kids. That year a newspaper distributed BBC language books, and I found Muzzy— a British animated television film created by the BBC. According to Wikipedia, Muzzy was created in 1986, so I don’t know who wanted to distribute Muzzy books in Turkey a decade after it was first broadcast on television!

Whoever that is, I am grateful to them. I remember how I opened that first book in an entirely different language and couldn’t read a word of it. It would discourage many people, and my brother was instantly uninterested, but not me. I was enchanted by this magic called English and wanted to decipher it. I especially liked the word “apple.” I couldn’t pronounce it and asked everyone around me to read it for me. 

I pronounced it “up-plae” because English and Turkish phonics are completely different. My father’s colleague taught me how to read it. I softly whispered the word to myself, “apple, apple, apple.” Saying a foreign word out loud was too much at that time. I treasured it so much and wanted to keep it for myself only. 

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Elementary school years

You cannot imagine my excitement when I learned we would study English in the fourth grade. I looked forward to my first lesson and sat anxiously at the very front of the class. When my first English teacher walked in, I felt a whole new world open before my eyes. He wrote, “Hello, my name is ….” on the board, which nobody in the class understood. 

He wanted us to read these words and introduce ourselves in English. I was the first person. I stood up to introduce myself and said, “Hell-oh, my nuh-ma-ae is Bahanur.” I was familiar with the expression because I had spent my summer reading English books without knowing what I was reading. I would follow the pictures and guess what they might say, but it was my first time speaking English. 

The teacher smiled at me and said, “Well done” in Turkish. He corrected my pronunciation before moving on to the next person. I was no longer anxious or ashamed. His smile and encouragement meant the world to me that day and marked a milestone in my life. After that lesson, I wanted to learn English no matter what. 

Harry Potter

What else propelled me to learn English? Harry Potter did a pretty good job at that. I was a fifth grader when it took the world by storm. I read the first three books in a week and dreamed of reading Harry Potter in its original language one day. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were all I spoke about all day long for a year. 

I imagined visiting the UK and speaking to British people about Harry Potter. I wanted to interview them to learn how they felt about the book. When the first movie hit the theaters, I was vastly disappointed, not because it didn’t meet my expectations. On the contrary, it exceeded my expectations, but I had to watch a dubbed version of The Philosopher’s Stone. 

Nothing drives me more insane than watching a dubbed movie. I believe it is a crime to dub movies, let alone watch Harry Potter speaking Turkish. I made another promise to myself that day. I would watch all the Harry Potter movies without subtitles and read the entire series in English one day. And guess what? I did. Few things in the world make me proud of myself, and having achieved this dream is one of them. 

Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash

Loud music years

I didn’t go to a language course. That wasn’t a big thing among my friends, and learning a language was considered a luxury, something ‘extra’ back then. Turkey might be home to different nations and ethnicities, but it is far from being a multilingual country. Few students studied English, and they mostly went to private schools.

I attended state schools and got little exposure to English compared to them. After Muzzy in Gondoland, I started listening to English songs. One of my classmates introduced me to heavy metal, American and British pop, hip-hop, and the musicians that shaped the 2000s. I spent a lot of time with her listening to English songs and downloading their lyrics. 

The grammar and vocabulary used in these songs were beyond me, but the challenge encouraged me to learn English more than intimidating me. I spent hours rewriting these lyrics and unconsciously mastering my spelling skills even though I didn’t know how to pronounce them correctly. Finally, when I got caught writing English lyrics during a math lesson, my math teacher said, “I’m proud of you because at least you know what you want.” 

Prep school

I wanted to major in English language and literature, but unfortunately, I was a social studies student in high school, not a language student. I don’t know if this archaic system still exists in Turkey, but back in my time, our future was designed in high school. We were put in four different departments, such as science, social studies, language, and a ridiculous class called “equal weight,” which consisted of Turkish and math. 

My school’s language department was not open due to a lack of interest, so I had to go to the social sciences department. I studied journalism in college, but the medium of instruction was English. Therefore, attending a prep school was mandatory. That was the best thing that happened to me because a prep school meant free and intensive English lessons. 

I spent a year devouring English and learning it faster than most people in school. Most students complained about the uselessness of English while it was the key for me to open new doors in my life. I passed the language exam but never stopped learning English. I still learn new things: how to pronounce X or what to say in a particular situation. Because English has a vast number of words, learning English is a never-ending journey, even for native speakers!


What about you? How did you start learning English? What is the most challenging part of learning English? 

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  1. Shahbaz Ashraf

    Wow! A very impressive account of your learning English language, Bahanur.
    Your devotion and passion paid off in the end. Great read indeed👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you so much 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike and Kellye Hefner

    I have great respect for you for making a second language your mission – or perhaps passion. I know only English, but I’m considering trying to learn Spanish. Kudos to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for your lovely comment. And good luck with Spanish! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ally Bean

    I enjoyed reading this. You’ve approached the language with purpose and it has paid off. I’m a native English language speaker so I learned it from parents and teachers and TV. As for the most difficult part, once you get the grammar down, I’d say it’s understanding the idioms because American and British ones can vary so much that we confuse each other, let alone everyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for your comment 🙏 I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one getting confused! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nícia Cruz

    I loved to read how you learned English. For me it was love at first sight. I started having classes when I was still in primary school (4th grade). We just learned a few words, but it was so fun that I was eager to learn more. When I went to 5th grade I learned the language very quickly and, as you, I started to learn by song lyrics (I would put a cassette and later a CD, put the song going and pausing and going backwards several times until I got the whole lyrics right). I was always listening to music. Dubbed movies always annoyed me… and when the Internet came about I started researching the lyrics and printing them (oh my I wasted so much print ink at that time!), I also looked for the songs and lyrics in English of the Disney films I loved.
    Then, when I was in high school, there were writing contests both in Portuguese and in English. Of course, I signed up for the two of them. And I had my teachers encouraging me: I felt heard and seen for the first time. There was this particular teacher that even told me I should invest in my English writing, as I was really good at it.
    I was a shy girl, but English classes (and French ones too) were the only ones where I’d raise my hand endlessly and answer the questions, go to the blackboard, etc.
    I learn English every day, indeed. English is part of my everyday life, through music, films, articles and books. Sometimes I wonder if I think more in English than in my own mother language (as it’s usual to know how to say something in English but to forget the same word in Portuguese). haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Camille Call

      Thanks for sharing, it was so much fun reading your reply.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Nícia Cruz

        Thank you, Camille! 💛

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Bahanur

      I remember talking about our English adventure in our letters in the past. You mentioned being fond of your language courses, such as English and French, back then. Reading your story here put a smile on my face and reminded me of the importance of having kind and encouraging teachers around us ❤️ It happens to me, too—thinking more in English than in Turkish 😂 And there are some terms that I only know how to say in English because they lose their meanings when translated into Turkish 🤔 Thank you for your lovely comment 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nícia Cruz

        Thank you, dear Bahanur. 😘

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lorna Love

    Thanks for sharing this Bahanur, I was having fond memories of my English learning experience while reading. I first began learning English on a summer just before starting high school, I was feeling ‘mad’ because we were poor and couldn’t afford a private bilingual school😤. I worked selling ‘numbers’ around the neighborhood for a raffle with the national lottery that would play every Sunday, I collected money to pay for the course doing that and selling oranges, I was 11. I remember having my first love on that course –Faubrizio– and I would want to impress him answering every question, a little bit like Hermione in Harry Potter, haha!😂 My father died during that course and I barely passed the final tests, my teacher, God bless her, she was feeling sorry for me and I remember I didn’t remember the opposite of ‘tall’ on that test and she said: what is it that you are wearing right now? I was wearing shorts 😉 It was a great start because on my first year in high school I already knew everything that was basic and would only get 100s on my grades, I even gave tutorials to girls who didn’t understand which was empowering. In high school English was very basic but on my last year I got a scholarship and I was able to learn great grammar, reading, spelling, pronunciation, etc, again I had this crush with my American grammar teacher and I used to study a lot to be the first to finish the ‌tests. Finally, I started doing my work practice in a tourism company that used to get ‘walk ins’, so I had the chance to talk to Americans directly (this was a dream come true!! back in the days (1990) Americans wouldn’t make reservations, they would just show up in my country (Costa Rica) and have our company make all of the arrangements)… after my practice I wanted to stay so badly but there were no vacancies (noooo!!!), so I offered to work for a month FOR FREE waiting for a miracle to happen, and guess what?!! it did!! I stayed in that company for 11 years, it was great to practice and write English every day as 99% of the travelers where from the United States. I still love English and it is the way I can communicate from people around the world, I love my penpals!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Thank you for your lovely comment! It’s thrilling to hear that people across the globe have similar experiences and fond memories of learning English. I think you really went above and beyond accepting to work for free for a month, and I’m glad to hear that you were finally employed by them and your endeavors paid off. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memory here ❤️


  6. Vikas Dhavaria

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful journey with all of us. I am also trying to learn English now a days. I can read almost everything but I have some issues with writing. To improve my writing skills, I have started a blog here on WordPress. I don’t know what should I write about but I think it is better to share about the books I read. Your post is really inspiring for me. Thank you. Blessings and love from India.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahanur

      Writing blog posts to improve your writing skills is a great start 😊 Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment 🙏 and

      Liked by 1 person

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