Cultivating Your Love for the English Language

Today’s guest post is by Rafal Reyzer.

I learned English all by myself. Long before I dreamed of living in the US, India, Turkey, Spain, or Belgium, I took my first steps in Poland and knew nothing of the language until I was three or four years old, when I learned my first few words in kindergarten.

I was hooked on language from the start. My mom was an English teacher, so you could speculate that it runs in the family, but, in fact, I only received a single lesson from her because I always preferred to learn on my own.

At first, it was unconscious. I picked up words from video games, schoolwork, and ’90s movies. Then it was more intentional. I passed the tests, got the certificates, learned thousands of words with flashcards, and read or listened to over five hundred books in English. At some point, I even worked as an English teacher in Madrid. This was all a part of the process that has led me to making writing my primary occupation.

Over the years, I fell in and out of love with language. As you know, this passion needs occasional rekindling, so, if you’re in a minor creative slump or just need a bit of inspiration, let me offer a couple of ways to get back on track.

Write Not because You Have To But Because You Want To

As a writer, you always face the expectations of your readers, as well as the ones you place on yourself. There are deadlines, writing quotas, editorial requirements, grammar checkers, and search engine optimization techniques. It seems like nowadays your work won’t get seen if you don’t appease Google. This state of affairs stifles creativity on so many levels, yet it’s also necessary if you want to make an impact.

But what if you said good-bye to all that, at least once in a while, to work on something that gives you genuine pleasure?

Maybe it’s a memoir that you’ll keep for yourself, or perhaps it’s a small tome of poetry that you’ll distribute only among your closest friends. Whatever it is, take some time to write it without a care in the world for money or reputation. Write something because you want to, not because you have to.

Revisit the Classics and Listen to Poetry

There are around 300,000 books published each year in the US alone. Couple that with the incessant gushing hydrant of blog posts, magazine articles, and tweets and you’re about to become overwhelmed. So how about taking a step back, turning off all electronic devices, and sitting down with an inspiring work of fiction for an hour or so?

I argue that listening to a beautifully narrated novel is often more impactful than reading in silence. The tonality and emotion that a narrator puts into the performance add depth to the experience.

I felt that most fully when listening to “The End of the Affair” narrated by Colin Firth and “Four Quartets” by T. S. Eliot read by Ralph Fiennes. But listening is only one part of the equation. You can bring your own words to life by reading your material, or that of others. For some reason, this works best with poetry, and it’s a sure way to galvanize your appreciation for language.

Get Reacquainted with Beautiful Words

Phonaesthetics is a study of beauty associated with sounds of words, and we’re all scholars of this domain to some degree. I once read that Henry Miller had a huge list of favorite words and always waited for an opportunity to insert them into his novels. This might sound silly, but this longing for aesthetics in language is somewhere deep within us.

And it’s not only about using overblown vocabulary because best writing is direct and simple. Rather, it’s about rhythm, emphasis, and using words that transport you into the realm of imagination, where it’s not about symbols on a piece of paper but about powerful images flashing in your mind’s eye.

Uncover the Mysteries of Etymology

I once sat with my girlfriend on a beautiful plaza somewhere in Andalusia. While waiting for our cafes con leche, we started playing with The Online Etymology Dictionary. So, what’s the etymology of the word love?

It comes from the Old English “lufu” that comes from Proto-Germanic ”lubo,” Old Norse, Old Frisian, Dutch “lof,” German “lob,” Old Saxon “liof,” Old Frisian “liaf,” Old High German “liob,” and Gothic “liufs.” When you start thinking about all these forgotten old languages, the stories they produced, you can’t help but appreciate words a bit more!

Do you have any favorite methods for cultivating your love for the English language? Please share your observations in the comments section.

Rafal Reyzer is a full-time blogger, freelance writer, digital marketer, editor, and content manager at his website here. His site is a one-stop shop for writers, bloggers, publishers, content enthusiasts, and freelancers who want to be independent, earn more money, and create beautiful things. He also helps writers create websites.

Featured Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

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  1. A very good article with many points I can relate to, especially re. the point about your Mom giving you one lesson and then you taught yourself. I did this with art – my Mom trained as a commercial artist. Admittedly I had about four lessons, but from then on taught myself till high school.
    I liked the reference to reading poetry to get kicked into gear, as this as what I have done in the past to work on my writing skills – and of course, etymology! Fascinating stuff.

    1. Hi Susannah, Thanks a lot for your comment! I’m so happy that my article resonated with you. It’s such a blessing to be constantly engaged with language. Stay safe and good luck with your writing projects.

  2. When I was a kid, I would devour words from a colossal 2-foot thick dictionary that stood chained up to a lectern at my local library: tiny writing, probably 6 point type, and wafer-thin paper. I stood on a chair, lucky I was a book nerd because the librarian let me take home more books than usually allowed. I vowed to read every book in the library, and I did. I hardly ever run into words I don’t know other than jargon for a particular career. But when I do, I treasure it as if it’s a diamond or gold.

    1. Hi Martha, Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. I can relate. When I first got my hands on a huge dictionary, I was lost for what seemed like eons :). And that thin paper – I miss that. Now I use an online dictionary like OneLook as it aggregates data from various sources and has a great thesaurus. But I truly miss the paper version. If you’re into vocabulary, I recommend watching The Professor and the Madman as it’s about the development of the first Oxford English Dictionary. Take care!

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