I moved to the United States at the age of 8 and started in the 4th grade. After meeting with my teacher she wanted me to be placed in a special reading class. This is after I had been speaking to her in near perfect English for an hour! But once she mentioned it I had a bit of anxiety…that I had started talking in Mandarin in the middle of the conversation! Ugh, I really should stop doing that! So she looked at me and said “I think this special reading class will help you with your English!”
I retorted with, “No thank you.”
She continued, “It’ll make you more proficient in the our language and help you make friends!”
I retorted once again, “No thank you.”
She continued again, “You don’t understand, you’ll become a better speaker!”
I retorted, “No miss, you don’t understand…The country I come from was owned and operated by the people that invented the language.” Then she just asserted herself and said that her word is law in the classroom and that I’m going to be in that reading class.
When I entered this room, I immediately realized that I was in the room that the English language had broken. This was the island of misfit participles. I’m fairly certain I saw a spittoon in the corner of the room. The first time I heard the word “y’alls” I thought they were talking about the black across the room. I looked at them and said, “Guys that is not how you say his name. I think it’s pronounced John.”
Even my mother didn’t want me in to this class, but she couldn’t do anything…because she has an accent and they would put her that class too. And that’s just insane! My mother couldn’t be in the same class as me. What if she ends up making more friends me and becomes more popular than me! That’s not good for my self-esteem! For the sake of my popularity I stayed in this class all through 4th grade. In retrospect, I don’t’ think I fully understood the meaning of the words “popularity” or “self-esteem”.
This is based on a bit from my new album, ‘Segways, Race & Love‘ Check out the video below for 2 versions of the bit.