Croatian is my first language, as I was born and raised in this beautiful, small European country, but we were always surrounded by the English language as kids. We can thank channels like Cartoon Network for this, as well as the fact we as a nation prefer subtitles over horrific large-scale audio dubbing of foreign movies.
I knew English quite well already in my teens, and I rarely found myself in a situation where I encountered something completely new in my English class. However, only in the work environment, as an adult, I truly realized the difference between understanding English, reading English, and talking (improvising) while using it.
Reading I could more or less handle, even though it depended greatly on my familiarity with the content, but to engage in conversation and improvise… oh boy! This act made my jaw hurt, my tongue twisted, and somehow or another I couldn’t figure out my breathing patterns and I seemed to lose control of my saliva production.
Seemingly easy, yet very tricky
How can I know English so well, and be so bad in one important aspect of it, I wondered. It was, of course, a hypothetical question, and I was aware the lack of practice was the main reason for this stumbling block.
Trying to rap to my favorite Eminem songs was an example and an eye-opener. I knew the lyrics, and for years and years, I mumbled them with the volume way up. I thought I was actually pronouncing these words in a proper way, but when I turned the volume down and left only the instrumental, I got exposed.
Not only I was unable to sing this song, but I couldn’t even read it as well as I wanted every time this rapper deliberately made his lyrics over-the-top complicated.
The solution was at my fingertips
In this case, I only saw one solution. I printed out some of his songs, which I listen to anyway, and I decided to dig deeper than ever before. I combined pleasure with something really useful, not knowing if this experiment will serve me in the end. And it turned out to be the best move I ever did regarding this particular issue, as my English improved greatly.
But keep in mind – I went overboard, as I usually do with my ideas. It was not 5 minutes a day – it was more like 30 to 60 minutes. For example, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut even when I was walking to work or washing the dishes. It became the thing I did frequently when I was alone, and you could probably catch me rapping on the toilet a few times. Rapping without the “c”.
The beginning was tough, and we can take the “Forget about Dre” song as an example. This is an iconic masterpiece written by Eminem and performed by Shady and Dr. Dre, and if you are familiar with it, you will probably guess which parts were the most problematic.
However, It seemed to get easier by the day. For some reason, I always did better the next morning if I practiced the day before, and I assumed this happened because I physically performed this song (i.e. I trained it), and my jaw got loose and relaxed over the night (don’t make this sound dirty). It was almost like when you study, and then the next morning you seem to be way smarter regarding the material you covered.
Persistence after the initial breakthrough
I didn’t stop just at one song, and I managed to handle Eminem’s Ringer, which I found especially difficult. It has a bunch of lyrics, flow switches and it is pretty fast, but I did it, and my day-to-day English was overall better as a result.
One day, for the fun of it, I decided to film myself rapping, and I will show this to you here, in my blog. I suppose there’s no harm to it, as I don’t get embarrassed that easily.
The point of everything is, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and your favorite artist, whoever he/she is, can help you just as Eminem helped me.
Main image credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage