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Romaric Zongo

Romaric discusses the challenges he faced as an adult learning English, and he shares his ideas about getting feedback from friends and family and utilizing technology to improve one’s writing.

Featuring
Romaric Zongo

Interviewers
Maija Brown
Zack Pierson

Editors
Johanna Mueller
Zack Pierson

Advisors
Farha Ahmed
Daniel Balm
Linda Clemens
Debra Hartley
Huy Hoang
Kirsten Jamsen
Katie Levin
Mitch Ogden
Kim Strain

© 2010, Center for Writing
writing.umn.edu/sws/voices
Please do not quote without permission.

When I moved here, I was not a young person; I was already twenty-six, and you have to learn a new language. I was not writing English—you know, as I said, back home, I never put in my mind that I would come and stay in the United States some day—then for me, why to learn English? Then in 2000 when I get here, I was not... it was very difficult to understand what people are saying, and I cannot express or respond to questions that people are asking, the writing was difficult...

For me, it is... English, it is not easy mostly for the adult. People that move at age ten or fifteen is okay, but when you move at a certain age, thirty-five or forty, it is very very difficult at this point. Because you are, like me, I’ve been here for ten years, but my mind always tries to process French. If I’d moved here at age ten, maybe now I don’t have any accent. But I tell people, “I can change my mind, but I cannot change my tongue.” (laughter)

Most of the time what I do, I back up myself, as I said, I use a lot of Google. I go and pick up some people’s writing, and I see the format, and usually after, when I start, I will find someone that use English as their main, first language, and they’ll proofread for me. And my wife help me a lot too, because my wife, she has a Masters in agronomy and she is a good writer. Then usually I do everything, and I give to her so she proofread, and she check my spelling and so on. The only thing she don’t do is, she don’t change my ideas. She will just see the spellings and if there are something that is not good, she will tell me, “Okay, you have to go and change this sentence” and so on.

What I tell people is that when they get here, sometimes it is just... not to say okay, don’t go to, don’t mix with people that speak with, your language—but I tell people if you get here and speak French, you avoid French-speaking student. Otherwise you will have a tendency to speak French. And I say okay, don’t listen to French music. And your writing, I tell people most of the time, I advise them to use Word. Because with Word there are, sometimes you can write a word, if you don’t know even of the meaning, you go to the thesaurus, and you can get different meaning, and that can help you. That is most things I do. And if I don’t understand sometimes... sometimes I go to Google, and I just type the word and ask, “Okay, what is the meaning of the word?” and I use the internet a lot in my writing. Yeah, and I tell people sometimes, “If every day you go to bed and you, you start dreaming the language, then you get it.” (laughter)

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