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How I learned English

(I wrote this story in 2001.)

My full name is Michal Ryszard Wojcik. I live in Poland and Polish is my native language. I am a mathematician and an enthusiast of English. I learned English very well and now I want to share my experience with other people.

I had my first contact with English when I was six. My dad inspired me to listen to The Beatles. I listened to them every day for the next seven years. In the beginning I could understand nothing of what they were singing. But soon I started to understand individual words, especially the ones which appeared in the titles.

Later I got a book with the words of all the songs. I read the book many times. I learned many songs by heart. I sang the songs to myself. Still, I understood very little of the meaning. It became my dream to learn English so well that I could understand The Beatles. So The Beatles were my first motivation. That is how I started my way toward English.

Today, I can understand The Beatles very clearly. Each time I hear a Beatles song, I am delighted and proud because I have made my childhood dream come true. I listen to many rock bands, all in English, and I listen every day, sometimes for over seven hours a day. I am constantly aware of my success with English because I can understand the lyrics of the songs I listen to. And that gives me pleasure and satisfaction for many hours every day.

When I was 13 years old, I started reading science fiction books. I read in Polish. The books were all American. I could not read the original versions because I did not know English so well. As I read in Polish, I was more and more eager to read the books in English. Somehow I felt that in English the books will be even more interesting and reading will be more exciting. I finally decided that I wanted to read books in English. This decision guided me for many years.

I learned every new English word that I met. With each new word I felt closer to my goal. With each word I felt that my reading ability was increasing. Each word added to my sense of power.

At some point I read my first whole book in English and I understood it. That moment was a breakthrough in my life. I knew that I had broken a barrier, gotten into a new world. I found that reading is much more exciting in English. When I read in English, I have not only the pleasure of reading, but also the pleasure of using English and the pleasure of learning English. For the last four years I have read books only in English, with very few exceptions.

I have read many pop-science books in English. Some of them are still not available in Polish. My knowledge of English allowed me to get in touch with the current state of evolutionary theory and cognitive science of the mind. Without English, I would not have read the books because there are no Polish translations of them. When I learned English well enough to read pop-science books, I discovered that English is a very important tool for learning science.

Currently I study mathematics. Most of the books I use are in English. In fact, most of the books in my math institute's library are in English. I discovered that my knowledge of English is very important for my learning mathematics. Without English I would be limited to the few books which are in Polish, and there are really few of them. Over a year ago I decided to use English only in mathematical notes. I read and write math materials in English, like most professional mathematicians. I have become part of the international mathematical community. I can read math materials on the Internet and I can publish my own materials, with no language barriers. I feel free!

English has given me so much satisfaction and pleasure and also I find it so useful in my scientific pursuit, that I decided to share my methods and my experience with other people. On Antimoon, I try to help people to learn English with pleasure. I know that it is possible to derive satisfaction from the process of learning English and I want to share it with others.