July 24, 2021

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“My English will never be right”

Born in Sudan, Nesrin Malik grew up in Kenya before immigrating to the UK. Journalist in Guardian, He publishes a personal text on the website of the British newspaper, stating his relationship with English. According to her, the language must be in the service of those who speak it, no other way.

It was a dream come true for me to attend English speaking school. This first day was marked by small insults: in retrospect, these tragedies may seem normal, but a feeling like childhood inadequacy will haunt you into adolescence.

My family moved to Kenya, where English was the official language. I was 7 years old and I did not speak a word of this language because I had grown up in an Arabic speaking country and studied at an Arabic institute. I sat in the classroom, stunned, hoping that no one would notice my disability. But I had the misfortune to put my chateau in the wrong place. The professor finally had to communicate with me through gestures, demanding that I know where I had placed him. Trying to hide my things and not being noticed as much as possible, I stuffed the bag into a cupboard in the back of the classroom, which was unusually large and filled with groceries by a curious mother. I was silent as the enraged teacher subjected me to increasingly serious interrogation. The whole class was laughing out loud. I stopped crying. The bullying of my classmates started that day and did not stop until I learned enough English to erase the stigma of difference.

The funny thing is, even though it may seem impossible at the time, I don’t really remember learning this language, which is explained by the fact that children can easily learn a new nonsense, I think. All I can remember is feeling humiliated behind my desk, talking the next day, reading a serious book from start to finish.

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Nesrin Malik

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