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Rajdeep Singh

Ms. Bamert

UWP 1-14

19 March 2017

The Journey Through the Open Room

Coming to America in 2008 at the age of 8, I did not know a single word in English other

than the evident hello. Of course, I knew how to say it in my own language, but translating it

to English was the most difficult thing for me. One time, I wanted to ask my History teacher, Ms.

Jenkins, Is tomorrow a holiday?, but I did not know how to say holiday in English. So rather,

I asked her Is tomorrow chutti? since chutti in Punjabi, my native language, means holiday

in English. She gave me a befuddled look and asked me to repeat. I kept saying the same

sentence over and over again because I could not think of another translation of that word. After

four tries, I sadly said, Never mind. Its okay. Thank you. Throughout my childhood years,

people used to deride and make fun of me because I was not able to understand English clearly.

They would speak at a fast pace intentionally and then say, Why are you so stupid? Go learn

how to speak English idiot. I did not know what to say back to them, so I just ignored them and

remained reticent.

When I was about 9 years old, I used to attend Sunday school in West Sacramento Sikh

Temple during the summer to learn Indian vocal music. One day, it was 103 outside and the

fans inside the Sunday school room were not helping to cool down the temperature either.

Students were taking off their socks, drinking water from their plastic Kirkland water bottles, and

making grumpy faces as if their parents had forced them to be there. I said to one of my friends

who was sitting beside me, named Rohan, Its so hot in here! He replied with Yea, I am dying
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right now. As I was about to talk again, I knew he could tell I was not so great at English since I

had an accent and stumbled on words. After a while, he overheard me saying you are hot to

another girl when patently, I was talking about the room. Rohan started spreading false rumors,

telling other people that I called a girl hot. Since I did not know the word hot had two

completely different meanings, I decided to ignore him and not care about whatever he said.

However, he started adding his own stories to the rumor and exaggerating it to the level that was

not needed. I could not believe my own friend betrayed me, so as a result, I stopped talking to

him. Just because I was not very good at speaking English, Rohan made fun of me and thought

he was superior than me.

I was not very frustrated at Rohan, but more at myself because I knew that if I knew how

to speak fluent English, I could have defended my claim and shut him up. After I told my mom

about how I felt, she made me attend a class in the Sunday school that taught us the basics of the

grammatical rules. Not only did the Sunday school have music classes, but they also had

academic classes such as English, Math, and History of Sikhism. However, I was not happy with

that decision because I was not learning how English should be spoken or communicated with

others, but rather I was just memorizing different grammar rules. Thus, my mom made me drop

out of that class and started implementing her own strategies to help me comprehend the

language more efficiently. We would sit upstairs in the far back corner in the open room every

week to study. We would spend at least 2 hours every Sunday to go over vocabulary words and

English novels. The open room was a very large hall that led to smaller rooms where different

classes were usually held. The school had different rooms for each class and an open room where

everyone could sit and study, practice music, or meditate. There was always a section of the open

room right next to the entrance door where group of students would practice tabla, also known as
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Indian drums. As a person would open the door, he/she would get hit by an intense aroma of

baby powder that was used by the children to soften their hands when playing the drums. As

people walked by, they gave us stares whenever they saw us sitting there, however they

eventually became appreciative of our studying and our commitment. My mom would quiz me

on various vocabulary words and their definitions. At first, I was excited to learn, but couple of

weeks later, I started to become lazy and my excitement started to wane. Hence, in order to

persuade me to keep learning, my mom would give me $1 or a piece of my favorite candy as a

reward for every 10 words I learned in a day. It eventually became part of my daily routine and it

gave me the motivation to impress her every time. As a result, whenever I did not present words

to her, I felt guilty for myself. My mom would also read me stories from the books to help me

understand and familiarize how the words are supposed to sound and where and when we are

supposed to take pauses.

My mom spent so much time teaching me because she wanted me to become a quick

learner and, most importantly, become fluent in English so I could stand up for myself. Now,

whenever I go back to visit the open room at the same temple, I always get sentimental,

remembering the precious moments that I had with my mom in that room. The moments when

my mom would sit beside me and utter vocabulary words and help me understand the meaning of

them. Due to my mothers generosity of helping me learn different vocabulary words and reading

stories out loud to me, I was able to understand and grasp on different metaphors and idioms

very quickly. One of the metaphors that I had trouble understanding at first, but later on realized

its meaning was Lewis mouth is one huge metal factory. In the beginning, I thought it meant

Lewis can chew any type of food, but after carefully reading and thinking about it, I understood

it meant that Lewis had braces on his teeth. Hence, I have to say if it was not for those early
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learning childhood days, I would have never been able to uphold a conversation with anyone or

identify different types of figurative language such as simile and personification. That experience

has not only made me more comfortable with speaking English, but has also helped me with the

process of thinking when writing or reading a text.