When I came to America at the age of fourteen, the hardest thing for my ears was American English. My parents bought a house in a
town on the Atlantic side of the country sitting between Philadelphia and New York City. After several discussions, they finally put me into
the local public school system for no other reason than wanting me to "learn" what it would be like "without" privilege. "Mom and Dad,
did I do something wrong to deserve such punishment?" No, I didn't ask them out loud: I just didn't understand their reasons at the
It took me about three months to familiarize my ears to the way people talked. I got such a kick out of the fact that until then I had
been hearing my friends and teachers speaking to me in Thai. The way words are emphasized in English was -and still is- difficult for
me. My name is Pradichaya, and in Thai it is "pradi(pause)chaya." Around here, however, I am called "pra(pause)dichaya." On my first
day at school, I asked the hall monitor to show me the way to the "lava(pause)tory," and not the "la(pause)vatory." ("Oh," snickered Mr.
Hall Monitor, "You mean the toilet.") It took me three years finally to say "Penn(pause)sylvania," and not "Pennsyl(pause)vania."
Having spoken Thai, though, it helped tremendously when I ventured off into learning French, Italian, and German. I "got" it, whereas
my American colleagues didn't "get" it. Somehow, I had an advantage and could relate to "feeling" French, Italian, and other European
languages better than my friends.