I am very critical of myself. I am good at planning and organising and usually try to be very accurate. Writing this blog is a big thing for me because I know that I am making mistakes.
A few months ago I started to use Focusmate. Focusmate is a platform that pairs you with someone in a 50-minute video call during which you will each work on your own tasks. When I started to use Focusmate then I instantly found it so useful that I scheduled many meetings in advance.
But then once, I worked all night and also half of the next day with my university assessment and I totally forgot that in the morning I had sessions scheduled. When I finally remembered it, I was shocked, embarrassed and frustrated. How could I forget my meetings? On another occasion, I had some personal problems and I missed my sessions again. When I realised that I have forgotten them, I decided to cancel all my prescheduled sessions. I was angry with myself. Would I be so rough if it would happen to somebody else? For me personally, it is easy to explain others behaviours but too hard to forgive my own mistakes.
After I was sharing in this blog my poems (a couple of blog posts ago), I discovered that I have a spelling error in my video. Instead of the word ‘colour’, there is written ‘coluor’. OMG!!! I uploaded this video 2 years ago and this mistake has been there all of this time. How did not I spot it before posting it? I guess I should change it but at the same time – I am only a human and I have the right to make mistakes. So I will just leave it for now. Although it is not easy for me.
I had a good day. Productive. Positive. In the afternoon I went for a walk. I noticed that nature has turned green. Trees are blossoming. I felt nostalgic, happy and sad at one time. I was watching cars driving past, people rushing by and I was wondering what is going on for these people today. Are they happy with their life, does anyone wait for them at home, do they have food to eat, are they healthy… . I started to philosophise about life and destiny. I felt that I should be more grateful for everything I have in my life.
After an hour of a mindful and thoughtful walk, I went home, opened my computer, and read from the news that amazing Estonian singer Lea Dali Lion had passed away today. She was 47. I did not know her personally but I like her music and I think she was a lovely, friendly and funny person. I am sad. I feel emotional. We do not know when it is our turn. We do not know when someone, who we love, has to go. We do not know when…
I am a creative person and I write poetry in my mother language. I have written a few poems also in English. With poetry it is for me really hard to understand how it sounds and what feelings it delivers. I am going to share with you 2 poems that I wrote in 2018 after my ex-husband passed away. Both of these poems were originally made in Estonian. I am also a hobby singer and I recorded ‘Sleep’ in 2019. You can find the second poem ‘Time to go’ at the end of this video.
Here is the original version in my mother language Estonian.
This evening I had a feeling that I have totally messed up my life. You are probably wondering what has happened. It is a very long story but I suffered from domestic violence when I was a child. My parents are alcoholics, I survived a lot of horrible things as a child. I am not going into the details but this all have had a massive impact on my life. I have accepted my past, I have forgiven everyone involved but my childhood has still a huge effect on my behaviour, my resilience, my health, my relationships. I am still trying to fix myself, now being almost 40, and it is so hard.
It is so important to reduce domestic violence in society. Violence is never the fault of the victim. Responsibility always lies with the perpetrator. More work has to be done with perpetrators. What makes them become violent? It is easy to blame, it is easy to judge. But what about if we actually try to understand them? Violence is not acceptable and it should never be approved! But this perpetrator was once a little cute child and they still are someone’s child, partner, parent, friend, colleague. What has gone wrong in their life?
It is crucial to find these abused and neglected children and to save them from the toxic environment before it is going to have a permanent negative and damaging impact on them. According to the Office for National Statistics there were 45 victims of homicide aged under 16 years in the year ending March 2020. If we want to make our society a healthier, more effective and safer place for us, then more effort has to be made that children would grow up in a safe environment.
I am from Estonia and before Estonia gained its independence in 1991, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. During the Soviet occupation every child had to study Russian. I started my Russian studies when I was 7 years old. In 1991, when I was 10 years old, we had to choose another language between German and English. I wanted to study English but my mum thought that I would be better supported if I pick German (everyone in my family had studied German previously). I was unhappy about it and I did not have the motivation to learn German. I did not make more effort than it was needed to get a grade. So, today I cannot speak German. I can say: ‘Danke, bitte, ich liebe dich und ein schwein’. Probably something more but I cannot tell that ich spreche Deutsch.
When I went to university to study financial management and economy, I did not see a point to waste any more time on German and I said to my tutor that my German is actually even weaker than my English. They allowed me to study English. We had to sit a test that they could allocate us to the groups. I do not know how, but my test results placed me in the group where people could speak quite good English. The first class started and the teacher came in and did not speak a word in Estonian. I did not understand what she was saying and what we should do. I spoke to my tutor and she changed my group but still we did not study any grammar or pronunciation. Although I learned some useful vocabulary, such as ‘asset, liabilities, balance, profit, loss etc’.
I started to speak some English in 2011 when I became friends with a Spanish guy. I remember the first day when we met and I did not understand what is he saying and I was repeating: ‘whaaaat?’. Now thinking back I understand how rude it sounded but then I did not. Maybe I should mention that Estonian people do not really do small talk and we are quite straight.
In 2016 I decided that as I lived in Estonia for 35 years (all my life), I would like to move somewhere else. I decided to move for a year to England to live in a different environment and improve my English. In September 2016 I moved to London and almost 5 years later I am still here.
Right after moving I had a few English classes. The classes were free and if I am remembering right, teachers were students who were studying to become English teachers and they practiced teaching. I am sure that it was useful but they just picked a random topic (at least it felt that way) for each class and for me it was quite complicated because we did not start building up our knowledge from the beginning. Honestly, I could not even read the alphabet when I moved to England. Most difficult were the vocals ‘a’, ‘e’ and ‘i’ because in Estonian they are pronounced differently. And I still struggle with pronunciation. Why have to have so many different ways to pronounce ‘th”?
The most stressful for me was making telephone calls. I found it very difficult to understand other people over the phone. Especially if they did not have an English accent. I remember once I had a phone call with a job agency and they spelled their email. I think there was a dash in the email address and I did not of course know what means dash and I could not write it down. I was so embarrassed and I just pretended and said ‘thank you’. I think that was after that phone call, when I started to record my calls. Then I could listen to them afterward and if I still did not understand then my boyfriend helped me. At some point I got over and I started to ask sentences like ‘could you repeat it please’ or ‘can you explain it please’. People are actually very supportive.
There was another situation when I needed envelopes. I was asking from different places for ‘evenlopes’. Finally one person understood that I want envelopes. Once I was on the bus and suddenly there was an announcement: ‘This bus terminates here’. I did not of course have a clue what this means and as I did not understand even actual wording then I could not translate it. So I did not do anything and continued my journey. I was sitting on the upper deck (there are double-decker buses in England) and I noticed that people left but I did not move because I needed to get to my bus stop in order to walk home. Then there was another announcement and if I am honest that sounds quite silly now, but I still did not move. I was afraid and confused and as my English was weak I did not want to speak to anyone. Then when the bus drove in the opposite direction where I wanted to go, I finally went downstairs and asked the bus driver (very quietly) to open the doors. She was angry with me, that she said repeatedly that this bus terminates but I did not move. Then she opened the bus doors and I found myself in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I figured out how to go home and I was not actually very far.
Soon after moving to London I started to help one casting director to tidy up some databases and then I worked as a temporary admin person at NHS. When they started to recruit a permanent person for this NHS role, then my line manager told me that my English is not good enough for this position. Which was of course the case. I am quite strong with expressing myself in my mother language and not having that ability in English was one of the triggers why I developed a serious depression in 2017. For a few years, while suffering from depression, I was working part-time as a supporting artist (films, commercials etc) and good English is not needed for this job. But when people were chatting with each other, I often felt uncomfortable and not being able to express myself. I think many people thought that I am quite a shy person, which is actually totally wrong.
In 2018 I decided that I want to go back to university to study drama therapy. After making this decision my mental health started to slowly improve. As part of the preparation, I studied for a year adult social care and at the same time I took courses in Functional English and IELTS (International English Language Testing System – this test is required if you want to study at a university in England and English is not your first language. There are alternative tests as well but I decided to prepare for that one). Unfortunately, both of these courses covered only a very limited amount of grammar.
I have tried to find a grammar course but unfortunately they are expensive. I have tried also to study independently but my personality does not support self-studies. I have tried different apps and books. But I find it hard to stick with them.
I had prepared for drama therapy studies already for a couple of years by gaining work experience working with children and people with learning and physical disabilities in theatre settings. But during the first lockdown I found a course about domestic violence and I decided to apply. Because of the Covid 19, the university accepted also Duolingo online English test. I started to prepare for it and I got my needed score from the first try. IELTS test would be so much harder and more expensive. September 2020 I started my master’s course in Understanding Domestic and Sexual Violence.
I must admit that it has been quite hard for me to study in English. Academic language is complicated and sometimes I find it very difficult to understand some articles. I need to make a good effort and use a translator and my English partner. I had my first assessment, which was an essay, in December 2020 and although it was hard then my second assessment, which I submitted two weeks ago, was a nightmare. We were required to record a 20 minutes long PowerPoint presentation. I planned well… at least I was thinking that I did. My presentation was ready, I prepared my talk. I planned 2 days for the recording, which I was thinking is more than enough. If I would do it in my mother language I would probably plan a couple of hours for that.
THE FIRST PROBLEM – when you are presenting then you should not exactly read the notes. But I feel that I am not free in language. For example, I am also a Governor of a local mental health trust and I barely ask any questions or speak something because I am afraid of how I sound in English and that I cannot deliver my thoughts and that I may sound clumsy etc. I find it especially hard to do online. So, going back to my assessment – I am so afraid that people will not understand me or I make mistakes. I feel that I do have to read what is actually in my notes.
THE SECOND PROBLEM – I could not even read some of the sentences. So for the first thing I needed to learn how to read these texts that people could understand what I am saying. Then I started to record and I recorded for 3 days. I was so stressed, I cried, I was upset, I felt like a failure. I ended up breaking my texts into paragraphs and recording each one separately… ohh I hope I am going to pass.
Here I am with my English. My partner currently checks most of my emails and writings but I want to be independent and take this burden away from him. For example, I want to write a blog when I want to and I want to do it independently. So although I know that my English is not perfect and I do make mistakes, I am going to write this blog anyway.