Foreign English is listening to a joke told by a Brit and missing the clue just because of one word. The embarrassment when you don’t know how to react to the small talk in a lift. The first time you’ve been to the Isles and you start to wonder if you’ve ever actually learnt English before.
Foreign English is mispronouncing words at school in all possible fashions and no one really notices because everyone speaks just the same. Including your teacher.
Foreign English is going abroad and realising people generally speak English poorly, if at all. And if you want to communicate, you’d better reduce your speech to basic nouns and verbs. It is graffiti in your city featuring the more popular obscene English words. People actually swearing in English even though they don’t speak it. Not understanding lyrics of English songs.
And you blame yourself until you realise you can understand Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole perfectly, and probably it’s the modern musicians who stopped to care about enunciation.
Foreign English is your high school friends watching American films with the original voices, everyone pretending they get all the jokes, and quoting the few they actually got for months.
It is poor language employed by local companies in their marketing endeavours and your facepalms until you accept things as they are. Being irritated by extensive and unjustified borrowing of English words into your mother tongue. Speaking your mother tongue in a hypernativist way. Unless it’s over a few beers with your close friends, and you speak the saddest mongrel of all languages you may know.
Foreign English is when you get a job and there is a whole new world of things where it’s the language you can easily express in English only. Friends thinking you’re pretentious where you can’t easily describe your job in your mother tongue.
Foreign English is reading an English book in a random airport in a random country, and you look like everyone else, and feel super anonymous, without at least an ethnic marker to make you different. Same English book read in your hometown making you feel foreign. Starting to wonder where is the borderline of foreignness, and then you realise not being native is not something to stop you from being the next Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov combined.
Foreign English is the first person you’d speak English to where nobody else should hear, and then words wouldn’t be exactly necessary, and years after you realise how this saturated your English with emotions and it was never the same.
Foreign English is when you cease to actually study it, and you slowly forget all the fancy grammar tricks and vocabulary blows. It is making sure there’s absolute silence when you make your first phone calls in English or pretending it’s too noisy and you can’t understand while in fact it’s just their accent.
Thinking in English. Dreaming in English. But still switching to your mother tongue whenever there’s someone who would understand. Now even more than before.