When I was 11, the Iron Wall came down and the Czechs could finally travel abroad. Well… to the West. I used to spend all my childhood vacations in Bulgaria so I couldn”t have been more excited to cross the borders to the colourful world called Western Europe, 21 years ago.
But unlike most of my schoolmates” parents, mine didn”t take me just across the borders, to Vienna. We went all the way – to the British Isles. In my dad”s old Škoda 120L :). And that”s where my English Without Books journey started…
I still remember the moment the other Wall came down – my own wall of being shy to speak English. I had been listening to English my whole childhood, coming from the old LPs my dad used to play and friends from abroad who were allowed to enter our communistic world once in a blue moon. But I had never dared to speak.
So when I finally entered the land of The Beatles, in 1990, my dad did the cruelest and, at the same time, the best thing he could for my future EFL journey. He dropped me in his friend”s home for two weeks and left for Scotland. Here was my chance to start swimming in the sea called “ENGLISH”.
My dad´s friend was Bob Porter. He worked as a proffesor of Czech and lived with his Danish wife and two kids my age in Bristol. Bob was no stranger to me – he had been coming to Brno since 1967 – and his Czech was fluent. However his Danish wife and kids spoke nothing but incomprehensible British English, to me anyways:). And it seemed the kids weren”t particularly excited about having yet another girl in their home. So those were tough times for me. But they gave me the push, like everything else in life, to finally start speaking. Until this day I remember the moment of opening my mouth and eventually uttering a few English sentences. From then on it was a given. I´d never returned to Bristol, however the door to the English-speaking world finally opened and I was free as a bird! London, Boston, New York, Chicago, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Rome,…
Now 21 years later I found my way to Bob”s house in Bristol again, and it felt so good to be back, with a family of my own. No need to fuss about silly kids” stuff with Bob´s daughters since we are all giving it a good try to act like adults. And I understand everything Lissy, Bob”s wife, says, which is probably the biggest reward after all these years of learning English.
And Bristol is such a pleasant city to visit on a summer holiday. The wonderful history, culture, architecture, the port and the numerous parks where you could spent your whole life picnicking… We didn”t wan to leave. It”s comforting to know it”s only 2hrs away by plane, instead of 30hrs by car.
And Bob is such an interesting man to talk to. He likes telling stories about Bristol, explaining the origin of English expressions and genuinely loves foreign languages. He speaks fluent Czech and Russian which is quite odd for a Brit. He befriended Milan Kundera back in the 1960s when Kundera still lived in Brno and the road to the realms of Czech casino online bonus literature less travelled by Brits was on offer, so he gladly took it. Ten years ago Bob published an Introduction to 20th Century Czech Fiction for his students and, although retired, gives lectures on Czech and Russian literature all around the world. Here is the first part of the interview:
The second part where he talks in more detail about his love of Czech literature and language was unfortunately recorded on my mobile phone instead of the flip cam which stopped working halfway through. So I”m sorry about the quality.
Would you like Bob to be a guest blogger on EnglishBrno? Please, leave a comment with suggestions what you”d like to read about.