Sunday, November 15, 2009

Language Awakening

Some of you know and speak more than one language. Some know one single language, and are content with that. Some of you are learning more languages. Bravo to you. For some it is easy, for others a struggle. I grew up speaking German, my parents coming here as immigrants after WWII. Both with only a 6th grade education, because war has no time for such luxuries as education. And although they spoke many languages albeit some better than others, German, Yugoslavian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian  they now had to learn one more, English. They were older, exhausted from the war, in a country where nothing was familiar,and found it difficult. I often was embarassed by their accents as a child, and proud of their accomplishments when I was older.They spoke German with my
brother and I, and Yugoslavian to each other when they didn't want us to know what they were talking about. The other languages they spoke, as I  remember,came out in bits and pieces, mostly when talking to people from that country or culture. The German I learned from them was more of a dialect than the high German that people think of when they think of the language itself. We went to school not knowing a single word of English in kindergarten, and I remember being utterly terrified of the teacher and the other children. I felt like I was dropped into a world that I was not a part of, very scary for a little child. And the children were not kind, I'm sure they were as confused and scaried of me as I was of them. But children are sponges and the language skills came quickly, and we started to fit in. There were some very bumpy roads and laughter with confused words and inappropriate meanings. But the reason I told you all this, was to tell you about a turning point. A point where when you are learning a language and you struggle, feel overwhelmed, confused and then you have that moment, that single moment where it makes sense. When you aren't thinking in one language and trying to translate into another. That moment when you find yourself actually thinking in the languaage you are speaking in. A powerful moment. I look forward to more people speaking more languages, hopefullyout of desire and appreciation, instead of just necessity. It makes the world a smaller place, and helps us to understand each other and  be open to differences and appreciate similiarities.If we all make a little effort, it can make a big difference. It can open your world.

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