Friday, August 7, 2020

Homebound After Saying Goodbye to College Student: As Goes My Spirit, So Goes My Knitting or Vice-Versa

I do not think I am quite ready to write about it yet, although it is not a heavy heart today, but a bright, hopeful one for the adventures that lie ahead for her. Here is my child as we left her at her college dorm on Tuesday, all of us smiling as big as we could before the tears escaped. 

My knitting before, on the way to the new place my sweetie will be spending the next 4 years or so, as I wonder what it will be like, for her, for me, for us, and how in the world I am going to manage to say "See you soon, take care, have fun, ma petite chèrie d'amour." 

And after, the determination to be tidy in thoughts and actions vying with the emotions with no such intention. The discipline of lace soothing me into a new rhythm: (Mermaid Walk).

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Language Learning and FRENCH

Since the very first time I heard someone speak in Spanish, I was probably six or seven, and it was on a train in Chicago, all three of these events being rare enough occurrences that it has stuck with me. I was enthralled. I only think it was Spanish because I had heard it on Sesame Street. I have no memory of the people who were speaking nor of where my family might have been headed on a train in Chicago (a zoo, a museum, a ball game?), but the exotic sound of the words rolled off in another language stayed with me, as did the tiny knot of passion for languages that would later unfurl into linguistic enamor, joy and becoming bilingual.

Another language is another opportunity to connect, another set of eyes that open upon the world. It can be a pathway to another destiny; travel, sure, but scholarships and employment offers also present themselves, attracted to the fact that most Americans do not have that toolset in their backpacks or purses. 

The first of such bits of luck presented themselves in the humble form of Pig Latin in Mrs. Miller's 6th grade classroom. I was in a reading group in the back, and I was supposed to be reading Chapter 2 of our assignment. As I perused the boringest reading selection in the world, my ears caught the lesson of how to form words in Pig Latin; "remove the first consonants, put them at the end of the word and add a long "a". If the first letter is a vowel, add the sound "way". " An avid fan of Trixie Belden and secret codes, I wrote it down and listened intently to their practice session. I went straight home and taught it to my little sister. We suddenly had a language all our own that we could use in front of our brothers and say whatever we wanted to say. Then we discovered that our parents did not understand it either when we spoke in our rapid other language. Sweet victory.

I was heart-broken when I was not allowed to join the after-school French classes offered by Madame Kopp in 7th grade. It was not in our family's budget. However, as soon as class selection rolled around for high school, I was dying to get in. Would it be German, for my heritage, French for the romance or Spanish like everyone else? I really hated doing things like everyone else, so I told my great-grandma that I had decided to take German. Her name, after all, was Kleinschmidt, with a maiden name of Schwartz. I thought she would be thrilled and that maybe she would have some remnants of German and we could discuss life in our own language, during the commercials while watching game shows. NO DICE! Twerpie, as we called my great-granny, said that if it were her, she would take French. 'But why?' I had to inquire. She had always dreamed of visiting Switzerland, and French was the language to speak when one visits that part of the world. 'The lakes are beautiful and there are mountains on the lakes,' said Twerpie. I adored my great-grandmother as no one else on this earth, so I took French. 

In college, I would go on to major first in Spanish, and then in French. Along the way, I took three years of Chinese, one each of Italian, German and Basque. I had a Latin class taught in Spanish, not to learn Latin, but to study the roots of Spanish. Latin had to be self-taught, which did not turn out to be the best way for me to learn a language. My children and I learned together, me always just a few lessons ahead of them. 

The past 23 years, I have dedicated myself to raising my children in a bilingual environment with the goal of fluency in both languages, and the acquisition of one or more others. I have done everything in my power to make this a natural and joyful part of life, helped along by many small things. During what the French have aptly named "confinement" or "Corona times" while sheltering at home, I turned my French skills from the closed courtrooms where I was not working, toward developing a way to share French with others who might want to take the leap. More on the programs and a new website: free lesson here dedicated to "foreign" languages to come. Although, in passing, they are only foreign until the moment you have not begun to discover how to say "Have a marvelous day," in French: Je vous souhaite une journée merveilleuse!