The prompt for Sunday Scribblings is Language.
My grandmother Sitzler, only twenty years old, crossed the Atlantic ocean all by herself and without speaking or understanding a word of English. Nor did she have friends or relatives to meet her in New York. This was at a time even before Ellis Island. There was no Statue of Liberty to greet her. I won’t enumerate the troubles her lack of English caused her except to say, briefly, that she was taken into virtual slavery by a well-to-do German family who met arriving ships from Germany to recruit the many maids their mansion required. Eventually Grandma married and moved to the Kansas farm where my mother and her siblings grew up.
So what did I choose to fulfill my language requirements in high school and university? Why German, of course! I hung out at German House on campus, and my best friend and I dreamed of traveling to Germany after graduation. We each got married instead.
In 1954 Otto became eligible for a sabbatical leave from the university. I wanted to live for a while in Brazil, the most glamorous to me of the South American countries that my father had explored. So we added a third language - Portuguese. We actually spent two years rather than one in Brazil, and, to varying degrees, our four children were immersed in the Portuguese language. When we returned to the U.S., our youngest - four years old when we went to Brazil, now six years old - would beg, “Por favor, Mamae, vamos falar Portugues.” (Please, mama, let’s speak Portuguese.) I continued to study Portuguese at the university. I love the language and have become a translator of poetry from Portuguese to English.
We lived in Germany for a few months in 1960, and Otto and I slipped easily into everyday German speech. Otto had also studied Russian for a tour through Russia later in the year, and we each learned a little from him - such as “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Thank you” and counting to 100. (Surprising how far that can get one!)
I also studied Italian and Polish in preparation for visits to Italy and Poland. They served me well, and I have forgotten them almost completely.
I could probably write a whole book about how the languages have spread among the younger generations, but what I’ve written thus far should answer the Sunday Scribblings prompt. Be careful what you ask for! You might get much too much of it!