Saturday, September 18, 2010

Language USA

This year, inspried by the TV show Who Do You Think You Are, I did a free sojourn into I traced my maternal grandfather's family back to some of the first German settlers in Pennsylvania. They were even related by marriage to William Penn--no wonder they got here so early! Jumping across the ocean, we went back even further to...Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493)! While some of the links are...questionable, I am happy to imagine that I am related to my favorite Late Medieval ruler, so I will leave it at that.

My grandfather grew up speaking German in his home. Since his mother lived until 1961, that means that his ancestors had been here in America speaking German for almost 300 years! He interacted with the German community in New York City when he lived there (1927 to 1940). Alas this gift was not passed on to me. My mother was born in 1939, and my grandfather worked for AT&T Long Lines division. It just wouldn't do to have a child learning German in the 1940s when her Dad worked in such an area vital to national security.

This is just something to think about today, when some people are all concerned about others whom they hear speaking Spanish or Hmong or Russian or whatever. Not taking anything away from the importance of English, it is my hope that children can grow up bilingual. To really learn a language, it should be learned in childhood. We are all Americans, but we should not forget our heritage. I know about "Dutch treats" and "Dutch courage", but Ish only hap' ein biszchen Deutch.

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