Flowers For Everyone! Let’s talk about Love
If you read my About page, you know that I am the head of foreign languages at Tessadine University. That’s the context for this blog site.
Every year I like to do something special for my staff. I will usually send the female professors and office staff flowers. I will send the male staff something else that they appreciate more than flowers.
Now as I write these words and see them in front of my eyes, I know that some of you will react negatively to what I have just said. Please don’t think that I believe that only women want flowers and men don’t want flowers. I have just experienced this among my staff. I do have one or two professors that have other preferences and I do different things for them, but overall, most of my women professors like the flowers and most of the male professors like not getting flowers!
Ok, enough of that. This particular article is about a funny thing that happened this year in the context of my ordering flowers for my staff.
I have used the same florist for years, but that florist recently closed up shop. So this year I was faced with finding another florist to take care of my order
I googled Florist near me and Florist central FL and florist Groveland and Florist Clermont. I looked at the different websites that came up under that search and looked at all of their offerings, from holiday flowers to special events flowers, and I even looked at their pages for funeral flowers and wedding flowers.
I was particularly interested in their bouquets and special events flower arrangements.
I found a florist that looked like one that I would enjoy working with. I called them and described what I was looking for for each one of my female staff. I knew that I didn’t want to send each woman the exact same bouquet. Instead I wanted something special and different for each one.
So I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with the person from the flower shop.
The day came for the flowers to be delivered, and I was supposed to be there when the deliveries arrived. However, one of my professors had unexpectedly had to leave town and I was covering his classes for him. So I was in one of his classes when the flowers arrived.
When I went back to the hall where my offices and the offices of my professors were, as I passed one or two of the professors, I got funny looks from them as well as warm thank you’s. I just said you’re welcome and thought nothing of the funny looks.
As I walked down the hall and passed my female professors’ offices, I glanced in. To my surprise, I saw that each office was absolutely stuffed with flower arrangements.
The first office that I passed, I thought the florist had made a mistake and delivered all of the arrangements to one office. But then the next office I passed had the same amount of flowers in it as did the next and the next.
Stymied, I went back and looked into each office and confirmed that there were many many bouquets in each one. No wonder I had gotten the funny looks when I walked down the hall.
I called the florist and, to make a long story short, the communications had gotten mixed up. They had sent to every single office the entire order that I had placed. So each one of my female professors got the sum total of bouquets that I had intended to be distributed among all of them.
I actually found the whole thing very funny. I don’t have time now to go into what we did with all of the flowers, but they did get put to good use. I wasn’t angry with the florist. As we looked into it, the confusion was generated by me and I communicated some faulty information.
The florist had done an outstanding job.
My female staff were delighted. And at the end of the day, that’s all that mattered.
Incident on the Bus
When I lived in Switzerland, I attended a language school to learn to speak German.
It was an intensive language course, requiring attendance at class every day for half a day, with studying and homework filling the rest of the day.
I would take the bus from the town where I lived and ride it for half an hour into the town where the class was held.
It was a fascinating learning experience. The class was taught by a native German speaker, but the rest of us in the class were from all different countries. There was one other native English speaker in the class besides me. The rest of the participants were from Spain, Croatia, Italy, Turkey, Nigeria, and a few other places.
None of us had any language that was in common except for the language that we were learning. It was fascinating to watch the teacher conduct the class given that none of us had any common language.
I studied very hard for that class. I usually worked on homework all afternoon as well as during the bus ride to and from class.
I took those intensive courses for two years. During my fourth semester, by that time I had a pretty good grasp of the basics of the language. I was far from fluent, but I could say pretty much whatever I wanted to say.
I was on the bus going to school one day, studying for an assignment. The bus was crowded and there was an empty space beside me. So that space was quickly taken.
I got into a short courteous conversation with the person who had taken the place on the seat next to me. We talked about where each one of us was going and a little bit about the weather. Just simple stuff like that.
Then he asked me what I was working on and I told him that I was learning German and that I was working on homework for my German class. This whole conversation was in German.
We talked a little bit about German classes and about learning German. He said that he was not a native German speaker and that he was still learning the language himself. We talked for a little bit longer and then he asked me where I was from. I said I was from the United States, at which point he immediately switched to English, with a laugh. Oh! He said. I’m from England!
We both laughed then. It struck me very funny that I had been struggling along in my conversation with him when the whole time we both were fluent in the same common language.
There was also an interesting element to the conversation, which was that we both actually had the capacity to communicate with each other at that level in a language that was not either one of our mother tongues.
Learning German in Switzerland was a bit of a challenge. The Swiss people speak a version of German called Swiss German. It has common elements with high German but it also has significant differences. A Swiss German person typically feels very self-conscious speaking high German around other Swiss German people.
When I was with a Swiss German friend and they were speaking high German to me, they had to put aside their self-consciousness about speaking high German if another Swiss German person came along.
This made it a little bit difficult for me to practice my high German. I found that my Swiss German friends were fine speaking high German with me when it was just the two of us alone, but it was not something they were excited about doing when we were in a group with other Swiss people.
It did make me greatly appreciate my Swiss friends who were willing to put aside that discomfort and speak high German with me, knowing that I was trying to practice and improve. They were there for me in that effort and willing to put aside their self-consciousness.
In my capacity as head of the foreign language department at Tessadine University, I am often brought into contact with people who are involved with languages of the world. This includes academics and researchers and organizations devoted to language preservation and exploration.
I recently came in contact with somebody who worked with an international organization devoted to language preservation and various related altruistic goals.
This organization is scientifically and linguistically oriented and enters into countries through contracts with governments that are based on commitments to do language research, documentation, publication, and education.
I was fascinated to learn more about this organization. It started almost a hundred years ago. It started with one guy who went down to Guatemala and discovered a lot of very interesting things about the local languages down there.
He recruited a bunch of people who came down and basically dedicated their lives to the people that spoke those different languages, and they conducted various in-depth language-related projects in those countries.
This organization became established and grew over the decades. It’s now worldwide with about 6000 members, some of whom are field workers and some of whom support the work of the organization in their home countries.
A lot of the target languages that this organization sends
people to work in are very small. I spoke with one person who grew up in a country where her parents were worked among a language group. They were in the south Pacific. The country they worked in was a small country with a population of only 3 million, but over 800 separate languages were spoken there. This number didn’t include dialects. It was 800 completely distinct languages.
Her parents worked among a language group that was spoken by 4200 people. They basically spent 16 years of their lives living among that people group, researching, studying, and doing significant translation projects. That particular language was actually in the Guiness Book of World Records for many years as having the least amount of letters in its alphabet. It only had 11 letters in the alphabet.
About ten years ago, there was a language found in Hawaii that fewer letters than that in its alphabet. That Hawaiian language only has 9 letters in the alphabet.
Anyway, I was fascinated by the work that the people of this organization have been up to for many years. I’m inspired by their commitment and dedication, and I’m also inspired and in awe of the kinds of materials that these linguists produce from their language-learning of these in some cases very small languages.
The body of work that they produce for the people that speak these languages is monumental. It’s no wonder that this organization has been the recipient of many kinds of acadamic awards and service awards from governments around the world.
I love that my job brings me in contact with people of this caliber and with organizations that do things like this.
I’m gonna get on my soapbox for a little bit so please bear with me.
Today I’m writing on the subject of kids who grow up in homes where parents speak two different languges or where parents speak a different language from the language spoken where they live who do not teach the kids that language or those languages.
I realize that paragraph didn’t make much sense. This is what I mean.
You have a family living in the United States and both parents are Hispanic but the child grows up not knowing how to speak Spanish.
Or you have a couple in any country in the world where they both speak two different languages. The child is raised maybe speaking one of the languages but not both.
I’m aware of a family in a country where English was the national language. The parents were both Greek and they had many relatives back in Greece. The kids were raised in this English-speaking country by Greek parents and they never learned how to speak Greek.
To me, that’s just an incredible shame. It almost makes me angry. I probably have that kind of emotion because of how strongly I feel about the value of language and the value of learning languages and speaking multiple languages. To me it’s just unthinkable to raise your kids without teaching them your own mother tongue, because it would be such a gift to them.
It’s such a disservice to not teach them. Their lives would be so enriched by knowing another language.
Back to this Greek family . . . .
When the family would go back to Greece for visits, the kids were not able to communicate with family back there who were not fluent in English, like the grandparents and older family members. I think that’s just such a shame that the kids couldn’t communicate with those family members simply because the parents chose not to teach them how to speak the language.
By contrast, I know a family that also lived in an English-speaking country. The mother of the family was English and the dad was Welsh. From the very beginning, they made the decision that the mother would speak English and the father would speak Welsh to their girls.
It took some discipline to do that. They started at the very beginning when the girls were tiny, and they stuck to it. The whole time the girls were growing up, the dad spoke Welsh to them and the mom spoke English. The result was that the girls grew up completely and totally bilingual.
The last I knew, when the girls left that English-speaking country, they chose to go to Wales where they had family, and one of them went into law school there and the other one went into some other vocation. They had full capability in speaking Welsh and were able to integrate in the culture and society there with ease.
I know families in the United States who are from Puerto Rico and who do not speak Spanish to their children. I know several families like this.
My own son had to take Spanish as a school requirement. I was shocked to learn that his girlfriend, whose parents are both from Puerto Rico, was struggling in the same Spanish class because her parents did not speak Spanish to her at home. So even though she came from a Spanish home, her Spanish was not at the fluent level.
You can tell me all you want about various reasons why this doesn’t happen and why parents don’t use their own mother tongues at home and why kids grow up only speaking the language of the country they live in. But at the end of the day, the kids are poorer for it.
It’s such a gift to be able to speak more than one language. I just hate it that kids don’t have that opportunity when parents choose to not make it available.
Ok, I’m getting down off my soapbox now. Feel free to comment!