Our word of the month for the #LanguageDare is ‘Thank you’ (as all of you who have bravely posted your social media entry will already know). And it’s got me thinking about all the people who have helped me on my language learning journey, whether by teaching, correcting, encouraging or even just interacting with me, and making my trips that little bit more memorable. So I thought there’s no better opportunity than now to send out some heartfelt words of thanks to everyone who, in a big or small way, have spurred me on to new levels.
So I’d like to start with a ‘grazie mille’ to my old Italian teacher, who emphasised the value of finding language resources on subjects I was personally interested in, rather than the generic topics offered on the curriculum. And ‘grazzi assai’ to the Sicilian family I au paired for when I first moved to Italy, who took me to every single event in the local calendar – from Catholic mass to an anti-mafia conference, to tours of orange groves – to ensure that I was completely immersed in the remote and rural Sicilian life they were kind enough to share with me. And a huge ‘gràtzias’ to Antonello, an ever-patient Sardinian, who let me ramble on for an hour every week for two years to practise Italian in the sadly lacking-in-Italian-speakers area of the UK I grew up in. ‘Спасибо’ to the Russian stranger on the train who fortuitously took the seat beside me on my way to a Russian oral exam, who let me rehearse my presentation, and didn’t mind that I was unwilling to talk about anything except the topic of the exam, which happened to be women’s suffrage.
I’d like to say ‘kiitos’ to my Karelian friends who helped while away the long Nordic winter nights by teaching me easy Finnish, which all these years later, magically comes back to mind whenever I meet a Finn. And ‘gràcies’ to Cristina, who took me shopping in Catalan when I first moved to London, and shared her love of obscure Catalan idioms with me. ‘Dank u’ to the waitress in Ghent who politely explained that I’d somehow been saying ‘please’ instead of ‘thank you’ in Flemish for my entire trip, and ‘ďakujem’ to the hotel attendant in Bratislava on a recent journey, who was happy to slow his native Slovak to a snail’s pace and embellish it with flamboyant gesticulations, so that I could check-in successfully.
Most recently, ‘merci’ to the Québécois gentleman who talked me through the surprisingly complex process of buying an airport bus ticket in Montreal, and explained in simple French which bus I needed and when it would arrive. Then chatted away extensively about the state of public transport, which was actually quite refreshing, as it was the first real conversation I’d had all day as a lone tourist in a large city.
‘Dankon’ to all those people with whom I am looking forward to creating lasting memories on my Esperanto journey, and thank you to everyone else who has made my life better by talking to me in another language, and sharing something of theirs with me.
Nat – Language Producer