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Posts Tagged ‘Czechoslovikia’

The Orlando Sentinel used to run a human interest series. I think it was called something like “Knock on Any Door.” They would do just that and talk to whomever answered. The theory was that every person has a story and they would find one behind any door, and they did. I don’t knock on strange doors but do encounter amazing stories just talking to strangers when I am out and about. This morning I “knocked on the right door.”

I needed a courtesy ride when I dropped by car off for service. The driver was a trim man with white hair, but young countenance. I detected only the slightest accent, the kind you aren’t quite sure is there, but I had to ask. Not “Where are you from?” but “Do you speak another language?” No one has ever seemed offended by the latter question, as they can be by the first. His answer was that he emigrated from the Czech Republic in 1972 after the Russians invaded.

As a young teen had taught himself perfect English mostly by talking with Americans and listening to news on TV. “The news,” he said, “because generally the speech was more precise.” He learned to say many words before he knew the meaning.

I had come in contact with many non-English speakers when I worked for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at the local school board and talked with foreign language teachers. He reinforced what they said: total immersion is quickest way to learn another language. The driver immersed himself in the new language until he now speaks better than many native borns.

This was admirable enough, but then I learned he actually left the Czech Republic in 1968 and fled to Austria. You guessed it; he learned German and spoke that language for four years before coming to America and beginning anew.

There are many lessons here, I think, but on a human level I am totally in awe of one who devotes himself to becoming a part of the country in which he chooses to live. My guess is the driver is immersed not only in our language, but our culture. I’m glad I asked that simple question. Wonder what I would find if I started knocking on doors. . .

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