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Marilyn Heltzer: Don’t try any language unless you are very fluent

I speak only English. I could have learned Swedish because my mom and my grandma talked it in the kitchen when they fixed Sunday suppers. My grandma learned Swedish way back when. And my mother learned it from her mother.

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I speak only English. I could have learned Swedish because my mom and my grandma talked it in the kitchen when they fixed Sunday suppers. My grandma learned Swedish way back when. And my mother learned it from her mother.   
Now, parents pay big bucks to send their kids to Concordia Language Villages, northeast of Bemidji. Kids get a passport, speak the chosen language for several weeks or months, and even eat the food of that country.
Oh, that I had learned Swedish at my mother’s knee. But once folks came here from the Old Country as it was known (Norway, Finland, Sweden and the rest), they were supposed to become Americans, and they learned the language. Despite the fact that my mom and grandma knew Swedish, I didn’t learn a word. Unless you count “tack” which means “thank you.” That’s an easy one. And we all know about lutefisk and lefse. That’s the extent of my Swedish. But maybe “uffda,” or maybe that’s just something we say in Minnesota.
My advice to you, dear reader, is not to try any language unless you are very fluent. When we went to Paris years ago, I’d walk into a shop and say a cheery “bonjour” That’d work, as would “guten tag” in German or “buenos dias” in Spanish. But sometimes, if my French accent was just right, the recipient would start speaking that language, thinking I spoke their language. I didn’t, as they quickly found out.
English is universal, and many people speak it. But how about all those other languages?
I understand that some folks watch television, and learn our language from that. They’re so smart. They’ve learned from hearing others speak.
In a few years, Spanish will be spoken by more folks in this country than English. Spanish would be a good idea, and those kids at CLV are become fluent. What’s my excuse? The one I use for so many things: I’m old. They’re young. Which is no excuse, but it works for me. Guess I’ll stay with English.
Now in a quick switch, we’ll discuss baseball, which is well known in many countries. However, soccer is gaining fast. But not here, not yet.
I watched the presentation of Major League All-Stars in early July. Most spoke English, including the Hispanic speaker, who was bi-lingual, but started out in English, switched to Spanish, and of course there were English subtitles.
How about them Twins? As I always say when I watch them on TV or listen on the radio, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Which is not an original observation, but it’s a good motto. And whenever I sing the Star Spangled Banner (standing and placing my hand over my heart) I always conclude with “play ball.” And I know the song for the seventh inning stretch, which used to be “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” but has apparently been replaced with “God Bless America.” For which we have Kate Smith to thank. But nobody sings it like Kate did.
Baseball. The boys of summer. Languages. English, Spanish, Swedish, French. And now comes fall. The leaves change. The summer people go south. The lakeside cabins are deserted, the dock comes out. And next the lake will freeze and snow will make our world so white. If I knew Swedish I’d tell you how to say it in that language.
Yep, I’m getting ahead of myself. But how fortunate we are to live in this state, with its changing seasons. Perhaps our grandmas and grandpas knew what where they were heading. Were they smart people? Yes, for sure.

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