January 27, 2014

На вкус и цвет това́рищей нет*

"In taste and colors, there are no friends." 

That's one of my Mom's favorite expressions. Mom grew up in a Lithuanian-speaking household. Her Parents, Jadzė and Jake, both spoke several languages, and Mom quickly picked up the Polish and German that occasionally slipped into conversations.

When her Parents didn't want Mom to understand something, they spoke in a more difficult language—Russian. Mom's Parents also entertained each other in the evenings by reading Russian novels aloud. Mom grew frustrated with these practices. She decided to teach herself Russian. Mom secretly made a set of Cyrillic-alphabet flashcards, and she spent time in her
bedroom learning to read Russian.

Mom's Russian came in handy after she got married because her Mother-in-law—my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana—was Russian. My Parents and Tatjana continued the practice of switching to Russian when they didn't want me to figure out what they were saying. I've picked up a few Russian expressions, but I did not learn the language.**

What did you teach yourself?

Near Wasaga Beach, Canada, July 1960. I take the wheel of "The Swan."

*Pronunciation: Na vkus i tsvet [tzv]arischey n[y]et.

**Tatjana often called me a "Чёрт полосатый," (chyort polosatyy) or "striped devil." The Russian language preserves the tradition of associating stripes with the devil.


usoniaboy said...

Totally loved this post. Your mother teaches herself Russian in her bedroom with flashcards???

Irene said...

Amazing, no?

edutcher said...


That's a whole 'nother alphabet.

And, to answer the question, I've had to teach myself several computer languages.

PS The post reminds me of Charlie Bronson's character in "The Great Escape" and the need to speak several languages in that part of the world.

PPS Striped?

I can't imagine you being that bad.

Irene said...

It is astonishing.

And I was quite naughty.