My initial steps into foreign languages

Yesterday we visited my daughter’s new apartment and she gave me my old Junior Instructor Book 2 from The Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia. This is the yellow book; she had the green one but it did not contain the “Indian pictographs by Hotan-Tonka” that I remember as my first language experience. I checked Hotan-Tonka in the list of contributors and he is “the son of the Chief of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Ojibway or Chippewa”. I recall just last week Bill Nye the Science Guy mentioning the Book of Knowledge being an excellent and accurate encyclopedia. The fact that they include both spellings of the name is encouraging.
Looking over those 50 plus signs brought back memories of lying on the floor when I was 9 years old, copying signs out as I made up sentences. Little did I realize that my obsessiveness in doing so foreshadowed a life of doing such with many different languages.
However, I probably had my first foreign language experiences with my dad who would take me back into the kitchens of the hotels he worked in as a manager and introduce me to all of the “foreign” workers back there. I put foreign in quotes b/c to a little kid from a small town in Ohio and the big city of Toledo, meeting Black people, Hispanics, and so forth, even if they were Americans, was an unusual experience and sparked a life-long interest in other cultures and people. Also, most of those workers were foreigners who spoke French, Tagalog, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. This was in the forties, so before the influx of immigrants after WW II in response to opening up immigration to those threatened by Communism. Hungarians, Poles, Latvians, and so many more found their way to America and some into the kitchens of the hotels my father worked in.
Later, in high school, my French teacher took me twice a week downtown to Phoenix Union High School where she taught “English for the Foreign Born”. There were people from all over: Hungarians, Chinese, Germans, many Spanish-speakers but no Africans I can remember. My teacher had flash cards she encouraged people to write on with translations of the word. I helped by engaging individuals, esp those with very little English. I did that for at least two years. Greeks, Japanese, Czechs, not too many Russians, of course. That was in the late 50s, ‘57, ‘58.

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