So Many Documents in Different Languages – so little time and knowledge

If I could turn back time… I would go back to the time just before I was born. Those couple of months just before the birth of their first, and ultimately only, child when my parents were presumably discussing how they would bring me up. I would try to infiltrate their discussions to encourage each of them to speak to me in their familial language, instead of only in English. I would love to have grown up as trilingual.

Now it is almost too late for me. I am surrounded by documents, correspondence and family history which is written in German, Russian and even French. I cannot read any of them. There are literally tubs of paper which I gathered from my parent’s house and brought with me after the death of my father. If only I could read them. If only I did not have to pay to have them translated.

I wish my father had spoken to me in German. Oh, he used to swear in German whenever he was angry! But even then, not only did I not understand what he was saying, but later in life I could not pronounce it well enough for my German speaking friends to comprehend, so I still do not know what words he used to curse. When I was younger, I must have had some interest in learning German as it was one of the subjects I took in high school. What I do remember is my father laughing at my accent and suggesting I could never learn the language. I was a constant source of amusement for him.

I wish my mother had spoken to me more in Russian. To be fair, she did try but I believe my father frustrated her attempts as he could never be certain of what she was saying to me. He had learned Russian as a boy but had forgotten most of it as an adult. My grandmother began to teach me Russian when I was around 8 or 9 years old. Then my grandfather died, and she lost interest in everything.

Over the years I have struggled to learn German. I have taken lessons, read German children’s books, watched German television series. I now have German conversation partners who I regularly meet, and I still find it difficult to commit vocabulary to memory. I am determined though to prove my father wrong.

Until this year I have not contemplated learning Russian. But I just signed up for a course which I hope will give me enough knowledge of the language for my trip to Russia later this year.

I am not giving up. Before I depart from this earth I want to be able to read the documents, letters and family history which I have inherited. I want to be able to pass the knowledge to my children and my grandchildren. I want to be able to read the stories of my family and share them with the world.

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Mike Berglund

    Always good to read what you have written.

  2. Bebe Kirkland

    Your ancestry is fascinating, and your writing is so sincere and from the heart!

    1. Alex

      Thank you for reading!

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