Saturday 10 September 2016

Another coffee morning this morning in a neighbouring village.   We feel it is important to go and support these occasions as one or two people have put a lot of work into the preparation.   However, this one, as usual, was very poorly attended - maybe a dozen at the most.   But the food and the setting were superb.

The village hall was completely refurbished with a grant some years ago, so it is spick and span;  one end is shelves on which are donated books.   There is a basket in which to put a donation if you wish to buy one (I bought a Ruth Rendell I hadn't read).
The tables are set with white cloths (plastic luckily as my cafatiere decided to spray coffee everywhere);  there used to be white embroidered cloths which had been donated but everyone found them such a chore to wash and iron.   Each table today had a pretty vase of statis on it and pretty flowered china.

The selection of food was lovely - hot buttered toast or toasted tea cake, half a dozen different cakes and all laid out on a smart table.   All that was lacking was villagers to come in the door (or passers by; it is by a fairly main road through the Dales and there was a notice board on the main road.)   I felt sorry that so much effort had been put in by a few ladies and yet so little support.

I sat next to a charming lady who had come over here to live from Germany in 1948, speaking little or no English when she arrived.   Her English now is impeccable with only the slightest foreign inflexion and it was so interesting talking to her about how she learned to speak English (the best way - i.e. being thrown in at the deep end).

Friend W and I, who have both had experience with people who came in from the Punjab many years ago, found it interesting to compare this with our experiences there, where so many of the ladies who were mothers when they arrived and are  now elderly ladies and yet still speak little or no English because they have stayed within their community.   It is, of course, a question of culture
but  we feel sad that maybe these ladies have missed out on a lot of the pleasures of living in our country.  They seem instead to have made little enclaves of their own.   Is this a good thing or a bad thing?   I really don't know the answer - do they miss out or does their isolation perhaps mean that their own culture has been enriched for them?   And does it matter?   After all, their children learned English and became native speakers - and now their children see England as their home.

Learning a language unless one is thrown in at the deep end is difficult.   After six years of Grammar school French I still could not hold a conversation on my first independent visit to the country.   Oh yes, I had a pretty good vocabulary but using it to actually formulate a sentence I ran the risk of making some really embarrassing mistakes.  (I could always fall back on 'my postilion has been struck by lightning' I suppose (this being one of the phrases I remember from one of my French vocab books)).

Well folks, I seem to have wandered away from my starting point somewhat,  but I would be interested to know what you think - that is if you can wade through my rambling and actually find the question I asked!


jinxxxygirl said...

I will tell you what little i know from experience... although i don't really think it covers your question... :) Hubby and i lived three years in Germany with our 2 yr old daughter while he was in the military.... We consider it some of the best years of our lives... As my husband will tell you the soldiers that hang out around the base and just make the base there 'home' are some of the unhappiest and homesick.... the one who get out there and see things... do things... learn some of the language... are the happiest and most content... We married in Copenhagen Denmark and then asked ourselves the question... do we want furniture or do we want to travel... Well we ... Personally I think it would enrich the lives of immigrants if they got to know the country they chose to live in. They could still nourish their little communities and still get out and learn the language... I could have done better in Germany...I learned enough to get me around and go shopping etc... Hubby speaks fluent German and that helped alot... But my goodness the things i experienced will never be forgotten... Perhaps they stay in their little communities because they are not there legally and feel safer that way........Hugs! deb

Minigranny said...

The coffee morning sounds to have been lovely though it's a shame more people didn't attend.
It is so hard to learn a new language as you get older and I have been trying to learn Greek but find it really difficult. Can remember words but not join them up into sentences - a bit like Eric Morecombe in that Andre Previn sketch! Still find it is always appreciated when I make the effort even though when I get it wrong it often causes hilarity.

galant said...

Oh, I love a ramble like that, and my schoolgirl French was much the same as yours, pretty poor really apart from vocabulary. But when we went on holiday many years ago with our two sons (then in their early teens) and stayed in a gites (singular or plural?) in the middle of nowhere, I was the only one with any French at all, and so I simply had to manage for the whole family - and manage I did, using vocab and always the present tense, and actually I was able to make myself understood and the elderly couple who owned the gites invited us in for a cup of coffee and I was the only one who could make any attempt at conversation. I think for the very first time our two sons were rather impressed with their mother! By the end of our visit I could ask how much things cost in the shops and ask for four-whatever for the family, and also ask for petrol in the filling stations. Once I got over my inhibitions about grammar and pronunciation, I quite enjoyed trying to make myself understood. And the French appreciated my efforts, too, I think. Just speaking more loudly just isn't good enough, is it?
What a shame that lovely coffee morning didn't have more support. It sounded just lovely. I think I'd have gone outside with a megaphone and yelled "Roll up, roll up, best coffee in the county inside ..."
Margaret P

angryparsnip said...

When I am in Japan my Japanese gets so much better because I use it everyday. Yes it is nice to stay where your language is spoken but to venture out is just so much more interesting. When I use to travel and didn't know the language I always learned what I call the good words, the basics.
Hello, goodbye, good morning and goodnight, please and thank you, how lovely, beautiful, how fast can you get me to the airport and the very most important one of all 'Oh My Goodness where did you find those shoes ! ! ! !"
Sorry that the coffee morning was not better attended, I would have been there walker and all !

I have a very sad story about my city. I live in a Border City. One of the biggest school district has big hispanic neighborhoods. When you drive there all you hear on radio and tv is spanish, 24/ 7.
The biggest school district had to hold back half of the third grade in this area because they did now know enough English to pass to fourth grade. This is so sad, to me.
The reading levels are down and just speaking English was non existence . Why ? their parents speak only Spanish and have no desire to speak English. They are Hispanics living in the U.S. and that is it .
Most of these children will drop out of school at age 15 (school is over in in Mexico at age 15) Parents need to be responsible and adjust to the country they live in. But here everyone makes excuses for them. It is so sad. No responsibility at all for their children.
There are many reasons for this and I could write a book on why but I didn't want to bore you.

cheers, parsnip and thehamish

Rachel Phillips said...

We have people who come here for money and a big house for free and no give. They speak pidgon English at best. Big house, money and you give. They arrive from Calais on the back of lorries with knives. They are unlikely to attend a coffee morning in the Dales because they will be too busy nicking something in Chiswick, first stop, to get that far.

Frances said...

Weaver, if I lived closer, I would definitely help to support those coffee mornings. The folks who put in hours of baking and organizing, etc., truly do deserve some positive reinforcement.

I'm old enough now to have seen many traditions fade away...although sometimes a decade later another version of the tradition becomes the new best selling concept. A popular television soap opera over here was called As The World Turns. I never watched the show, but the title was a good one.

I studied Latin, French and Russian, and have been fortunate to get to know folks here in NYC from many parts of the world, and to be able to practice a bit of the French and Russian, as well as picking up some helpful phrases in other languages. One of the joys of my recent retail shop experience was having work colleagues from the States and other countries who were fluent in many languages (Spanish, Italian, German, Mandaring, Japanese, Portuguese, Turkish, Hindi, Korean, Russian, French.) We taught each other a lot, and our clients truly appreciated our multi-lingual welcome.

I could go on and on on this topic, but will save the rest of my comments for that wonderful day when I join you and your friends at a coffee morning. xo

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Here in Canada, we learn French in school. I had French from grade 4 to grade 12 (maybe even grade 13, I can't remember) and I would not be able to hold a conversation nor would I understand someone unless they spoke very slowly. I am, however, able to conjugate a verb like nobody's business!!
My mother spoke a dialect of German with her mother and brother. As a child I heard this German being spoken often but never understood what was being said.
That is a shame that more people did not attend the event you described. It sounds lovely. -Jenn

Cro Magnon said...

I have always held a great admiration for the UK's Indian community. They are hard working and usually very pleasant people. The ones who run small businesses are obliged to speak English, but the others who stay within the confines of their communities are held back. As you say, they miss out on so much. I now see the Muslim community creating enclaves; they will also become isolated and indoctrinated, and will have no chance of integration. Such a shame, as I'm sure they have much to offer.

Derek Faulkner said...

Coffee mornings do seem a bit old-fashioned these days and probably something that people of an older generation cling on to as something that they have always done, because perhaps there was little else to do in a small community. Unfortunately communities are changing and expanding and there can't be many these days that haven't been touched by an ingress of people from another country that don't see a village or town's coffee morning as an important or necessary part of their social scene.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Actually Derek, they are still popular up here - ours in our village is alwaya packed out, but then the church is well-attended and it is run by the church.
Thanks for the contribution Cro - very true what you say and food for thought.
Oh yes Jenn, just confirms what I feel about language - we need to be somewhere where we absolutely must speak the language or no-one else will understand.
Frances - we would love to see you at any of our coffee mornings.
Rachel - luckily it is a problem which has not reached here yet, but I expect it will.
You have first hand experience of the problem Parsnip - and it is so interesting what you say.
Jinxy, Minigranny and Galant - such relevant points.
What an interesting exercise this has been (so far - any more contributions??)

Tom Stephenson said...

I always thought it was 'my posterior has been struck by lightening'. Your cafatiere story reminded me of when they first appeared in fancy cafes - one always exploded when the plunger went down, and it was usually me who pushed the plunger. I have forgotten what your question was.

Joanne Noragon said...

I had an Hungarian friend in college whose family came to America during the troubles of the fifties. He said he learned English by singing along to records.

Sue said...

A decade ago I used to diligently listen to my French language course while commuting to and from work (when I would much have preferred to listen to Terry Wogan). Ten years later I am ashamed to say that I am still not fluent in speaking French. My deafness and natural shyness have proved to be a major obstacle. Paul, on the other hand, can't conjugate a verb to save his life but chats away happily in French and his accent is amazing.

The Broad said...

Your village coffee mornings sound quite wonderful to me and it is a great shame when one is poorly supported.

We live in France for several months a year and my French is adequate for the situations I find myself in needing to use it. My husband, however, has very limited French and is not inclined to work at it. I find languages extremely interesting and am inclined to want to learn some of the language of whatever country I am in. When in France I spend hours studying and restudying idioms and vocabulary. The older I get the more difficult it is! When we lived in Germany I took classes and worked very hard, but found it challenging to speak because so many Germans spoke English and would eagerly correct me when I made mistakes -- which I found very intimidating. Last winter in Portugal I found the language impossible!

We have quite a large immigrant population now in Southport. I have found that those that work within their own community learn hardly any English -- but those that work within the wider community -- well their language skills improve quickly by leaps and bounds.

galant said...

Just an extra comment, and no, Tom, I'm pretty sure it's "postilion" and the late Sir Dirk Bogarde used this as a title for one of his lovely books of memoirs, A Postilion Struck by Lightning. Of course, it might be that your French phrase book had changed it to 'posterior'! Who knows?
Margaret P

Mac n' Janet said...

I agree with Angry Parsnip, the Hispanics isolate themselves by not learning the language, I was a bilingual teacher in California and saw it. The best thing California did was end bilingual ed. Kids need to be immersed in a language-English- to learn it. My inlaws were bilingual, but chose to teach their children English.
The Chinese, Indian, Pakistanis and others who come here learn the language quickly, I don't understand the attitude of the Hispanics.

Derek Faulkner said...

Hope you and the Farmer had a good trip to Cumbria today Pat and lunch was nice.

Heather said...

How sad that the delightful coffee morning wasn't better attended. As for the language issue, I would find it necessary to learn the language of a country in which I was living. Moving to a foreign country doesn't mean abandoning one's culture or heritage but it must surely make the new life much easier and help to integrate into one's new surroundings.

Midmarsh John said...

Such lovely views though I can imagine it being a bit bleak in mid Winter.