“It's also a remarkably diverse neighborhood. My first apartment in Sunnyside was located on a street that boasted a Turkish grocery, a Korean acupuncturist, a Chinese dry cleaner, an Ecuadoran bakery, and a Romanian nightclub (which featured, delightfully, occasional appearances by a DJ named Vlad). I frequently supplemented my meager kitchen skills by taking a short walk to the Lebanese sandwich counter, the Colombian pupuseria, or the Bangladeshi-owned French bistro. After a particularly bad day in front of the computer, I had my pick of half a dozen legitimately Irish bars.
For a language lover like me, living here was heaven.”
This passage comes from a wonderful new book by Elizabeth Little. Titled Trip of the Tongue, it's a light-hearted but nonetheless fact-packed look at the many languages the author encountered in several trips around the U.S. Little's subtitle says it best: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America's Languages. She continues:
“Each day I'd hear at least six different languages as residents switched between their native tongues and what was far more often than not a very fluent form of English. At the time of the 2000 Census, out of 8,142 respondents in my ZIP code, 29 percent reported speaking English as a first language. The rest were native speakers of more than thirty other languages, including Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Romanian, Arabic, and South Asian languages such as Hindi, Gujarati, and Bengali. There are apparently so many speakers of Irish-speakers in Sunnyside that there was at one point a push to convince Chase to include Irish on its ATM menu. I was even given an opportunity to dust off my French when a mentally unhinged downstairs neighbor began sending me handwritten notes complaining about the noise from a non-existent air conditioner.”
In Trip of the Tongue, Ms. Little acts as an endearing and witty guide on an expedition to discover what our country's cultures and languages say about who we are as a society and as individuals. It's a celebration of our multiculturalism and a reflection on what we value, what we fight for, and what we allow ourselves to forget. Be sure to read all about it!
Copyright © 2012, S. Halversen.
All Rights Reserved.