Languages are fun. I make it a point to use one every day.

Imagine an ideal world where every child would be brought up by eight or so nursemaids from different countries, each of whom would speak to the child in her native tongue.

This would result in a well-rounded person like my personal hero, James Bond’s evil arch-enemy, who could speak eight or so languages without trace of an accent.

If you speak two or more languages, you know how often any one of them just happened to come in handy. Suppose you strike your thumb while building a playhouse for the grandchildren. Small chance that they’d know your few choice words in Greek or Lithuanian. If they are young enough, however, they’d be able to repeat them exactly for their mother, and then you’d hear about it.

You might know teenage children who won’t admit that they learned a second language from their parents because it makes them different. Even more painful is a stutter or a lisp, because 40 years later you could be elected president of the United States and your slower classmates who teased you after school are still not going to let it go.

Unfortunately, many of us who are language lovers were raised by one or more immigrant parents from the lower class who did not realize the importance and benefits of raising children in a bilingual household.

So, like our friends with parents who only speak one language, we are stuck with a native fluency, if that, in only one language and have to live with it.

At the age of 24 I stayed with my father’s sisters in Sweden and, after a few months, could understand Swedish well enough to know that they were buying me a one-way ticket on the MS Oslofjord and sending me home. At the time I didn’t know that this Dutch-built ship, which would one day sink, had already tipped over while in dry dock. I have to hope that my aunts didn’t know it, either.

For the past 60 years my hobby has been learning how to read Indo-European languages. I have no way of accounting for this peculiar inclination, unless it was the remarkable discovery in 1960 that it was easier to meet girls in Norway if you could speak some Norwegian. Since then I have spent thousands of hours listening to taped conversations in several languages. I have gone to exotic and romantic lands and tried to buy a hot dog or a roast chicken from the natives. It is fun. Learning languages is a poor man’s hobby – much cheaper than going to football games or gambling casinos.

In the course of my studies I discovered Harlequin Romances to be the ideal tool for language learning. The author will sometimes send you the same story in six languages.

Which – thank you for hanging in here – brings me to an observation that might brighten your day.

Last night I once again dipped into one of my favorite Harlequins. Reprinted in the Dutch language, it is dear to my heart because it is about a girl raised by Swedish parents in Minnesota. At the age of 24 she flies to Sweden for the first time.

To make the story even more appealing to moi, she goes to the same part of Sweden where I spent time at the age of 24, so when I read it I am there. I’ve walked those streets.

The trip is engineered by the girl’s grandmother in Minnesota and her grandmother’s girlhood friend in Sweden, who just happens to have a handsome grandson who wears expensive leather shoes.

The reader soon realizes that these two Swedish grandmothers have conspired to throw their grandchildren together. Like any other novel you have ever read, the author has a brave struggle to keep the two kids apart until the last page. At which time the young man suddenly morphs into a mindless sack of mush. Like the protagonists in any worthwhile novel, right up until the last page they have to hate each other, all the while fighting Mother Nature’s friend – the powerful, irresistible physical attraction.

As you know, these books are written for 12- or 13-year-old girls. No way should this Harlequin Romance be read by 84-year-old Maine men.

This is why.

The Swedish grandmother is a lovely young well-to-do widow of 74 who digs in her garden and scrubs her spotless house and bakes pepparkakor to die for, and if I were not happily married to Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, I’d be on the next plane to Landvetter.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:
www.thehumblefarmer.com/MainePrivateRadio.html


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