My grandparents and parents loved Switzerland, especially the regions of the Vierwaldstättersee and the Thunersee. And we all loved the singing Schwitzerdütsch. I haven’t been back there because it was too expensive for our holiday budget and my wife and the mountains do not go together well, but lively and lovely memories abound when I think about the language.

But I like to focus on the phenomenon that language is part of the core identity of every human being. The first time I experienced this, was when my Hungarian student assistant met a compatriot while we were lunching. She changed on the spot from a serious, formal, a little restrained and shy person into a beaming, lively, funny person. She could order her beer in Hungarian. She could communicate from soul to soul, understanding the deeper meaning of words, intuitively express and understand the most subtle nuance in thoughts. I suddenly saw who Vera really was.

Forcing people to speak in a language that is not really their own is a form of colonization of souls. Making jokes about the language of others is a form of xenophobia.

p.s. One of my favorite writers is Max Frisch. His Tagebuch teached me about life and love. Kennen Sie die Fragebogen über Frauen und Männer? Oder über Dankbarkeiten? (‘If there was an institution requesting within a week a list of reasons for gratitude, I would mention: the mother,….the early death of the father…the experience of material poverty….that I have children….all women, yes, all of them…)

Friend of life and beauty and foe of spoilers of life and beauty. Golden marriage. Grandfather. Pianist and micro poet. Dutch, European.

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