Two Saturday mornings per month,
My small boy goes to
During the class,
We parents hang out in a room next door:
A brick-and-tile space with a
Circle of mismatched chair and couches and a
Scrap of coffee-colored carpet on the floor.
We sip hot morning beverages and chat or read magazines and books.
I was cutting out
For our wedding invitations,
And vaguely listening to three moms—
Finnish women living in Minnesota—
Chatting in low tones.
At first they spoke Finnish,
And for practice I tried to follow along.
One of their parents had a sailboat,
And spent the summer
Sailing around the archipelago islands
Scattered off the southwest corner of Finland.
One of them said a phrase in English,
Slowing down and emphasizing the words slightly like
And then the conversation
Switched into English.
Two of the women had mild accents,
And the third spoke with no accent at all.
They carried on in English for awhile,
Talking about their next travel plans
To bring their children to Finland,
To their families’ summer cottages.
One of the women switched back into Finnish,
And the conversation went on in that language.
From my bi-lingual friends,
That people who speak
Flow back and forth between languages
In the same conversation —
Sometimes in the same sentence —
Without even realizing they’re doing it.
If I had pointed out to these
Three women that they had switched back and forth
Between Finnish and English,
They might have been surprised to hear it.
I am always awed by the
Vast potential of the human mind
When I witness this.
And the coolest part:
My son can do it, too.
Hey Jen, why didn’t you try speaking with them? They could help you with your Finnish, & you with their English.