EV­ERY­THING RHYMES WITH DEGOW BA RONK

Geist - - Miscellany - —MK, cy­berspace

Thank you for pub­lish­ing the ex­cerpt of Nor­bert Rueb­saat’s mem­oir (“Loud, Un­pleas­ant Noises,” No. 107) in which he re­counts his ex­pe­ri­ence as a child im­mi­grant from Ger­many, hear­ing the strange sounds of English in el­e­men­tary school. It re­minded me of my own ex­pe­ri­ence com­ing to Canada from Eastern Europe as a child. The land­scape was a bit dif­fer­ent here, the cars and houses cer­tainly much big­ger, the peo­ple dressed in brighter colours, but what re­ally jumped out at me were the sounds of the new lan­guage I was sup­posed to learn. In those first few months in Canada, to me and my lit­tle sis­ter, English sounded com­pletely twangy, ev­ery word ended with a sound that rhymed with honk or brow; a sen­tence went some­thing like: brow je­bow rabow degow ba ronk de bonk fronk. When we came home from school we would speak this way to each other, laugh­ing, mock­ing. And then, slowly, those sounds formed into English words, which formed into sen­tences, and be­fore long we were speak­ing our adopted lan­guage more flu­ently than our na­tive one.

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