Norman and Bernice Brown: Adjusting to Speaking English at School

Posted by jyuhasz


Jack Piters (left) and Norman Brown (right), winners Concordia Tennis Tournament
Rights - Public Domain
Interviewee: 
Brown, Bernice
Interviewee: 
Brown, Norman
Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Date: 
Friday, January 1, 1971
ID: 
Digital audio recording #: 19.71-10
                Interviewer: Naomi Katz & Cyril E. Leonoff
 
 
               CL:         Well on the Prairies—Winnipeg, populated by Russian Jews primarily and Eastern European Jews, Yiddish was the language spoken. I have the impression that in Vancouver Hebrew was emphasized. Did you speak Yiddish with your parents?
 
               NB:        No, no, no. Until we the children introduced English into the home, we knew no language except Jewish. And one of the things that you and your generation might find a little difficult unless you’ve thought about it seriously is the problems that youngsters who don’t have English have when they go to school. I recall going to school and the second day that I was there they called a roll and as they called the roll each of the children had to say ‘present.’ Well, when they called my name and I wouldn’t say ‘present.’ When the teacher asked me why I wouldn’t tell her and she punished me, and she asked me to stay after school and I told her that the only reason that I wouldn’t say ‘present’ was that I wasn’t going to give her a present because that was the only connotation that I knew present in. [Laughter]. That’s why I think that some of these intelligence tests are so ridiculous. Because connotations is all important.
 
CL:         So you spoke Yiddish in the home and when you started to go to school you learned English.
 
NB:        Then my parents learned as well. And ultimately…
 
BB:         That is always the history. The children learned, came home, wouldn’t speak the Yiddish and so the parents had to learn English.

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly. You can download a Flash plugin here