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Tue Apr 5, 2022, 12:40 PM

Your Morning Splash of Happiness!

I LOVED this story in today’s Washington Post.

The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages.

How did he get this way? And what was going on in his brain? But also: why was he cleaning carpets for a living?
To Vaughn, all of that is missing the point. He’s not interested in impressing anyone. He only counted his languages because I asked him to. He understands that he seems to remember names, numbers, dates and sounds far better than most people. Even to him, that has always been a mystery. But his reason for dedicating his life to learning so many languages has not.

He thought, at first, that there were two languages. English, like his dad spoke, and Spanish like his mom spoke. Vaughn liked visiting his family in Orizaba, Mexico, liked the way the Spanish words sounded in his mouth.
But growing up in Maryland, he often tried not to use them. He didn’t want to feel even more different than the other kids. He was already browner than them. He already didn’t understand why they laughed at certain things, or why they seemed to be able to follow instructions from the teacher that made no sense to him. Spanish was his first secret.
When some distant cousins of his dad’s came to visit from Belgium, they used words different than Vaughn had ever heard. Vaughn became more and more frustrated that once again, he couldn’t understand.
“I was like, ‘I want that power,' ” Vaughn remembers.

From then on, he was entranced by every language he encountered. His mom’s French record albums. A German dictionary he found at one of his dad’s handyman jobs. A boy from the Soviet Union who joined his junior high class. By then, one of Vaughn’s favorite places was the library. He checked out a beginner’s guide to Russian.
Soon after, he overheard a Russian woman in a grocery store.

“Здравствуйте, как поживаете?”.
Vaughn asked. Hello, how are you? He explained that he was trying to learn Russian.
He liked the look he put on that woman’s face.
“Like she was hit with a splash of happiness,” Vaughn remembers.


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Reply Your Morning Splash of Happiness! (Original post)
Mme. Defarge Apr 2022 OP
2naSalit Apr 2022 #1

Response to Mme. Defarge (Original post)

Fri Apr 8, 2022, 07:43 PM

1. Cool story.

I wish I had command of more languages. I have Slavic friends and seem to be able to keep up when listening to them. At one point years ago I was working in a new town I had just moved to where I was a cashier at the grocery. There was and older guy who came in every day and got a loaf of french bread and some vegetables but he spoke very little English. I recognized that he was Slavic of some kind and found out, later, that he was Bulgarian.

I told my friend about him and she told me some phrases to use when he came in the next time which I did. The man was floored that I figured it out and liked me from that moment on, I still stop and say hello when I go there. He even made sure that when I wanted to rent a cabin from his brother that I got to rent it. Wasn't far from his place so we saw each other once on a while outside. Sometimes my friend would send me home with some Bulgarian food to give him. She was not from Bulgaria but she knew about the culture, it made the old guy really happy to know that someone knew about his home.

He made every effort to communicate in English for my benefit but we were able to stumble through our conversations well enough. Like me, he could understand more of what he heard than what he could actually say. His brother wasn't much better but they both had great attitude, I lived in that cabin for several years, until I moved away.

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