I No Understand

1960 Christmas in Hobart
Our first Aussie Christmas with the Rastas family

When I was but a wee lassie, we moved to the other side of the world. To a land where none of us could understand the lingua franca.  I remember being outraged. It was a horrible sounding language. One that I would never, ever want to learn. Guess what? I learnt it fast. At school. And ended up explaining strange words to my family.

Mum wanted us to speak English at home so she could learn. We all refused. I’m glad we did. I can still speak, read and write Finnish. It’s rusty but usually I get by. The interesting thing is that catching up with friends visiting us, I find I can understand modern Finnish very well, even though I can’t speak it. Why is that? Because modern Finnish is littered with English words pronounced phonetically.

Dad learnt most of his english from reading Phantom comics. And working as a carpenter on building sites with a gang of Finns, including his brother-in-law and other migrants, many of whom were Italians.  Me No Understand English is a chapter from his autobiographical storytelling from those early days.

The movie about Italian  migrants, They’re a  Weird Mob, became very popular for its funny take on the struggles of assimilating into a whole new world.

Raili Tanska

Never stop learning

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12 thoughts on “I No Understand

    1. I was only 7. It was harder for the adults than us kids. But in hindsight, I am amazed at how brave they were to do that. Everything and everyone familiar were left behind on the other side of the world. And in those days communication was a lot more difficult than it is now.

      1. absolutely, there are whole swag of studies about the “isolation” migrants feel, some for a lifetime … your parents were super brave!

  1. It’s so hard to learn a language as an adult, I respect people who have done it successfully so much. Usually when I travel to a new country I just learn how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ or I end up saying something inappropriate by accident 😏

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