Recently I said to myself: „When you have your next birthday and you want to commiserate with yourself because of the years that have gone so quickly and because you have grown old, try to look at the whole thing in a different way!“
From the days of my childhood I had heard the names of some friends of my parents. Very interesting and talented people with moving stories, which could happen perhaps only in former communist Czechoslovakia. Oh, how I would like to have a chat with them right now! It is unfortunately not possible to arrange such a meeting. I am too young for it; we have just passed in time. If only I were older!
Among those that have stuck in my mind is the name of a teacher,
linguist and translator – Jiri Elman. He was a classmate of my father,
who mentioned him often at home. They participated in class reunions,
contributed to the class chronicle on a regular basis and even lived not
far from each other. Neverthless, I never met him personally. I only
partly knew his story thanks to my father. He told me about his unjust
imprisonment for political reasons in the fifties and his extraordinary
linguistic talent. He spoke 13 languages fluently and translated from 10
of them. He was fascinated by the opportunity of speaking with people
from other nations. During his seven-year imprisonment he learned
Hungarian from a Hungarian journalist and cellmate. They even published a Hungarian textbook together. He engraved Chinese characters on
powerline poles while working in the mines. His belief that with every
other language we learn, our life becomes richer and more interesting is
at the same time a key tought of his tiny book, “The Magic Garden of
Languages or How to Study Foreign Languages.”
We did not manage to meet. I am from a different generation. But he
invited me and other readers to his Magic garden, I accepted the invitation and return there often. For motivation, for advice, for inspiration and admiration!
Ready to join? Welcome to the Magic Garden of Languages!
Gabriela Krejci, LOS Consultant