The gift that belongs to all of us
This text written by Mrs. Olga Schmalzried-Podzimkova appeared as lead article in the Newsletter of the Czech organization “BESEDA” in Brussels.)
This article will be about a GIFT which we all had received. We got it in our crib, we carry it with us and use it on many occasions. Generally we do not realize its real value, we often misuse it, and we seldom think about its regular maintenance. In spite of it the gift is a precious treasure that deserves our admiration and respect because it enables us to express with it everything in this world including our most intimate feelings. The farther we are from our homeland, the more valuable this treasure becomes and we should devote more time to its care. You guessed it: I am talking about our MOTHER TONGUE. Whether it is Czech, Slovak or any other language, the mother tongue occupies a special place in our heart. We can express in it something extra- our feeling- which we may not be able to express in any other language. We absorb it even before birth literally with all of our senses.
Most of us have spent 10 or fewer years in Belgium. That is too short a time to forget our mother tongue. Nowadays we can have regular contact with our homeland by phone, Skype, internet, and even watch Czech or Slovak television. Be glad that you have these possibilities. Many immigrants who came here before us did not have these options. Talk to those who had already spent 50 or more years in Belgium. Their children usually do not speak Czech. In those days it “was not done.” Why teach a language of a country situated behind the Iron Curtain where you could not even travel? Observe how these “older” countrymen enjoy it when they hear their mother tongue and how they love talking Czech with someone.
Today the situation is different. To be bilingual- especially in Belgium- is an absolute minimum. Today’s parents try very hard to teach their children Czech. They are very interested in our Czech School Without Borders. I admire the students and their parents who devote a half day every weekend to learn Czech. It is not easy- the children’s language in school may be English, French or Flemish, at home they speak Czech, Slovak, Greek, Hungarian or some other language.
It is very important to teach Czech ( or Slovak) in childhood. It is much harder to learn a language in adulthood. Teach your children to name objects around you, read to them in Czech. Our literature is very rich in good poetry for children. Bring your children to our various activities. One of the main reasons for organizing “BESEDA” was and is to create a Czech (and Slovak) language environment. We look forward to meet all of you at our get-togethers. Please visit our website: www. Beseda.be or join our face book BesedaBelgie.
We wish you a lovely summer and hope to see you soon.
Abbreviated by Marie Dolanska
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