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Reader feedback: A 20th century Rip van Winkle

Re: Dialects - what happens when east meets west?, By Eric Smillie, March 22 - 28, Vol 10, No 11

My parents and my brother and sister were all born in the Zemplín region and immigrated to the US in the early 1920s. I am the only US-born (1929) member of my immediate family. Thus I was exposed daily to the dialect of the Zemplín area (Michalovce). So potatoes to me were bandurky until I met other Slovaks who called them zemiaky. Asking my mother about the differences in the words did not really help me resolve the confusion.

When I decided to visit Slovakia in 1985 I took a course in the Slovak language and found out about the various dialects throughout the country and also about the differences from village to village. But when I did arrive in my parents' village, Zemplín Široká, and met my relatives, I found the younger generation speaking modern Slovak. It was not until I spoke to my first cousin, who is just a few years older than me, that I recognised the language that I knew. It was as if my mother had returned from the grave. But happily I was able to make myself understood to all of my many relatives, albeit with some confusion from time to time. I returned for a second visit in 1990 and cemented the family ties I had made on my first visit. Happily, the younger generation is now learning English and have started to correspond with me in English. Thus I have been able to continue a dialogue with my family there. And throußgh your newspaper I have been able to keep abreast of the developments of the country as it keeps moving forward. Thank you for providing this forum.

Edward Jager,
Pennsylvania, USA

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