The Russians Love Lowe’s

As a country of immigrants, it is common to meet people from different countries and to hear different languages being spoken. I love walking into a restaurant of a country whose cuisine I have never tasted or experimenting with a recipe from a country whose food is unfamiliar to me.

I am accustomed to seeing signs printed in both English and Spanish, but I must say I was surprised with the sign I saw above the cashier during my recent visit to Lowe’s Home Improvement store. At the top, in bold white letters on a red background, were the instructions to “point to the sentence you can read,” followed by the same sentence in four other languages.

“That’s nice,” I thought, but as my eyes drifted downward while I viewed the entire sign, my thoughts changed to “That’s weird,” when I noticed the fourth language on the list: Russian! The others, in order, were Spanish, French, and Chinese.

Now I know Russia is all around us, and if we watch the news or even many television shows, we cannot go a day without hearing about someone or something Russian-related. But are there really enough people in my country, or my state, to warrant a sign at Lowe’s having Russian as one of the five languages on that sign? I decided to do some research.

The most commonly-spoken languages after English are:

South Carolina                                                             United States

Spanish                                                                         Spanish

German                                                                        Chinese

French                                                                          Tagalog

Chinese                                                                        Vietnamese

Tagalog                                                                        French

Vietnamese                                                                 Korean

Arabic                                                                          German

Russian                                                                        Arabic

Korean                                                                         Russian

Gujarati                                                                        African Languages

On both a state and national level, the census bureau puts Russia at #8 and #9 of commonly spoken languages, so are there, perhaps, more Russian spies making purchases of hammers, saws, vices, and toilets at Lowe’s than the average speakers of that language? And what could possibly be the reason that Russian beats out Chinese and Tagalog (a language spoken in the Philippines)?

This inquiring mind wants to know.


Yo Vivo En Boonton

I spent five years learning French, and that time helped me enough to get a taxi from Charles DeGalle Airport to our hotel near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. That’s it! Now, as I have seen how quickly a child can learn the English language in just 2 ½ years based on watching the three of you and now our first grandchild,  I feel that my foreign language education was deeply lacking in quality. I believe that total immersion in a language is the best method to learn another tongue, so perhaps, moving in with a family that has a newborn baby and following that child for two years could have  a far superior result than what is learned in high school.

Did you know that French was not my first foreign language? It was the third. Grandpa made a feeble attempt to teach us Russian. I know several words and phrases, but apparently, the Russian words made me laugh, so he did not persevere. I can say, “I love you, I want to go out and play, good, tea, yes, no, I want to eat, and, of course, Do Svidanya.” That is not enough to carry on much of a conversation with a Russian two year old.

In fifth grade, I began my Spanish education during our Thursday afternoon Spanish club meetings. We learned to count to twenty and inform a new acquaintance that “yo vivo en Boonton.” Both boys and girls were taught to belt out songs in Spanish with enthusiasm and little embarrassment as well as how to perform several Spanish dances. Sometime ( ewwww and yuck), boys and girls even danced together!

Our teacher, Mrs. Simms, was quite the visionary in deciding to expose us to a foreign language during a time when learning another language in elementary school was rare. Little did she know then that in forty-eight years, Spanish would be the second most spoken language in the United States, with more people speaking Spanish here than in Spain.

I chose French based on nothing more than the fact that I liked the sound, but it was not a practical choice. While it is true that French is spoken in twice as many U.S. homes as Italian, which is now taught in some kindergartens in New Jersey (right, Jamie?), it is not nearly as common as Chinese.

So other than that bucket-list trip to Paris a few years ago, French got me nowhere. No matter how much some people refuse to admit, Spanish is the way to go in learning a second language. Mrs. Simms, how did you know?

Spanish Club- School Street School- Boonton, NJ March 1966.
Spanish Club- School Street School- Boonton, NJ
March 1966.  (Can you find me?)