Michaela Merz

Affiliation and language

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20151106_PuppenI received an invitation for the puppet theatre. Punch and the brave Jakob were on the programme. A puppet theatre like many others across Europe. The amazing about this puppet show is the fact that it is shown in Slovakian in Zurich. And the show is full. About 200 visitors see the puppet theatre. For me it is every time wonderful and surprising how the Slovak community abroad works. What they do, organise and arrange. There is dancing, at Easter eggs are painted and birches are woven, fairy tales read, cooking and celebrating together. There are Slovakian classes for kinder garden children and schoolchildren, a church service with 150 regular visitors. A lot of community work, endless hours for organisation, preparation and tidying up are required. Obviously, the Slovaks stick together in an impressive manner. And how is it that I am part of it? Just as my youngest one, I speak their language. Thus we join their community life every now and then.

This makes me think what a community turns into a community. There may be many different factors, such fate, religion, common values, ethnicity. But what it needs is a method of communication. Thus, language plays such an extremely important role.

I remember when my friend Janine seriously considered moving one month after her 5 year old son entered the kindergarten, and left the municipality, where she had lived for 10 years as young woman and then as family after seven months. The reason was that her son Paul was the only child in class with Swiss German as mother tongue. Maybe this would not have been all that bad because all children spoke German. But the German language there were using was full of vulgarisms and on a rudimentary level. There was no place for politeness. I can remember when she called me completely appalled when Paul used words on the playground, which she would never ever use.

In the second week little Paul suddenly no longer wanted to wear his favourite shirt because the other thought it looked stupid. Suddenly Paul belonged to a different community, which my friend Janine could not influence. The only way Janine saw was the regional escape to a more wealthy area. Somehow understanding and disillusioning at the same time.

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