English With an Accent

English with an accent became our home language. As soon as possible after our arrival in Toronto, Canada, my parents started English lessons. Most other cultures preserve their language of origin in the home, so their children will learn two languages. At school and in the street, most of these children will learn English. At home they'll speak their original homeland language.

No language of origin for us

Not my parents. They were so happy to be in Canada. They were so eager to begin a brand new life here. A free life. They couldn't care less about preserving their so-called mother tongue - from a continent where their families were murdered. They wanted no connection with their so-called motherland.

Determination and Resilience

There are tears in my eyes at this very moment as I type this paragraph and remember their determination and their resilience. And their new patriotism for Canada. I've inherited that patriotism. Canada is my homeland.

They were determined to speak English. They attended English classes for immigrants. Their teacher told the class that in order to truly learn English, they must speak it at home.


They learned English passionately. They learned English religiously. They learned English with an accent.

And so, whenever one of them lapsed into another language (whether it was Polish or Russian or Yiddish), they would remind each other, by yelling "English! English!". Usually it was my father who lapsed into another language. And it was my mother who did the yelling. She was the stronger, more determined one. She was his rock.

English with an Accent
was my First Language

Can you guess what my first language was? It was English with an East European accent. A very thick accent. When I began going to school, I was puzzled that the other kids couldn't understand me.

I'm so happy because she promised that if I would only sit still for the picture, I could keep the cat.

My mom Faye Schulman doesn't hear as well as she used to. So nowadays it's sometimes difficult to speak with her on the telephone. I used to spell some words for her while she penciled them on a notepad. She would then sound out the penciled word, followed by a sudden lightbulb understanding. But nowadays she's become too impatient for our spelling procedure. Can you blame her? She's 101 years young, remember?

Here's the funniest part. When she can't make out what I’m saying, I begin to speak with her in my language of origin, which for me is English with an accent. It's a very thick husky rough East European accent. And then she understands perfectly My kids think it's hilarious.