Yesterday at lunch we were introduced to a gentleman who was visiting Switzerland from Finland. I perked up immediately. This gentleman, Aslak Näkkäläjärvi, was visiting because he was very interested in minority languages and wanted to know more about the minority language Romansch of Switzerland. Does this sound like someone you know? He spoke to the group in halting English, yet when he said that he was from far up north in the village of Inari, I stopped everything. In exactly one week’s time I will be in Inari, to visit the Sami Museum and to meet the locals and also I hope to purchase some Sami handicrafts.
Mr. Näkkäläjärvi introduced himself as a “reindeer man” and I spoke up by saying he was a “poromies”. “Poromies” is Finnish for “reindeer man”. He looked at me with astonishment; how could it be that there was a Finnish-speaker in attendance? We chatted for a little bit, with an audience of about seventy listening in. Afterwards he and I exchanged contact information and I will be in touch with him next week when I am in Inari. Talk about a small world. Lovers of minority European languages, unite!
Today in class we played a game where a letter of the alphabet was chosen at random and we had to think of things in Romansch that began with that letter. For example, we had to come up with names of cities, animals, surnames, drinks, foods, plants and countries. I have played this game before in English yet in Romansch it was tougher, especially in the plant category. I barely know any plant names in English much less Romansch.
It was tough right from the start, as the first letter chosen was N. A friend of mine has told me that N is a bad letter to use to play this game, even in English, and you can imagine how hard it was for me in Romansch. I could only think of a city, and an American one at that (I put down New York). I hesitated at naming any country unless I was absolutely certain of its Romansch name. So no Niger or Nauru (but would they really be any different, I ask myself now). I did quite well with C and V. Some sample answers I wrote are: Caschiel (= Cheese, for food), Cuera (= Chur, the capital of Graubünden), Camenisch (a common Sursilvan surname), Vin (= Wine, a beverage), Verduras (= Vegetables, a food), Venezia (= the Romansch spelling of Venice). It was fun to play yet I never filled in a whole line with similarly-initialled things.
I am happy to report that I found my nail clippers this afternoon. I lost them somehow, somewhere yesterday and I tore my room apart looking for them. You’d think I’d be less concerned than to fret over a $1.99 set of Shoppers Drug Mart nail clippers, yet I am never without them. Someone has a serious dependency issue here. Someone found the clippers and left them on a table in the main dining area. Wow–talk about the honest Swiss. Engraziel fetg.