My Mother's family emigrated from Odessa to Ottoman Palestine shortly after the Kishinev Pogrom
in 1904 (?)
There was only a small Jewish community there at the time --- although the case has been made that there has been some
Jewish presence in what is now Israel for 4,000 years.
As a child I came to know many of my Mother's chidhood freinds some of whom later achieved great eminence. They would sit around our wonderful dinner table in The Bronx --- middle class --- no more than that.
One was Moshe Sharrett, who had changed his name --- as is a custom practiced by many Israelis --- from Moshe Shertok.
I once asked him how many languages he spoke.
Well, I grew up in Poland, so I spoke Polish, and Ukranian, and Russian.
Yiddish, he continued, was the Mama Loschen
of Jews in Eastern Europe.
I was a Zionist, so I learned Hebrew. I studied The Bible, so I knew some Aramaic.
In Palestine, I learned Turkish, and then, when the Brits took over, English.
Every educated man had to some Latin.
I got to know Arabic by osmosis.
I was interested in literature, I had to learn French.
I was interested in science, so I learned German, which is close to Yiddish. (Nicer, softer, in my opinion. German is harsh Achtung ! )
I count twelve. I may have missed a couple.
Americans are known for how few
languages they speak.
American/English has become the world's First Universal Language. Not Espiranto, an artificial construct which was as was once deemed for for the job.
Between colonization and wars English/American has become the Lingua Franca
most everywhere. That would include North America, the Carribean, Africa, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
At the first meeting of The European Union
none of the members spoke English/American.
So they spoke in English, much to the dismay of the French, who once thought they would inherit the mantle of linguistic champ.
Around the world , people flock to English classes.
In the U.S., Latina mothers, who love Spanish and their children, whisper to them, "Spanish is the language of bus-boys."
In a way it is sad. I speak pidgeon
in about four languages.
But a child of mine went to a quite permissive private schhol in Washington. She/he took six
years of Latin. The teacher loved my child, really, but would never give her more than a B+.
Not so permissive.