How about someone who was surrounded by people speaking another language? Detroit, Michigan was a city of immigrants packed with people speaking other languages around the turn of the 20th century.
My great-uncle Ernest Hart and his wife Lucy were almost newlyweds in 1900 and living in the small town of Bancroft in Shiawassee County, Michigan where Ernest was a farmer. By 1905 they had joined the flood of people moving to Detroit, Michigan where he was working as a clerk for the Michigan Central Railroad.
On the 1910 U.S. Census, Ernest and Lucy are living on Ferry Street literally just around the corner from “Poletown”. Looking at a few census pages for the people who were his neighbors, their and their parents nativity included: German-Polish, Russian-Yiddish, Russian-German, Austria-Serbian, Norwegian, Spanish, Austria-Croatian. Many had immigrated just after 1900 and didn't speak English.
Unfortunately, there are gaps in the city directories available on-line so it isn’t clear exactly when he switched occupations. In 1906 he is still a clerk at the railroad, but by 1909 he is a bookkeeper for the Hiram Marks Electric Co. and works his way up to a manager position by 1913. He stays until at least 1920. I found an advertisement for the business and among the items listed were telegraph instruments which may have been the bridge from the railroad to the electric company.
In 1922 he is a clerk at the Miller-Seldon Electric Company. I found this picture of the Miller-Seldon Company building probably from around the time Ernest was working there.
Ernest and Lucy also kept moving further out from the core of the city. About 1926 they built a home in the newly developed Martin Park Subdivision. According to my mother it was “out in the country” when they first moved there.
My mother also remembers that they shipped eggs to them from their farm by mail on the train from Durand to Detroit. Apparently there was a big market for farm fresh eggs and Ernest was reselling them.
Unfortunately the 1927, 1930 and 1935 directories just show he was an accountant and don’t give a company name so it isn't clear what he was doing during the Depression. The value of their home dropped by half between the 1930 and 1940 Censuses so it must have been a difficult time for them. Ernest died in 1946.