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Rahm LaChance Languages

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Turton, Spink, South Dakota, USAmap
Surnames/tags: LaChance Rahm French_Canadian
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The Language Divide: Marriage between German and French

Ella Rahm grew up the youngest of 15 with parents who were German immigrant farmers. The family language was the German spoken in Bayern, now Bavaria, which differs from 'standard' German today. (In contrast to many other varieties of German, Bavarian differs sufficiently from Standard German to make it difficult for native speakers to adopt standard pronunciation.) [1]

Ella's daughter Bonnie said her mother might switch to that language for a conversation with her siblings, either for the pleasure of speaking her first language with her sisters or to avoid the ears of 'little pitchers."

Ella married the son of immigrants from Quebec who spoke French. Fred LaChance was a purist who resisted anglicizing his surname. While his uncles adopted "Luckey" as the family name, Fred stuck with the original, not watered down to La Chance pronounced as English words but "La Shanz".

Clearly, English had to be the home language for Fred and Ella. Neither made any effort to teach language to their children; they believed as many did then that it was better for their children to assimilate. That didn't mean English was the better language. Bonnie and Tom remembered sitting in the back of the Model T, pretending to speak French together and mimicking nasal French sounds. Their father put a stop to that quickly.

Fred and Ella's eldest daughter Neva remembered many long Sunday afternoons after church being seen and not heard at the home of Fred's parents gathered with his sisters, everyone speaking rapid French. If this was boring for Neva it had to be worse for Ella as an adult who understood not a word.

Over time, the sharp edges of their language preferences wore down. Fred named their first son Denis but the name spelling had become Dennis by the time he enrolled in school. The other sibling's names were neither German nor French--Alice, Neva, Evelyn, Lillian, Thomas and Bonnie.

The youngest, Bonnie and Tom, were startled to discover their grandfather's forename was Nazaire, not Ira. They heard the Aunts call him that so they assumed it meant something like 'brother.'

The grandchildren were more interested in Fred and Ella's language divide since they grew up in a monolanguage culture. They tried out their school German phrases on Grandma Ella, who didn't understand-- either because of dialect differences or abysmal pronounciation.

--By Robin Rainford 2019, from interviews and notes

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