SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2013
U.S. Marines visit local school in Marijampolė!
Sergeant Deondrick Fleming and Corporal Erik Haj
Recently, two marines from the U.S. Embassy Vilnius visited a school in Marijampolė, Lithuania, to
discuss the history, development, and significance of the English language.
Corporal Erik Haj and Sergeant Deondrick Fleming arrived to an auditorium full of applauding
middle school students and faculty. They began their presentation with a brief overview of the English
language’s genesis story, dating back to the fifth century, and proceeded to document its progression
from Old English (the language of Beowulf), to Middle English (that of Geoffrey Chaucer’sThe
Canterbury Tales), to Early Modern English (such as the plays of William Shakespeare), and finally
to Contemporary English and its many variations. “The great thing about English is that it is always
changing. There is no such thing as ‘standard English,’” Sgt. Fleming told the students. It is interesting
to note here that, quite contrarily, the Lithuanian language is extremely conservative, retaining many
linguistic features found only in ancient languages like Sanskrit and Ancient Greek.
The marines next demonstrated term and spelling differences between American English and British or
European English, and the misunderstandings that can result. For instance, during a meeting of the
Allied Forces, William Churchill once used the verb “to table” which, in British English, means to open
an item for discussion. In American English, however, “to table” means to remove something from
discussion, or to suspend talks until further notice.
Following their lecture, Haj and Fleming
encouraged questions from the audience. These ranged from dialectical inquiries about Sgt. Fleming’s
personal dialect (New Orleans Yat, if you were wondering) to comparative questions about lifestyle
difference between Lithuania and the United States. “For one thing,” Fleming responded, “the U.S. is a
young country. We don’t have the same amount of history as Lithuania. It’s nice to be in a place where
practically everything has value because, at some point in history, maybe even six hundred years ago,
it meant something.” He went on to discuss his role in the Marine Corps, the grueling bootcamp process,
and the benefits associated with the job. "I get to come to Lithuania!"
After the informal Q and A session, Corporal Haj and Sergeant Fleming posed for group photographs,
and received a series of thanks from students and faculty alike. It was a successful intercultural
exchange, one that both parties would like to continue in the future!
Posted by Travis Gunn at 1:00 PM
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Labels: Marijampole, Marines, people-to-people diplomacy, school visit, US Embassy