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Languages in the subway
February 17th, 2023
She was reading a book by Hillary Clinton. She looked a bit like Hillary. Has two shopping bags from expensive Upper East Side stores. Line 6 of the New York City Subway crosses one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city —and in the world. It's the line I use to go to the library. At Grand Central, I walk a few streets to Fifth Avenue.
Some children got into the train at some point: four boys and a girl. Apparently, they were siblings. They were elated, screaming and laughing out loud. They pulled each other. At some point, I feared they would fall or make a passenger fall.
They were also sick, cold, sneezed, and snotted. The woman reading Clinton couldn't read anymore. He looked kindly at the children and provided them with tissues to blow off. They kept laughing. They spoke in a language that no one in the train car understood, but their laughter was contagious. A group of adults around them ended up laughing at their jokes too.
Although they were screaming, the beauty of their language was appreciated. It was melodious, with many vowels, which gave it rhythm.
More than five hundred languages are spoken in this city. What those children were talking about was unlike anything I had ever known. They came from school. I discovered that sometimes they used Spanish words. It is extraordinary that they are learning to speak English while maintaining other languages.
At some point, the girl started talking. I identified words like "José," "Mamá," "Cañar," and "Ecuador." That's it! Maybe it is Quechua. The laughter went with them when they came out, but some joy was left on the train.