I had not anticipated language to be a problem, but with only 72 hours under my belt, I am beginning to rethink my initial assumption.
Admittedly, I am struggling to understand the terminology—and they are speaking English, mind you! It makes me appreciate even more the challenges my colleagues farther afield are facing. There is so much to learn, and I am constantly peppering my host with questions: what is the difference between a Gypsy and a Traveller? Between a caravan and chalet? A trailer site and a park home? What makes a “proper” Traveller and what makes an improper one? What are the rules between private sites and local-authority sites? Who can be evicted? Who can’t? The difference between a solicitor and a barrister? The council and local authority?
Between soccer and football? (okay, trick question—Go, England Go!)
So, despite being in a country that speaks the same language, I feel like I am learning a new one and worry I won’t be fluent in time to help. Tomorrow we are off to make some site visits where I’ll have the privilege to sit and discuss matters of some importance with resident Gypsies and Travelers. Am I equipped? I console myself with the belief that making some attempt at learning the language and getting the story as straight as possible has its merits. For far too long it seems the story has not been gotten straight by the wider community (another term used by Gypsies/Travellers to describe non-Gypsies/Travellers). The least I can do is help change that by brushing up on my English.
I will be here for another week before heading to Darlington, the official site of UKAGW. In the meantime, I will continue to practice my English while staying with my host in her park home—or chalet. The term chalet probably conjures up images of a cozy A-frame in the Swiss Alps—and it is undoubtedly cozy—but in this context the term is used to describe a more permanent mobile home. The sites are also zoned differently depending on whether you are on a caravan site or a park home site and, as I am gathering, on whether or not you are a Gypsy/Traveller or a member of the wider community (and if you’ve been paying attention, you know who they are).
Until next time, ta (that’s UK speak for “thanks!”).
Posted By Lynne Engleman (United Kingdom)
Posted Jun 8th, 2014