|Sergeant Deondrick Fleming and Corporal Erik Haj|
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’s The 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 boot camp 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!