Repost: Discussing Prof. Crystal on a Remote Island in Ireland

Since I can’t believe that in a week I will have the pleasure of attending another one of Prof. David Crystal’s talks in Liverpool, I thought I’d repost the following. Not only was it a pleasure to attend his talk at the Jerusalem ETAI conference, he took the time to reply to my letter! I n addition, the incident mentions marks the time when I became “the puffin”!

Here is the letter I wrote. I am not posting his reply as I have not asked his permission to do so.

Dear Professor Crystal,
I attended your lecture in Jerusalem, at the ETAI Conference in July. I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I bought your book: “Just a Phrase I’m Going Through”. I began reading it right away. Little did I know that I would be discussing it just a few days later in what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere!
A few days after the conference I found myself on the remote island of Skellig Michael, 12 km. off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. We had come to see the Puffins and Gannets as my son is an avid bird watcher. I was feeling worse for the wear – an hour in that sea was not something my stomach could live with (since I’m reading your book I know that you have had firsthand experience with motion sickness as well).
While standing at the “dock” waiting for the boat back (seeing the puffins in nature was worth it!) a man approached my family and asked what language we were talking in. Upon hearing the reply “Hebrew” he nodded smugly and said “I thought so!” I asked if he was interested in languages and he replied that he was only interested in the sounds of languages. I asked if he was a speech therapist and he was somewhat taken aback that I had “nailed” his profession so quickly, obviously he likes to puzzle people with that sentence. He introduced himself and said he was from Dublin. As I had just read about your lecture in the Trinity College to speech therapists, I asked the man if he had heard of you. He was dumbfounded. How had I, from Israel, heard of him? He was envious to learn that I had heard you speak in person, as he had not had the opportunity to do so himself but wanted to.
Then we started discussing what I had just read about you “adopting” the accent of the person you are talking to and do we all do it to some extent or not. A man from Uruguay joined the conversation too! Unfortunately it was rudely cut off by the arrival of the boat. Once on the boat no further conversation was possible, not only because of the sound of the engineā€¦
I’m still reading your book and find it fascinating.
Naomi Epstein



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