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Library Happenings – Language barriers met within travels (Sept. 23, 2015 issue)

A lingua franca is a language or dialect that is widely used to facilitate communication among people who do not share a native tongue. For centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin was the language of the church and academia. If a priest or scholar from Portugal met another from Poland, they would converse in Latin and understand one another.
In the same manner, French was the language of diplomacy until British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in 1878 was persuaded to address the Congress of Berlin in English. The British ambassador in Berlin is said to have made the suggestion in order to spare the delegates Disraeli’s appalling French accent while treating them to his mastery of English.
Because of the global span of the former British Empire, English is now a first or second language common to much of the world, from Australia to Zimbabwe. It is not difficult to find someone who speaks English in any European city. When I lived in Frankfurt during the 1980s, I never did make much progress toward improving my German because so many people spoke my native tongue far better than I spoke theirs. And nearly every sign and menu incorporated an English translation.
The English language, however, is not a one-way street. While we export English, we import words from other tongues. Because of this exchange, ours is an extraordinarily rich and versatile language. In order to fully appreciate its flavor and texture, you should read a novel that was written by a poet. Some of my favorites in this category are the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy, such as “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” and “The Return of the Native.” If you prefer settings more familiar than the 19th century English countryside, then try Ron Rash.
Spotlight Book
Rash is the John Parris Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies at Western Carolina University, and he writes poetry, short stories and novels. Two of his books, “Serena” and “The World Made Straight,” have recently been made into movies. Rash’s latest release, “Above the Waterfall,” is set in western North Carolina.
The narration alternates between two voices, one practical and the other lyrical. Les is a sheriff whose rural county has a serious problem with crystal meth. It won’t be his problem much longer, though, since Les is just three weeks from retirement. Becky is a park ranger who finds solace in nature after a traumatic childhood. When a cantankerous neighbor is accused of poisoning a trout stream that runs through a resort he despises, Les investigates while Becky defends the elderly man.
Other new titles include “The Scam” by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, “The End Game” by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison, and “Girl Waits with Gun” by Amy Stewart.