English Practice

Brief Encounters: Tales of Everyday Life

Columns | Vienna Review | December 2012 / January 2013

One day on Landstraße, I was searching for an obscure Gasse on my map, when an elderly lady approached, asking "May I help you?" She knew the street and offered to walk me there, about three blocks.

I was impressed by her excellent English. After the war, she said, her family had emigrated to New York City, where she graduated from university. But she missed Vienna and soon returned teaching English at a local Gymnasium for many years. Now she watched English language TV and would repeat interesting commentary to herself.

She "didn’t go out much except for basics  like medical appointments and shopping.   Most of my contemporaries are no longer around". She asked me what brought me to Vienna. "The UN," I said. She was proud that the UN gave Vienna such a high international profile.

We continued our small talk until we reached the Gasse. Before we parted I suggested we could meet from time to time to continue speaking English, and gave her my name and phone number.

"That would be lovely," she said. But I never heard from her.

Gloria Roces 

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