The Language Club of Westchester

"Recognition and recall of a language depend on proficiency, exposure and practice."


In 1984 The Language Club was conceived by Barry Farber, New York City radio talk show host and author of How To Learn Any Language. Claiming to speak fourteen languages, Farber dreamed of sharing his infatuation with linguistics and languages. Upon asking his listeners if they shared that infatuation, he received dozens of responses! Before long, someone suggested starting a club.

After locating a restaurant that would provide an inexpensive buffet dinner, he decided everyone would be given a name tag bearing the flag colors of the country whose language he or she wanted to practice. And small flags would be set in the center of each table indicating the language that would be spoken there that evening. There were no dues or membership requirements, and people could come without making reservations or commitments.

During dinner Farber or a guest would make a presentation, either telling stories or talking about a topic of interest concerning a particular language. Dubbed the “duty free shop,” a table was set up with items for sale, such as language cassettes and texts.

Teachers from the Language Lab, a nearby language learning and translation center, even gave mini-lessons at the restaurant; Farber called it a “language house call.”

There was no large-scale publicity. Participants were asked to pass the word among their friends. A few very small notices were placed in appropriate newsletters, such as the Mensa monthly bulletin; and Farber discussed the organization on the air.

It began slowly and then started to take off at a speed that surprised even its founder. Vocabulary- and language-building games, puzzles, proverbs, and exercises were distributed. Clubs for specific languages were then established at other restaurants.

By the Spring of 1985 The Barry Farber Language Club in Westchester started meeting at the Edgemont Inn. Meanwhile, another group of Westchester linguists under Language Club auspices was meeting at the Eastchester Presbyterian Church.

In Westchester the weekly program included jokes, charades, guessing games, and singing. But if a table was really involved in conversation, they weren’t interrupted. Holiday parties were planned, e.g. Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras/Carnivale, St. Patrick’s Day, as well as an anniversary party and an annual picnic.

A board of directors made the major decisions concerning the group’s activities. The Club’s Westchester coordinator (later president) was Harcourt Tynes. Various committees were formed. Table captains greeted new members. A telephone chain system was devised by Tynes to get word quickly to members about upcoming activities.

In the fall of 1987, the local organization’s name was changed to The Language Club of Westchester, and a Northern Westchester branch was formed in Peekskill.

Practice sessions eventually moved to Allie’s Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel in Tarrytown. By the spring of 1993 the Club’s devoted president, Harcourt Tynes, was seriously ill; and in late June he died. He had worked hard to not only increase the Club’s membership, but also to organize special events and celebrations throughout the year. Following his death, the presidency was assumed by Art Burnap, who also served as treasurer.

Just a few days after the demise of Tynes, Marlene Miller (later married to long-time member Albert London) joined The Language Club of Westchester. By 1995, she was organizing occasional special events such as holiday parties, the annual picnic, outings to French plays, and the first of several El Cinco de Mayo Fiestas. By 1999, Mrs. London was also writing the Club's newsletter and maintaining the membership list and scrapbook.

In 2000 the Club’s 15th anniversary was celebrated on a Hudson River sightseeing cruise.

From 2000 to 2003 members met at King China Buffet in Yonkers on the first Tuesday of the month.

In 2001 some members started attending operas, most notably at the Amato Opera Theatre. That same year a trip was organized to the Chinese Scholar’s Garden and the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum on Staten Island. More parties and the first of several Oktoberfests followed.

In the fall of 2001 weekly practice dinners were held at Pasta e Pesce in Yonkers. But by early 2002, the Club had moved to Mitty's where it remained until the Spring of 2006.

In June 2003 Mrs. London was feted by the members for her years of continuing dedication to the Club.

In June 2006, a Board of Directors was established. Marlene London stepped down September 15, 2006, and Janine Simon was at the Club's helm for the next six months.

In April 2007, the Board decided to share the responsibilities of running the organization.