Interview with Jacqueline Walker

Jacqueline Walker’s love of linguistics steered her to Thomas Ford’s Spanish and French Language Conversation Groups. When the library asked if she would oversee those groups, she agreed, with the request that we add a German Conversation Group. Starting Sunday afternoon, September 19, the library’s twice-a-month drop-in Language Conversation Groups will begin again. Check fordlibrary.librarymarket.com for the full schedule.

Tell readers a bit about the Language Conversation Groups: what they’re like, who participates, when you first began participating, and when you took over the role of moderating.

The language groups were started in 2018 by a member of the Teen Board. The goal of the groups is to allow people to gather and have casual conversation in another language. We welcome people of all skill levels and ages, teens to adults. Beginners can expect to mostly listen to more fluent speakers. We spend an hour talking about our week’s activities or sometimes a specific topic. We have a wide range of participants, from high school students to retirees.

How did your interest in linguistics begin? How has it enriched your life? Are you learning or thinking about learning more languages?

I started kindergarten in Spanish while living in Mexico for almost four years with my family. I studied Spanish in school from 7th grade through senior year at LT. I added French sophomore year in HS and German my first year of college, nearly completing a German minor. I had the privilege of spending summers in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Germany as well, and the total immersion helped with my language skills. I also went to France with the LT French exchange my senior year in high school. Speaking other languages has expanded my worldview and allowed me to have a more nuanced experience when traveling. I have studied some Russian over the years, but achieving conversational fluency will have to be a retirement goal.

When you travel, can you communicate comfortably in other countries?

My language skills are an asset when we travel and have allowed me to meet and stay in touch with people from all over the world. People generally appreciate when I try to communicate with them in their own language or a language we have in common. Losing the fear of “sounding like an idiot” is an essential skill for speaking a foreign language. I am also in awe of people who come to our country and learn English, which is a very challenging language for a non-native speaker.

Is travel another of your other enthusiasms? Tell us some of your favorite vacation spots, as well as places you hope to visit.

I love to travel to Mexico as it feels like I am going to my second home. We go to an area north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, where we enjoy being in a small fishing village north of Sayulita. We also took a trip in 2019 to the town of Tequila in Jalisco, where we got to experience the birthplace of Tequila and, of course, enjoy some samples. I also make any excuse I can to be in Germany in May during white asparagus season. Seeing the changes in Germany from the time I lived there, when Berlin was divided by a wall and the Iron Curtain divided the country, to now is fascinating. Verdon Gorge, which is France’s Grand Canyon, is another place I would eagerly visit again.

My current favorite local trip is to St. Charles, Illinois. Several times during the pandemic, we have been there and biked along the Fox River Trail past the Fabian Windmill, Villa Museum, and Japanese Garden. There are also a variety of restaurants to choose from: Eden Restaurant & Events, Taste of Himalayas, The Jalapeno Grille, and The Office.

My dream is to take the Trans-Siberian Express from Vladivostok to Moscow.

Are you “an armchair traveler?” Could you mention one or two travel books or writers that piqued your interest?

I am a voracious reader, starting during my growing up years with the Enid Blyton Famous Five series (a group of cousins who solve mysteries) set in England. Paul Theroux (his latest On the Plain of Snakes about Mexico and many others) is one of my favorite travel writers. Recently, thanks to an Atlas Obscura online course, “Dismantling Coloniality in Travel Writing,” Bani Amor introduced me to a book Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World by Anu Taranth. Ms. Taranth provides a lot of thought-provoking ways to reconcile the privilege we have of traveling with the effect we have on the places we go.

What other subjects do you like to read about? Do you have any recommendations?

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett with the Amazon, research, and mystery.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reinhardt, which is a light, summer read set in nearby Milwaukee.

Barkskins by Annie Proulx, the history of the development of Canada in novel form.

Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey, a young adult read about an orphan who inherits a country estate full of mystery.

Besides your hobbies, you have a busy life as a medical doctor specializing in Geriatric Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Tell us about your work in these demanding fields.

I am board certified in Family Medicine and Geriatric Medicine and Hospice/Palliative Care with a practice mainly focused on Geriatrics (the over 65 population). I had the privilege of working for the first 18 years of my career with my father, Melvin Glick MD, here in Western Springs, next to the Post Office. My mother was our office manager, and we joked that we kept the “family” in Family Practice. After they retired, I joined a practice in Westchester, which is now part of AMITA Health Medical Group. I also teach Family Medicine Residents at AMITA Health Adventist Medical Center LaGrange, and they challenge me to keep growing professionally daily. 

A big part of my work with patients is helping people figure out their priorities for their health and how we can work together to achieve those goals. We are fortunate to live in a time and a place where most of us have access to the most technologically advanced care in the world. Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal does a great job of looking at some of the choices we all face at the end of our lives, about how we live and how we die. My work in Palliative Care helps me recognize that all medical care is about trade-offs between risks and benefits, and I enjoy helping people make informed decisions about their care. I am fortunate to have a career I love. I am never bored and I go to bed at night knowing that I have made a difference in someone’s life every day.

How about your family life?

My husband Cameron and I have lived in Western Springs since 2000 in Old Town South. We love the camaraderie of our neighborhood, the parks, the proximity to the train, and the small-town feel of Western Springs. Our young adult children graduated from LT about 30 years after I did, and one lives in the Chicagoland area. The other has settled in Cam’s home country of Canada.

Any parting advice or words of wisdom?

We have a great resource at the Thomas Ford Library. Take advantage of it. I look forward to doing more in-person activities as we come out of this pandemic. Please get your COVID-19 vaccine and join us by the fireplace this fall to Deutsch sprechen, hablar Español, and parler Français.

The Ford Member Connection spotlights Western Springs residents with interesting stories and relationships to the Library. Please let us know whom you’d like to read about.