Marina’s Story: A Love For Languages – Connecting Past to Present

Today, we share the story of Marina Gracen-Farrell, a Pearson employee whose grandparents, originally from Lithuania, were forced to flee in 1912 and 1914 as refugees to the United States.


A Love for Languages

“I’ve always had a fascination with languages,” says Marina Gracen-Farrell.

She studied French in high school.

She took German in college.

As an adult, she has dabbled in a few others, including Russian, Japanese, and Lithuanian.

“It’s no wonder,” Marina says, “that I found a career that’s linked to languages as well.”


“I’ve always had a fascination with languages.”


Unique Expertise

Marina is an expert in the translation and adaption of learning materials for foreign-language markets.

It’s called “localization,” and it’s what her work at Pearson is focused on.

“The end result of localization,” Marina says, “is that your product is appropriate for the target market’s linguistic, business, social, and cultural conventions.”

Marina says in her case, the “products” are primarily online educational materials and services, along with company communications and policies.

“Localization can be used for simple things like currency, date, or address formats, but also to avoid larger, potentially offensive translation or cultural mistakes that can damage your reputation and bottom line.”

“Put simply, Marina says, “good localization ensures both the seller and the buyer are happy.”

Lithuanian Roots

Marina says her curiosity extends well past foreign languages—to cultures, too.

When she’s not at the office, she’s often online at home, digging into her family history via genealogy websites.

“I could talk about my ancestors forever,” she says. “They have such a fascinating story.”

Marina says she knows the most about her grandfather and grandmother on her mother’s side.

They came to the United States from Lithuania in 1912 and 1914, respectively.

“I say they ‘came,’ but really they fled,” Marina says.

“Life in Lithuania at the time was very hard. Russia invaded, then Nazi Germany, and then Russia again.”


“Life in Lithuania at the time was very hard.
Russia invaded, then Nazi Germany, and then Russia again.”


Marina says her grandfather escaped to avoid being forced into the Russian army.

Marina’s Grandparents at their wedding in 1915.

“He wanted a better life here.”

“So did my grandmother.”

Feeling Fortunate, Despite Difficult Times

Marina says she can remember stories her grandmother told her about starting a new life in America.

 “They hadn’t been here for very long before the Great Depression struck,” Marina says.

“They knew that times were especially tough for America, but still felt so fortunate when they thought about what life would have been had they stayed in Lithuania.”

Proud to be Americans

Marina says that learning English was an especially hard part of her grandparents’ transition to living in this country.

“My grandfather and grandmother spoke Lithuanian—but only to each other.”

“To their children, including my mom, they said, ‘you will speak English because you are an American. Be proud of that.’”

Marina says it was her mom who taught her grandmother to write basic English.

“They worked in farming jobs, so they didn’t need to be fluent. They learned just enough to get by.”

Uncovering Family Stories

At a recent family reunion, Marina shared with her relatives what she had learned through her extensive genealogy research.

“I found information about two of my grandfather’s cousins who stayed in Lithuania after the time he fled.”

“They were resistance fighters.”

“They were eventually captured, and spent ten years in captivity in Siberia.”

“I told my relatives, ‘we have Lithuanian national heroes in our family. Against a terrible regime, they gave up everything to fight for what they believed in.’”

Recent Reflections

Marina says that recent news stories related to refugees have caused her to reflect on her grandparents’ experiences a century ago.

“If I’ve taken one thing from their story,” Marina says, “it’s that we should be grateful for everything we have—and have always had—in this country.”

“What I heard, from my grandmother’s stories, and have seen from my work every day, is that diversity is exactly what makes our nation so beautiful.”


“What I heard, from my grandmother’s stories, and have seen from my work every day,
is that diversity is exactly what makes our nation so beautiful.”


Since 2015, Pearson has partnered with Save the Children UK in the ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership to increase educational opportunities for Syrian refugees and vulnerable children in Jordan.

Now, in 2017, they are extending their work [insert link to press release] to launch a new education project in Jordan, in partnership with the Jordanian Ministry of Education, to help Syrian refugees, and local children living in host communities, to improve their academic results, to build resilience and to help make their schools safer.

This project consists of a fun and engaging math learning app, “Space Hero”, developed by Pearson, that will be supported by a broader Save the Children led program focusing on teacher training, enhancing school-community systems, and psychosocial support.