Yesterday I was on an Amtrak train rolling along the East Coast. Compulsive public eavesdropper that I am, I tuned into a loud conversation among three gentlemen in the row in front of me. One, a well-groomed young man in a good suit, was obviously auditioning for the approval of the other two, perhaps as a job applicant or an eager salesman. He said, “Yeah, I coulda went to Boston University.” Then he proceeded to begin several sentences with “Me and him…”
I’ll never know the outcome of the meeting, as the gentlemen disembarked before I did.
Boarding the train and taking the place of the three gentlemen were two ladies. Neither was a native English-speaker, but one was a bit more fluent and confident than the other. However, in contrast to Sir Brags-a-lot, both women spoke impeccable English. One looked up at the sign above the seat and asked her friend, “how is that word pronounced?” I was impressed that she cared enough to ask. Her friend responded, “aisle,” like “‘I’ll,’ as in ‘I’ll be back in a moment.”’ There was conversation about not pronouncing the “s,” as with “island.” The woman more in the know assured her friend, “English can be confusing.” Her friend said, “Yes, but it is such a beautiful language.”
I’ve never thought of English as being a beautiful language necessarily. I find the romance languages more pleasing to the ear, even if I don’t understand everything. Perhaps the rhythms and intonations of a foreign language are what make it beautiful to our ears.
I do believe English is one of the most difficult languages to learn as second language, with all of its exceptions and varied pronunciations. English also poses challenges for us native speakers, which may be why I still enjoy studying it. That said, perhaps I should have been less judgmental of the fellow who could have went to BU.
Oh, whom am I kidding?