Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Talking proper

“Her English is too good,” he said, “that clearly indicates that she is foreign
For whereas other girls are taught their native language, Englishwomen aren(‘t)….”

Thus did Zoltan Karpathy imagine, wrongly, that he had discovered Eliza Doolittle’s secret. In the period in which My Fair Lady is set, girls—other than upper class ones—weren’t taught anything much about our language. Nowadays they are taught just as much as boys, and may master it rather better. But it remains true that non-native-English-speakers who have had to learn the language sometimes seem to acquire a command of grammar and syntax (if not pronunciation) which puts to shame those who were fortunate enough to have merely absorbed it with their mothers’ milk.

[“…And although she may have studied with an expert dialectician and grammarian,


PerfectlyVocal said...

This is so true. I have a speech therapist friend who speaks English as her second language. Most parents look in horror when they hear her marked accent, wonder how on earth she can teach their children to speak properly, and yet her command of language and syntax is far superior to my own. The only problem is, that whilst the children she teaches speak perfect English, unfortunately, not many of their peers do!

Tony said...

Thank you, Cal. Nice to have an example.
But not far superior, surely.

PerfectlyVocal said...

Ah, well, maybe not far superior, but you know false modesty is one of my more attractive attributes.

Tony said...

Nothing attractive about false modesty, ducky. It's called inverted boasting, or fishing for compliments, and doesn't fool me for a minute.