When I arrived in England I thought I knew English. After I'd been here an hour I realized that I did not understand one word. In the first week I picked up a tolerable working knowledge of the language and the next seven years convinced me gradually but thoroughly that I would never know it really well, let alone perfectly. This is sad. My only consolation being that nobody speaks English perfectly.

Remember that those five hundred words an average Englishman uses are far from being the whole vocabulary of the language. You may learn another five hundred and another five thousand and yet another fifty thousand and still you may come across a further fifty thousand you have never heard of before, and nobody else either. If you live here long enough you will find out to your greatest amazement that the adjective nice is not the only adjective the language possesses, in spite of the fact that in the first three years you do not need to learn or use any other adjectives. You can say that the weather is nice, a restaurant is nice, Mr Soandso is nice, Mrs Soandso's clothes are nice, you had a nice time, and all this will be very nice. Then you have to decide on your accent. You will have your foreign accent all right, but many people like to mix it with something else. I knew a Polish Jew who had a strong Yiddish-Irish accent. People found it fascinating though slightly exaggerated. The easiest way to give the impression of having a good accent or no foreign accent at all is to hold an unlit pipe in your mouth, to mutter between your teeth and finish all your sentences with the question: 'isn't it?' People will not understand much, but they are accustomed to that and they will get a most excellent impression.

I have known quite a number of foreigners who tried hard to acquire an Oxford accent. The advantage of this is that you give the idea of being permanently in the company of Oxford dons and lecturers on medieval numismatics; the disadvantage is that the permanent singing is rather a strain on your throat and that it is a type of affection that even many English people find it hard to keep up incessantly. You may fall out of it, speak naturally, and then where are you? The Mayfair accent can be highly recommended, too. The advantages of Mayfair English are that it unites the affected air of the Oxford accent with the uncultured flavour of a half-educated professional hotel-dancer.

The most successful attempts, however, to put on a highly cultured air have been made on the polysyllabic lines. Many foreigners who have learnt Latin and Greek in school discover with amazement and satisfaction that the English language has absorbed a huge amount of ancient Latin and Greek expressions, and they realize that
a) it is much easier to learn these expressions than the much simpler English words;
b) that these words as a rule are interminably long and make a simply superb impression when talking to the greengrocer, the porter and the insurance agent. Imagine, for instance, that the porter of the block of flats where you live remarks sharply that you must not put your dustbin out in front of your door before 7.30 a.m. Should you answer 'Please don't bully me,' a loud and tiresome argument may follow, and certainly the porter will be proved right, because you are sure to find a dause in your contract (small print, of last page) that the porter is always right and you owe absolute allegiance and unconditional obedience to him. Should you answer, however, with these words: 1 repudiate your petulant expostulations,' the argument will be closed at once, the porter will be proud of having such a highly cultured man in the block, and from that day onwards you may, if you please, get up at four o'clock in the morning and hang your dustbin out of the window. But even in Curzon Street society, if you say, for instance, that you are a tough guy they will consider you a vulgar, irritating and objectionable person. Should you declare, however, that you are an inquisitorial and peremptory homo sapiens, they will have no idea what you mean, but they will feel in their bones that you must be something wonderful. When you know all the long words it is advisable to start learning some of the short ones, too. You should be careful when using these endless words. An acquaintance of mine once was fortunate enough to discover the most impressive word notalgia for back-ache. Mistakenly, however, he declared in a large company: 'I have such a nostalgia.' 'Oh, you want to go home to Nizhne-Novgorod?' asked his most sympathetic hostess. 'Not at all,' he answered. 'I just cannot sit down.' . Finally, there are two important points to remember:
1. Do not forget that it is much easier to write in English than to speak English, because you can write without a foreign accent.
2. In a bus and in other public places it is more advisable to speak softly in good German than to shout in abominable English.
Anyway, this whole language business is not at all easy. After spending eight years in this country, the other day I was told by a very kind lady: 'But why do you complain? You really speak a most excellent accent without the slightest English.'
The Language by George Mikes

BACK · NEXT

Views: 772

Quotes Tags: When · I · arrived · in · England · I · thought · I · knew · English · · After · I · d · been · here an · hour · I · realized · that · I · did · not · understand · · one · word · · In · the · first · week · · I picked · up · a · · tolerable · working · · knowledge · of · the · language · and · the · next · seven years · convinced · · me · gradually · · but · · thoroughly · · that · I · would · · never · · know · it really · · well · · · let · alone · · perfectly · · This · · is · sad · · My · only · consolation · being that · nobody · speaks · English · perfectly · · · · · · · · Remember · that · those · · five · · hundred · words · an · average · Englishman · uses · are far · from · being · the · whole · vocabulary · of · · the · language · · You · may · · learn · another five · · hundred · and · · another · five · thousand · and · yet · · another · fifty · thousand · and still · · you · may · come · across · a · further · fifty · · thousand · you · have · never · heard · of before · · and · nobody · else · either · · If · you · live · here · long · · enough · · you · will · find out · · to · · your · · greatest · · amazement · that · the · · adjective · nice · · is · not · the · only adjective · · the · language · possesses · · in · spite · · of · · the · · fact · that · in · the · first three · · years · you · · do · not · need · to · learn · or · · use · any · other · adjectives · · You · can say · that · the · weather · is · nice · · a · restaurant · is · nice · · Mr · Soandso · · is · nice · · Mrs · Soandso · s · clothes · are · nice · · you · had · · a · nice · time · · · and · all · this · will · be · very nice · · Then · · you · · have · · to · decide · on · · your · accent · · You · will · have · your · foreign accent · all · right · · but · many · people · like · to · mix · it · with · something · else · · I · knew a · · Polish · · Jew · who · · had · · a · · strong · · Yiddish · Irish · · accent · · · People · found · · it fascinating · · though · · slightly · · exaggerated · · · The · · easiest · · way · · to · give · · the · impression · of · having · a · good · accent · or · no · foreign · accent · at · all · is · to · hold · an · unlit · pipe · in · · your · mouth · · to · mutter · between · your · teeth · and · · finish · all · your sentences · with · the · · question · · · isn · t · it · · · People · will · · not · · understand · much · but · they · · are · · accustomed · to · · that · · and · · they · · will · · get · · a · · most · · excellent impression · · · · · · · · · I · · have · known · quite · a · number · of · foreigners · who · tried · hard · to · acquire · an Oxford · accent · · The · advantage · of · this · is · that · you · · give · · the · · idea · · of · · being permanently · · in · · the · · company · of · · Oxford · · dons · · and · · lecturers · · on · · medieval numismatics · · · the · · disadvantage · is · that · the · · permanent · · singing · · is · rather · a strain · on · your · throat · and · that · · it · · is · a · type · · of · affection · · that · · even · many English · people · find · it · hard · to · keep · up · incessantly · · You · may · · fall · out · of · it · speak · naturally · · · and · then · · where · are · you · · The · Mayfair · · accent · can · be · highly recommended · · too · · The · advantages · of · Mayfair · English · · are · that · it · · unites · the affected · · air · of · · the · · Oxford · · accent · · with · · the · · uncultured · · flavour · · of · · a half · educated · professional · hotel · dancer · · · · · · · · The · most · successful · attempts · · however · · to · put · on · · a · highly · cultured · air have · been · made · · on · the · polysyllabic · lines · · · Many · foreigners · · who · have · learnt Latin · and · Greek · in · · school · discover · with · amazement · and · satisfaction · that · the English · language · has · absorbed · · a · · huge · amount · · of · · ancient · · Latin · and · · Greek expressions · · and · they · realize · that · · · · · · a · · it · is · · much · easier · to · learn · these · expressions · than · the · much · · simpler English · words · · · · · · · b · · that · these · words · as · a · rule · · are · interminably · long · and · make · a · simply superb · · impression · · when · · talking · to · · the · greengrocer · · the · · porter · · and · · the insurance · agent · · · Imagine · · for · · instance · · that · the · · porter · of · · the · · block · of flats · where · you · live · remarks · sharply · that · you · · must · not · put · your · dustbin · out in · front · of · your · door · before · 7 · 30 · a · m · · Should · you · answer · · Please · don · t · bully me · · · a · loud · · and · tiresome · argument · may · follow · · and · certainly · the · porter · will be · · proved · right · · because · you · · are · sure · · to · find · · a · dause · · in · your · · contract · small · print · · of · last · page · · · that · · the · · porter · is · always · · right · and · you · · owe absolute · · allegiance · and · unconditional · obedience · to · him · · · Should · you · answer · however · · · with · these · words · · · 1 · repudiate · your · · petulant · expostulations · · · the argument · · will · · be · closed · at · once · · the · porter · will · be · proud · of · having · such · a highly · cultured · man · in · the · block · · · and · from · that · day · onwards · you · may · · if · you please · · · get · up · at · four · o · clock · in · the · morning · · and · hang · your · dustbin · out · of the · · window · · · But · even · in · Curzon · Street · · society · · if · you · say · · · for · instance · that · · you · are · · a · tough · · guy · they · · will · consider · you · a · vulgar · · irritating · and objectionable · · person · · · · Should · · you · · declare · · · however · · · that · · you · · are · · an inquisitorial · and · peremptory · homo · sapiens · · they · will · · have · · no · idea · what · you mean · · · but · · they · · will · · feel · · in · · their · · bones · · that · · you · · must · be · something wonderful · · When · you · · know · · all · · the · · long · · words · · it · · is · · advisable · to · start learning · some · of · the · short · ones · · too · · You · should · be · careful · when · using · these endless · words · · An · acquaintance · of · mine · once · was · fortunate · enough · to · discover the · most · impressive · · word · notalgia · · for · · back · ache · · Mistakenly · · however · · · he declared · in · a · large · company · · · · I · have · such · a · nostalgia · · · · Oh · · you · want · to · go home · to · Nizhne · Novgorod · · · asked · his · most · sympathetic · hostess · · · Not · · at · all · · he · · answered · · · I · just · · cannot · sit · down · · · · · Finally · · · there · are · two · important points · to · remember · · · · · · · · · 1 · · Do · not · forget · · that · · it · · is · much · easier · to · write · in · · English · than · to speak · English · · because · you · can · write · without · a · foreign · accent · · · · · · · 2 · · In · a · bus · · and · in · other · · public · places · it · · is · more · advisable · to · speak softly · in · good · German · than · to · shout · in · abominable · English · · · · · · · Anyway · · this · whole · language · business · is · not · at · all · easy · · After · spending eight · years · · in · this · country · · the · other · day · I · was · told · by · a · very · kind · · lady · · But · why · do · you · · complain · · You · really · speak · a · most · · excellent · accent · without the · slightest · English · · · · The · Language · by · George · Mikes · ·

Bereshit · Shemot · Vayikra · Bamidbar · Devarim · Pirkei Avot · Mishlei · Kohelet · Song of Solomon · Adam · Noah · Moses · Yehoshua · Abraham · Isaac · Jacob · Rabbi · Sophocles · Seneca · Samuel · David · Solomon · Steve Jobs · Muhammad · Sergey Brin · Larry Page · William Shakespeare · Tim Berners-Lee · Linda Green · George R.R. Martin · Nikola Tesla · Paula Hawkins · Fearne Cotton · Oscar Wild · Agatha Christie · Barbara Cartland · Danielle Steel · Harold Robbins · Georges Simenon · Sidney Sheldon · Enid Blyton · Dr. Seuss · Gilbert Patten · J. K. Rowling · Jack London · Donald Trump · Melania Trump · Jared Kushner · Ivanka Trump · Woody Allen · Peta Murgatroyd · Kyrie Irving · Alicia Keys · Justin Timberlake · Rihanna · George Clooney · Jenny Slate · Roger Federer · Selena Gomez · Giancarlo Stanton · Lea Michele · Brad Pitt · Scarlett Johansson · Rael · Winston Churchill · Abraham Lincoln · Marilyn Monroe · Martin Luther King · Walt Disney · Ludwig Beethoven · Stephen King · Henry Ford · John Lennon · Ernest Hemingway · Bill Gates · Richard Branson · Jesus · Aristotle · Socrates · Plato · Mark Zuckerberg · Albert Einstein · Pele · Justin Bieber · Taylor Swift · Elohim · James Madison · Yeshua · Bill Clinton · Hillary Clinton · Eyal Ofer · Morris Kahn · Rudyard Kipling · Arnold Schwarzenegger · Freeman · Mark Twain · Robert Holden · Susan Wojcicki · Benjamin Franklin · Anthony Joshua · Marcus Lehmann · Charles Darwin · Elvis Presley · Christopher Columbus · Queen Victoria · Queen Elizabeth · Leonardo da Vinci · Pablo Picasso · Thomas Edison · Vincent Van Gogh · Michael Jordon · Sigmund Freud · David Beckham · Prince Charles · Billie Jean King · Anne Frank · Marie Antoinette · Cristiano Ronaldo · Lech Walesa · Shakira · Roman Abramovich · Tom Cruise · George Clooney · Paul Krugman · Kylie Minogue · Jimmy Wales · Brad Pitt · Confucius · Prince William · Kate Middleton · Michael Bloomberg · Vladimir Putin · Dmitry Medvedev · Lenin · Bashar Assad · Warren Buffett · Xi Jinping · Jojo Moyes · Bruce Lee · Honore de Balzac · Antoine de Saint-Exupery · Amy Grant · Elie Wiesel · Elana Yael Heideman · Li Ching Yuen · Sholom Aleichem · Yitzhak Yosef · London Grammar · Benjamin Netanyahu · Shimon Peres · Jeff Bezos ·