I was talking to a student of mine and could hear myself sounding more and more South African as I was waxing all passionate about how marvellous language is, especially English, because once you have control of it – mostly – you can do such a lot with it and make it do stuff for you and like that.
I stopped to draw breath and saw on his face a look of almost nervous startlement. (Is that a word? Too bad – it is now.) He put his hand up, like you do in primary school.
“What?” I asked.
Now I could take this anywhere. You aren’t going to know what he said and I could use this as a lovely frame for some treatise on what I believe about language and English in particular – yadda yadda. But, what he actually said was, “I just don’t want to sound ridiculous. Can you help me not to sound ridiculous when I speak English.”
Boom – there it is. Now, you can take that anywhere you like. Today, I’m going to try and stop my German client from saying, “agenda” with a hard ‘g’: it irritates people and makes him sound ridiculous.