Alfred’s got an interesting blog entry that describes a web site where you can here an English paragraph spoken by hundreds of people from different places around the world. It is facinating to see how far from "the norm" a speaker can be and still be understood.
Years ago a friend of mine once suggested that English is as close to a universal language simply because it is extremely easy to speak it badly. In other words, a person with very few English skills (either grammar or pronunciation) can pretty much make themselves understood, even if they stumble horribly. In some other languages, the rules of grammar or pronunciation are so rigid and complex that straying from the norm makes it impossible to be understood. (I recall learning that in some Oriental languages even the inflection used can dramatically change the meaning of words.)
And, of course, this brings to mind a quote Star Trek (the original series): "Language, what an amazing invention. You’re all so dependant upon it, but are any of you its master?"
COMMENTS FROM theSpoke:
Yay Mr. I! I like the quote.