Samaritan's Song

A fair while back, I read an article in The Independentabout the most difficult English words for non-native speakers to pronounce.  On the list were “squirrel” and “rural”: words that I can pronounce reflexively and with no great effort, but which apparently stymy newcomers to the language.

But languages are like that.  I remember reducing a Japanese conversation partner of mine to tears of laughter when I told her I liked repeating the Japanese words kono sono ano and kore sore are over and over because they sounded so soothing, even though they really mostly function as pronouns.  And I remember spending an entire day learning how to say “thank you” properly in Irish (go raibh maith agat) only to be stunned to hear a native Irish speaker whip out the phrase casually in conversation.

We often are indifferent to the complexity and the value of the…

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