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Never believe a native speaker


I'd be skeptical of anything that anybody says about his own language.

• Sometimes a native speaker will tell you what a word means, and that it means only that — but you can plainly hear the same word used in other ways, too. Sometimes he or she will tell you that two sounds are the same, or different — when you can hear that they're not.

• Most people seem to believe that their language is more difficult than yours. (This appears to be true at least amongst those I've met who are not native to English, the global [and ubiquitous] lingua franca.) There's no sense trying to disabuse anybody of such an opinion. It's probably just an expression of cultural pride.

• In the earliest stages of my Romanian, I asked a friend about the word "o," because I'd it seen in print but had not found it in my dictionary. He said it's not a word. He didn't try to explain why it's a common part of a sentence; he just said that it's not a word. It's one of two definite articles — a cognate of "a/an." It's one of the most important words. Its usage is complicated — but it's not "not a word."


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