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Two islands — a short story about pronunciation

Somewhere, a long way from here, there are two islands.

On the first island, everyone can speak English. English is not the native language of people from this island. Every person on this island has a broken accent. And they all have a similar accent, they all speak with the same broken accent. When they talk in English among themselves, they can always communicate easily.

People on the other island can also speak English, and English is not the native language there, either. On this island people also have a broken accent, and they all have the same broken accent. When they talk in English among themselves, they can always communicate easily. But the accent here is very different from the one on the first island.

Sometimes two persons from the two islands meet and try to communicate. Their native languages are different and they have to use English. So when they meet, they try to communicate in English. And they are always surprised that they cannot. People from the first island cannot understand the accent of the second island. And people from the second island do not understand the accent of the first island.


Once an American visited both of the islands. First he visited the first island, and then he visited the second island. He could understand people on the first island very well. But he did not like the island. The local accent was so unpleasant for him that he was always tired in the evening. In fact, he could only speak with the islanders for three hours a day. When he tried to speak longer, he got a headache.

People on the first island did not know that their English was unpleasant to their guest. They were always eager to talk to him and they were glad that he understood them. They were happy that their English is so good that they can communicate with an American. But the American was not happy on the island and he went to the other island.

But the situation on the second island was even worse. The American had difficulty understanding the islanders. Out of courtesy, he decided not to show it. He pretended to understand everything and tried to smile and laugh when he did not understand. The islanders liked him very much and enjoyed talking in English with him.

The American was smiling and laughing all the time so the islanders thought that the conversation was very pleasant. They were happy about their English because they could have a pleasant conversation in English with an American.


After visiting the first island and the second island, the American came to a third island. On this island, there was a scientific conference.

The American was delighted to hear good English at the conference. Every scientist spoke with a very pleasant accent. Some of the scientists were native speakers of English, but most of them were not, and they had all sorts of foreign accents. Every scientist spoke differently, but they all spoke clearly and it was pleasant for the American to listen to them.

Here, at this conference, the American had no headache, and he did not have to smile and laugh out of courtesy. He simply enjoyed every conversation with the scientists.