Yes, I’m in America. Yes, I can communicate with those around me. Yes, everyone speaks English around here.
But really, sometimes they don’t. Or maybe I don’t.
No, we’re definitely both speaking English.
The words are the same. The grammar is (mostly) the same (except for ya’ll). But sometimes I’m pretty sure we’re speaking two different versions of English. And I’m not even talking about dialects. There are many times I definitely feel like I am speaking a different version of English than those I’m supposed to be speaking “with.” It’s the type of English that has seen a different culture and different views. It’s the type of English that has battled with other languages to get its point across. It’s the type of ideas that packs multicultural connotations in every sentence. Not that I’m judging the other kind of English–the kind that doesn’t do all of that–they’re just two very different forms.
I didn’t realize how different they were until this evening. I attended a seminar on Mormonism at my church–interesting to get a refresher since my high school apologetics unit on it. As the two hours wrapped up (side note: it was glorious to feel like a college student again!) I was getting ready to leave. I said hello to the people around me, some of whom I’ve met in passing, and am about to head out when the woman I was sitting next to introduces me to a gentleman I had seen but never met. He and his wife had been missionaries in Uruguay, recently retired to Edenton. Suddenly I realized that we spoke the same language. Another man just stood there watching us as we exchanged stories and experiences. It must have been a bizarre interchange for him, but finally I was speaking the same English that someone else in the room was.