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Grammatically Correct: My Second Language

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Back in the days of teaching my favorite class, Advanced Placement Literature, I always began the year by telling them about myself and about what we would be studying. At some point, I’d always pause and say, “By the way, I am bilingual.I watched their faces with pregnant pauses of expectation, and I’d then explain, “I can speak English grammatically correctly, and… I also speak Country English.”

I could tell that some would begin to catch on immediately, but I noticed some were still waiting curiously for me to explain.

I would say a few sentences. One might have a possessive pronoun in front of a gerund; one might have an external indirect object, and it would be followed by a sentence with an internal indirect object. They were seriously trying to figure out what I was proving.

Then I would say something like “Ain’t you got no learning?” Or… “This, that, such and the other is not going to happen in this class.”

At this point, education began.

My country vernacular often ensues when I’m with other country people or perhaps after I’ve had a glass or two of chardonnay; there is, however, a difference between country and southern. Southerners may structure their sentences correctly, but they have an amazing talent. Southerners can turn one syllable words into two or three syllables. One could say that I am, indeed, talented in that area.

There is one line I will never cross. I will not – no matter which language I’m speaking – say “irregardless,” “between you and I” or say, “I’m going to lay down and take a nap.” Just ain’t gonna happen.

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Brianna Virden
Brianna Virden
22 feb 2020

This resonates with me! In college, I had a particular professor for five or six different classes. In his class, I always wrote with proper grammar and spoke with little accent. Just before graduating, I had a meeting with this professor, and don't you know, a bit of my "Country English" came out. He stopped and stared at me like I'd said something vulgar. When he finally gathered his senses, he said, "I'm sorry. I have just never heard you speak with a Southern accent before." It was so funny! Apparently, I, too, am bilingual.

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