The Best of Andy Rooney

Sometimes it's hard to decide what to think and write about. What I do is turn to the first thing that occurs to me.

For instance, I might be able to make something out of the difference between the words "some time" and "sometime" and even "sometimes." I'm not sure, but I think the word "sometimes" would come closer to being slang than regular usage. American grammar and word usage puzzles me "sometimes," and I can imagine if I was born in China or Japan, where there are so many more characters in their languages, how difficult that would be to master.

I'm surprised by the sheer number of languages we have in the world. I read somewhere that there are almost 8,000 languages in the world. Some obscure languages are spoken only by a handful of people, and languages like Chinese, English and Spanish are spoken by hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

Many more people speak Chinese than English, for example, yet most great Chinese literature probably hasn't been translated into English. I'm sure there are books in Mandarin Chinese comparable to say, "Mark Twain," "The Iliad," or "Gone With the Wind." I wouldn't be surprised if China had produced a writer like Shakespeare and India harbored a Hemingway.

If so, I wonder if their work has been translated into English so I can read it. I don't care what the original language was. Just tell me a good story. I'm probably missing out on reading some of the great Chinese writers of our time.

In school, I studied French but unfortunately, I didn't learn enough of it to be able to talk to the French people when I served in France during World War II (although I always had the feeling my French was better than their English). Of course, I don't think my French teacher at the academy would have been able to order lunch in a Paris Burger King, either!

English is the third most spoken language in the world. The most spoken is Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish is No. 2. English is far from perfect, but I couldn't order something to eat in Spanish or Mandarin.

I think it would be a more cohesive world if more people spoke fewer languages. It's too late to do anything about it, but I think all the people of the world should learn to speak one universal language. Of course, I wouldn't want to be on the committee making the choice.

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