How Do People in Your Culture Correct Language Mistakes?

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by palomnik, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. palomnik Senior Member

    This is a topic that I find curious, not least of all because it comes up constantly when you're learning a foreign language.

    In some cultures, it is unusual to constantly interrupt a foreigner who is making mistakes in speaking; in general, Anglo-Saxon cultures tend to be like this, and the general attitude is that over-correcting during a conversation is counterproductive to communication, as well frustrating to the speaker and downright rude. Hispanics, in my experience, are somewhat similar, not normally interrupting unless they see you're not making any sense.

    Among Russians, on the other hand, it is normal to correct pretty nearly any mistake as soon as it comes up, it being assumed that you're interested in learning correct usage, aren't you? Germans, in my experience, tend to be somewhat similar to Russians (unless they just answer you in English, which I find frustrating). French tend to take more of a middle ground, apparently feeling that there is a limit dictated by good taste to interrupting the conversation.

    As for most non-European languages, the shock value of meeting a European who speaks the language usually trumps any tendency to correct, unless you're talking with a pedant, although I've met Arabs who will correct - usually in terms of vocabulary, though, not grammar, for some reason.

    What are your impressions? What's it like where you live? Do you like to be corrected, or do you resent it?
  2. divisortheory Senior Member

    San Francisco, CA USA
    United States, English
    Japanese never correct you ever, for fear of embarassing you, even if you ask to be corrected.
  3. Flaminius

    Flaminius coclea mod

    capita Iaponiae
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    I have been criticised for not correcting but I'd expect anyone to feel quite embarrassed if he is corrected for 10 or so mistakes in a sentence. If his vocabulary selection happens to be alright, one or two postpositions are wrong. If not, modal particles are wrong. If not, honorific expression are. If not, he uses too many subjects. If not, there is simply no such expression in Japanese.

    Many of the mistakes I notice are as grave or trivial as the next one, so if I am to correct, I'd have to correct everything. I am glad to do so in written communication but it is simply impossible in oral communication. Then, I start wondering if the language is better off to be liberated from those minute rules that no-one seems to enjoy following.
  4. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    Spanish don't usually correct language mistakes when in conversation, with two exceptions:
    - when the person says inadvertently something really rude
    - when the person is a friend (Matthew! you're a man, stop saying "estoy cansada", it's "cansado" with an "o")
  5. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    In general only major mistakes that alter the meaning are corrected (although I am obviously speaking about only the majority of the Greeks here, not all) and others, major or not are left uncorrected. Something that I do myself and have noticed many also doing when it comes to major mistakes that we don't want to correct right away is find a plausible reason to use the same expression ourselves correctly (Think for example of someone saying " Je pensez X blah blah blah" and the other one replying "Moi, je pense Y"). Not very subtle in my example and quite often in real life but not as direct as correcting on the spot as it were.
  6. palomnik Senior Member

    Hmm...kind of what I suspected.

    What made me interested in this is that my wife is Russian...and she insists that whenever she makes a mistake in English, that I correct her immediately and in no uncertain terms.

    At first I thought this was just an eccentricity on her part, based on an admirable desire to learn things properly. But I gradually noticed that she would do the same with me when I spoke Russian, regardless of whether we're alone or in a room full of (Russian speaking) strangers. When I told her that I found this embarrassing, and I wished that she would save her corrections for later unless I said something really stupid or unintelligible, she accused me of being too thin-skinned and not really interested in improving my speaking ability.

    After a while I realized that she was not eccentric; most Russians I've met actually feel the same way she does, and they don't see anything embarrassing in providing constant correction.
  7. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    This is just my impression, but I think that English speakers here who speak another language do not correct someone in conversation as much as monolingual people, and I think people who live in an urban environment are more accepting of however the sentence comes out than those who live in isolated or rural settings. In other words, the urbanites and multi-linguals seem to have more tolerance for mistakes if the communication is still fairly clear.

    In Los Angeles, we are likely to hear many languages and many accents in the course of a day. I work with people from Cambodia, The Philippines, Thailand, China, Japan, Germany, Austria, Lebanon, Iran, Mexico, Guatemala, Armenia, India, Russia, and Columbia, and this is just in my particular office setting. I don't even work with the general public. Anyone expecting that everyone speak "without an accent" or in perfectly formed English would be asking for a lot of daily frustration. :)

    People who have had little or no exposure to other languages don't seem to have a lot of tolerance for either grammatical errors or thick accents. Unfortunately, some of the corrections they provide are not very good English, either. However, if you follow them you will sound more like a "local". :)

    If we are asked to correct someone's English, I think we tend to wait until they're done and then offer suggestions.
  8. kirsitn

    kirsitn Senior Member

    Oslo, Norway
    Norway, Norwegian
    To me it seems like a weird idea to not correct someone who wants to be corrected. The only way to learn to speak a foreign language properly is by getting feedback when you make mistakes.
  9. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    How well put :)

    Normally, if I'm friends with a foreigner learning English, I'll ask if they want to be corrected, and if they do, what they want to be corrected on (if nothing makes sense, a repeated error, or every single mistake). The more languages you speak, the more accutely aware you are of how embarrassing it can be to constantly be corrected, especially in public.

    In my experience, German's correct everything. It can be quiet frustrating. Italians and the Portuguese on the other hand tend to be so utterly delighted that you can speak even a little bit of their language that they go into overdrive and begin to natter away to you as if you're going to understand everything, and all you can do is just nod along! It's nice though, at least they don't patronise you like a lot of German's do by just answering you in English.
  10. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
    I think that many English speakers are so used to foreigners speaking English, but not perfectly that we won't correct unless they are not understandable or they insist on being corrected.

    Yes, this is a very good basis for correction, Alexa.

    In languages with gender based adjectives . . corrections MUST be made!!!

    Oh . .and of course if someone is unintentionally saying something rude!!! :p
  11. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    I think that correcting a foreigner is not only a matter of national disposition, but also of personal attitude, therefore I can tell you what Paul usually does, not what Italians usually do, although I'm a quite typical Italian in this regard.
    Since I'm conscious that speaking Italian is not easy and Italian is unlikely to be the language foreigners studied at school like we do with English, I tend not to correct the person I'm talking to unless they are mates who expressly asked me to do so.
    If their Italian is so poor that it's hardly possible to have a proper conversation, I reply in English: that means "no more Italian, please!".
  12. Tajabone Senior Member

    French, Berber (Kabyle), Arabic (classical and dialectal)
    The French way can be harsh to foreigners.

    I was once a witness to a curious scene in Paris where a baker (a 40/50 years lady) rudely corrected a young Italian woman for mixing up an expression: couper/découper le pain (two variations for slicing the bread).

    I have both seen that with caretakers and "cultural agents" (working in Art galleries, etc.)

    An up-to-the-minute news: French TV administration (a governmental institution called CSA) is discussing how to pronounce the month "Août" (August). Actually, there are four different ways but the state is now taking it seriously :)
  13. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    I think it is rude not to correct people when they make mistakes. Latvians are more reserved than Russians by mostly we follow the same principle. Of course, it is not much use to correct a speaker who is obviously a beginner and makes 10 mistakes in each sentence. But otherwise if a person is able to hold a decent conversation and makes a mistake here and there, it should be immediately corrected. Why? Because it shows that I care about my interlocutor. He may not realize he is making a funny mistake and if he is not corrected and continues to speak like that, other people may not be so gentle and will not respect him or even laugh at him.

    It doesn't apply only to foreigners but to natives as well. Some people may have come from another region and speak a dialect or simply may not be aware that a certain situation requires different register, so they are corrected in the same way. It is completely normal for subordinates to correct even their bosses at public meetings.

    Does the constant correcting disturbs the conversation? Maybe a little. But it can be a very natural part of the conversation. It is practically the same thing if you are speaking with someone and you make a mistake in pronouncing a personal name or some fact or number. Naturally you would be glad if you were corrected.

    Also correcting others can be necessary in order not to fall under the influence of bad speakers. It is natural that after some time you start imitate speech patterns of your interlocutor even if you know that they are not correct. The only way to avoid this is to take an active role and correct them for the benefit of both speakers.

    This difference in mentality also influences language learning patterns. Russian is difficult at start but once you get to the colloquial level you can easily progress to advanced level as the environment becomes your classroom. In English it is the opposite – you can easily go up to the basic level but then going forward will be difficult because only rare person tries to correct you.
  14. Solbrillante Senior Member

    This obviously is a very culturally sensitive subject. I agree with some of the previous comments made regarding those of us from the USA. We hear our language spoken with so many different dialects here, within our own country, not only because we are a mosaic of so many cultures, but also just due to our vast, geographical settings. When I moved simply 220 miles north from Illinois to Wisconsin, you would have thought I came from another planet. Not only my accent but my choice of words were many the topic of conversation. i just think that we accept the language spoken all kinds of different ways and not everyone is looking for an English lesson. I guess I feel bad enough that more than half the world speaks my language...I surely could not expect them to speak it perfectly.

    MAVERIK Senior Member

    Italy Italian
    I guess that correcting someone who is talking to you or to someone else using a foreign language is not completely correct but is not incorrect either unless the conversation can't make any sense . I know well that Italian , for example , is not studied all over the world , and it is difficult to try speaking with all grammar rules we have and our so many accents. I personally prefer someone to correct me when I speak English but we are not the same at all .
  16. estrellafugaz Member

    German, Austria
    I first studied Spanish in Mexico and was almost a little irritated when I found that my Mexican friends wouldn't correct me ever. I asked them to, but the way I see it now, people from Latinamerica and Spain focus more on what you're saying than how you're saying it - as long as they get what you're trying to say, they won't fuss about mistakes.

    I am exactly like the Germans some of you have mentioned, and I know that it is impolite, but everytime somebody would say something incorrect it just draws my attention to it... every little thing that is wrong... it's like a bright light popping up in my head at every false word or expression. I am more fussy about language mistakes than my fellow Austrians, though - and I also correct them all the time when they say or write something wrong in German (or sometimes even in English). It's actually a little funny because I have been studying foreign languages for some years now and should know that it is frustrating and impolite to correct them all the time. I am making an effort, trying not to correct all the time and to be patient with non-native speakers - but even if I don't correct all the time, the light in my head still pops up!

    I consider it okay to point a mistake that is made frequently out to my friends who are learning German, otherwise they will never improve. Often, people just use wrong expressions and since nobody tells them they use them all the time, embarrassing themselves a little (really depends on how sensitive the person they are speaking to is about language mistakes!) and never getting it right. I was so glad when one of my friends in Mexico eventually told me that I had been saying something specific wrong all the time. It's not much use to point out every tiny mistake but speaking to somebody for some time you notice mistakes they make frequently and, yes, I think it's good to point those out.
  17. PABLO DE SOTO Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    In Spain we don't correct foreigners unless they are family or very close friends and even in these cases it is considered rude to do it in public. I don't suppose my wife correcting me anywhere but I would appreciate it if she does it at home but not constantly interrupting the conversation.
    We expect that foreigners don't speak a good Spanish, so in general terms we make a big effort to understand them or at least bigger than in other countries according to my own experience and as estrellafugaz pointed , what is important for us is what people say not how they say it.
    You can say "¿qué hora salir tren por madrid?" and people will not correct you but they will help you with the information you need.
  18. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    You met an uneducated and rude person at the bakery. I'm afraid the world is full of them, everywhere... :rolleyes:
    I, and most of my French friends always want to be corrected when we speak (or write!) English, and we are somehow disappointed when they don't even think of correcting us (even if we ask them)... The point is I tend to believe I just said something in a perfect English if they don't say anything. But it's rarely the case. :D
  19. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    In Singapore, we never correct foreigners because we have an inferior complex when it comes to languages. We know we'll never be as good in Mandarin as the native Chinese speakers from China and we'll never be as good in English as the native English speakers from America, UK, Australia...
  20. Chaska Ñawi

    Chaska Ñawi modus borealis

    an old Ontario farmhouse
    Canadian English
    Here it depends on the proficiency of the learner and the main purpose of the conversation. If communication of an idea is important, corrections only will be offered to further the communication .... for example, "Oh, now I understand! The word you want is "peanuts", not "penis".

    If the conversation is more open, or is to help the learner master oral English, more corrections will be offered.

    In Bolivia only good friends corrected my Spanish. My Quechua is so primitive that people would occasionally correct my nouns but not even bother with my syntax.
  21. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    Actually it is interesting to learn that in many countries foreigners are expected to speak imperfect language and, to close the cycle, it is made sure that will continue speaking with mistakes by not correcting them.

    At some point when at your present level you are able to communicate easily in all practical situation, the motivation, to spend more time in classroom to further improve your language, disappears. Then you can learn most effectively through interaction with native speakers but if they never ever correct your mistakes, how can you improve? Or at least the progress will be rather slow. I think now I know where the preconception that you can never speak like a native comes (accent aside). I personally feel much more embarrassed to discover at the end of the day that I have been speaking some words or phrases incorrectly all the time than when I am corrected directly. Of course, I can't demand from people to correct me if they are unwilling to do it but those who correct me will be respected.

    I wish you all to try to learn Russian and experience this spirit of camaraderie in your language studies that seems to be nonexistent in other cultures.
  22. PABLO DE SOTO Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    I think one of the reasons why we don't use to correct foreigners in Spain is because Spaniards as a whole have a poor command of foreign languages (with exceptions, of course) and many of us are satisfied with a little knowledge of, say English, so we expect the same from foreign people with our language.
    Apart from this reason I'd also say that aside from family and very close friends it's considered rude to correct others in our own language so we do the same with foreign speakers.
  23. estrellafugaz Member

    German, Austria
    Seriously karuna, I think you're being too harsh here. It has nothing to do with "making sure that they will continue speaking with mistakes by not correcting them"! I find the idea of focusing way more on what is said than the way it is said refreshing, even though I myself am unable to do it so far.

    Personally, sometimes oral corrections don't even help me improve a lot. I am very much a ... actually, I have no idea how you say this in English :D but I am an "visual" type, not an "acoustic" and by that I mean that if you tell me a word I didn't know, you can tell me about 4 or 5 times until I will actually memorize it and to do that I'll need for you to say it very slowly and tell me the spelling so I can visualize it. However, if you e-mail me the word I was looking for or write it down I'll probably remember it after the first time.

    All that just to say that I don't think oral corrections are always a way of improving people. I myself can focus pretty well on how native speakers say things so I just pick up the expressions they use and notice at times that they say things differently than how I would have said them, so I question them about the way I would have said it or just pick up their way of saying it.

    I know I'm contradicting myself a little here, but I hope you still understand what I mean.
  24. TraductoraPobleSec

    TraductoraPobleSec Senior Member

    Catalan & Spanish
    I don't agree with you, dear Pablo (for one in my life!): I believe people do not get offended if you correct them as long as you do it politely and with a smile... Positive feedback is also very helpful; that is, to say things such as "you're doing great" or "you're really improving" when you see that that person is making his or her best effort.

    Best regards to Andalusia :)
  25. tradict Senior Member

    México Español
    I believe that if you do it politelly, it is o.k. to correct someone. It might help them to learn the other language better and faster. I do it with my friends and family who don´t speak English very well and they always thank me.
    I would like someone correcting my mistakes!
  26. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    You speak as though that were intentional. It isn't. Some people simply think it's rude to interrupt others to correct their grammar. Especially if you do it all the time. It's a question of politeness.
  27. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    I don't mean that it is intentional. It is just the consequences of the different cultural understanding what it means to be polite in linguistic matters. In this case I see that it stands in the way of the language learning of foreigners and reinforces the idea of 'us' versus 'them'. Besides if people are so polite that they even think that correcting someone's incorrect grammar is not acceptable why then we hear so many complaints about the same foreigners who behave inappropriately in their country and about immigrants who do not wish to learn the local language?

    From the Russian point of view, these immigrants never have a chance because even though the locals are polite with them, they never consider them good enough to establish close friendship. And in the true friendship all the linguistic details and nuances count. If you are unable to tell the joke with the same effectiveness in the company, then the spirit of your conversation will always be lacking. I not blaming anyone, just exploring how different cultural mentalities impact linguistic proficiency of non-native speakers.
  28. PABLO DE SOTO Senior Member

    Spain Spanish
    Maybe there is a difference between Catalans and the rest of us.
    You are in a bilingual environment and this can have an influence on this matter, because you are more concerned about good use of languages.
    Of course doing it politely is much better.
  29. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Those are three different things, aren't they?
  30. palomnik Senior Member

    Karuna, I particularly appreciate your comments on this, despite the criticism you've had to take from certain quarters.

    Personally, I think this particular phenomenon is a symptom of deeper cultural preoccupations about what is considered proper behavior around strangers, although there are some other factors involved, such as the cachet attached to "proper" speech in some cultures and the way that self esteem comes into play regarding correcting other people - and being corrected by other people - in a given culture.
  31. TraductoraPobleSec

    TraductoraPobleSec Senior Member

    Catalan & Spanish
    Maybe you're right; I never thought this could be just in Catalonia. To tell you the truth, we Catalans keep on correcting each other all the time, but, as I said, using good manners most of the time ("de buen rollo", as we say in Spain!) :)
  32. Solbrillante Senior Member

  33. DrWatson

    DrWatson Senior Member

    Obviously I can't speak for the entire Finnish population, but I'll share my experiences with you. I'd be simply astonished if I met a person from abroad who spoke Finnish with no mistakes. In my opinion Finns are aware that our language is difficult to learn and master, so some errors in speech wouldn't matter, as long as the person was comprehensible.

    I just met an Australian girl sometime ago, and to my astonishment she spoke Finnish. Her accent sounded English, of course, and she made some mistakes in her speech, but I was mainly surprised. I didn't feel the need to start correcting her.

    I think that the level, on which one would start correcting another, depends on the closeness of the relationship. One of my teachers was Algerian, and I noticed I was correcting his mistakes quite frequently. Not so much, however, that I'd have interrupted him all the time. And it's partly because he said he wanted his mistakes to be corrected, since he was studying Finnish. I wouldn't correct strangers, except in a case of a really serious error, because I wouldn't know how much the person had studied Finnish and... well, it feels kind of rude to interrupt people. But that's just me.
  34. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    That is exactly how I feel! I was staying with an Austrian friend last summer and she'd tell me a word in German but until she wrote it down I wouldn't remember it unless she told me about 5 times. I'm glad someone else is the same! :D
  35. charlerina ballerina Member

    My boyfriend is of Peruvian decent, in Spain. He never EVER corrects me which is infuriating... the closest he comes to it is to mumble a re-arranged sentence under his breath as his brain computes my intended meaning!!! I desperately want to be corrected, so I can eventually communicate with Spaniards other than him!!! He has frustratingly learned to understand my 'espanglish' perfectly. I am thinking of suggesting a 'game' called 'correct every thing I say in the next 30 mins'... maybe this would help!

    I would like to add that my boyfriend (who never corrects me) would have a slightly different agenda with regard to conversation; he solely aspires to communicate with me, to understand for that moment, what it is I am saying. I, on the other hand need to learn and wish to be corrected. An interesting point on a similar topic is that he knows a few words in English (mainly nouns) and he ALWAYS uses the English, thinking he is helping. But actually it took me 3 months to learn the Spanish for knife and fork!
  36. karuna

    karuna Senior Member

    The planet Earth
    Latvian, Latvia
    So that some foreros don't get the wrong idea I think I should add that by correcting language mistakes I don't mean that other people should become your teachers and teach you how to speak the language. This would be definitely too much bother and the native speakers are not always the best teachers either. But once you have struggled on your own and can speak the language quite well and you know practically everything about the grammar and vocabulary, there is a point when the input from the native speakers becomes invaluable. By continuing to use the wrong form again and again, it only becomes harder to learn the correct way. Bad habits are hard to get rid of, so it is really important to correct them as soon as possible.

    For example, once I tried to say in Russian "утро вечера мудрее" (morning is wiser than evening). I was immediately corrected, "утро вечера мудреннее". My first version was technically correct but did not have the necessary impact because that's not how Russians say it. And despite that sometimes it is hard to remember things when you are engaged in the conversation, they tend to stick to you after some time. Just swallow your pride and go on even if you make the same mistake the next moment (I usually do). Later you will surely remember these details and think that "утро вечера мудрее" indeed doesn't sound right and you have always wanted to say "утро вечера мудреннее".
  37. Solbrillante Senior Member

    Hello, Karuna, I agree with you that "input from the native speakers becomes invaluable" I, myself, love the input of native Spanish speakers. I guess it's just hard to get past the feeling that it is rude to correct someone during conversation. It's just that the fear of offending someone is greater than the desire to correct them. If I were to correct someone on their language errors during conversation (no matter how intimate of a relationship I might have with them) it would leave me feeling bad about myself, like I was trying to show that I was superior to them. Maybe this is just me, and not my culture speaking.
  38. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    I'm exactly the same...I always say 'sorry!' after I correct someone.

    Coincidentally, one of the guys at work today said "You never correct me even though I have a very wrong English. Thank you." So maybe not everyone wants to be corrected!
  39. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    I wouldn't correct anybody's mistakes unless they had asked me to. Sometimes it can be more of a nuisance than a help. I think commenting on somebody's every other sentence will only make them feel less confident and enthusiastic. For me, language is all about communication and I tend not to care about minor mistakes. I would be a terrible teacher for an eager Portuguese learner, but a supportive friend, I guess, that would never let them give up.
  40. Macunaíma

    Macunaíma Senior Member

    Um ninho de mafagalfinhos
    português, Brasil
    Probably he was thanking you for concentrating on what he was saying rather than how he was saying it. It should be quite annoying being corrected all the time. Having a break while talking to you should have been a relief to him.
  41. heidita Banned

    Madrid, Spain
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    I thought it rather interesting to find a post like this the other day:

    A newcomer took a correction not too well. ;)

    But is this his fault? His English is no proficient by far but he thinks it is. Why shouldn't he, really, if you think about it. As , as he very well claims, listen, everybody understands me pretty well, so if you have difficulty understanding, it must be your fault!

    Should the people correct this person more? I find that people do not take corrections very well in general and that's why people do not correct them. We can even see this on this board. So, then, how can a person improve his language knowledge if he is not corrected?
  42. tpettit

    tpettit Senior Member

    Standard French
    Here in France, I think people have quite a rude way of correcting you, or not correcting you at all. Which proves the "arrogant Frenchman" stereotype to be quite true. But I've only witnessed that behavior when French people are in groups. I don't make any mistakes myself, being French, but when a foreigner does, nobody corrects him: they just turn to each other and smile to each other, leaving the french learner knowing he made a mistake and feeling retarded.
    In the United States, people won't correct you, they'll just look at you with a confused look until you somehow figure out what mistake(s) you did. Or they'll just repeat the question they asked you.
    Spaniards will correct you right away when you try to speak Spanish.
  43. KaRiNe_Fr

    KaRiNe_Fr Senior Member

    France, Provence
    Français, French - France
    This proves, rather than the "arrogant Frenchman stereotype" you participate to propagate, that we don't associate with the same groups. I tend to correct every big mistakes and explain why to everyone who asks (or seems to ask) me so.
  44. Jocaste

    Jocaste Senior Member

    I don't know where you live in France tpettit, but it seems to be an unhospitable place. I find you very harsh with French people.
    I live in the south of France, and here when a foreigner makes a mistake, we do not keep silence and then smile in a mocking face. To the contrary ! This attitude you're discribing is very impolite and nasty, and not really representative of the majority of the French. Just a little part of guys who are glad to show themself superior because of their knowledge of their mother-tongue. Funny, isn't it ?
    So, it really depends on which region of France you're talking about.
  45. ayupshiplad Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    I don't particularly like speaking French with French people unless they are my friends, as from a lot of my experiences, you are regarded as a cretin if you make even a difficult mistake.*

    That said, I had dinner at with a French family last summer, and at one point I remember saying something like: "Je veux parler courament le français avant que j'aille à la fac". Even though now I know I should have said "avant d'aller à la fac", my host congratulated me on my knowledge of the subjunctive!

    *I'm not sure if this is a universal phenomonon, but with all my foreign languages, I'm fine having a conversation with people about proper things, but when it comes to going into a shop and asking for something, I'm not rubbish, but I'm hardly competant. Maybe this is why I feel the French rudely correct me, as I mostly just speak to French people in shops who'll think I'm just another silly tourist!
  46. LaurentK

    LaurentK Senior Member

    Paris, France
    France, FrançaisIrlandais
    I wanted to react to tepettit comments, which leave me flabbergasted, but I let it by. Long live to the CD forum. PMs are welcome.

    I love my English to be corrected and I always ask for more, but I almost never get any help. My English-speaking friends probably think that it would be impolite or patronizing.

    If it not asked before, I never correct anybody except my children and my Irish wife who actually doesn't want me to :p.
  47. notdominique Senior Member

    France, French

    It's a pity I am not learning Russian ! My English speaking friends disappoint me a great deal, as they would not correct me though I beg them. I feel that they don't care (as Karuna puts it) about my wish, which is not only to make myself understood but to improve my English. I am aware it's a delicate matter, as a sentence may sound very clumsy, even without being positively incorrect.

    Of course, there are other ways to learn : listening to what other people say, reading books, visiting WR forums...

    By the way, it strikes me that corrections are very seldom offered in the forums - almost never-, though some people ask. I wonder why. Is it against the rules ? Do we fear to appear prig or tactless ? Of course it should not be private tuition. But some corrections could help a lot.

    Well, if anyone is in a correcting mood today, please do not refrain !
  48. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    My experience is that people in my country generally don't haste to correct a foreigner - unless the foreigner has asked them to do it. I, for one, will never correct a foreigner unless I have their permission to correct them.

    As for correcting your own compatriots when they make mistakes - it really depends on the situation and your relationships with the person. I never mind friends and relatives correcting my stresses, for example.
  49. eujin New Member

    Korea, English
    I'd like to ask the forum users what their experiences and thoughts are regarding how native speakers treat people who speak foreign languages and their varying attempts or non-attempts to speak the native language.

    In Denmark (in Copenhagen) I have often experienced random people in the street coming up to me and asking me questions in English. Not just tourists asking for help, but for very "native" things like fill in a petition, interview for a radio programme, would you like to buy such and such or some such similar. Most Danish people must not mind this otherwise these people wouldn't do it so unashamedly.

    I once tried checking in to a Youth Hostel in Copenhagen in English but got in to some trouble when I put my nationality down as Danish (I am Danish). So maybe it is OK to speak English if you're not Danish and can't speak Danish but not OK to speak English if you are Danish and can speak Danish. (I guess my perverse sense of humour was not appreciated - fair enough.)

    In countries like the Netherlands if you try to speak Dutch to someone (badly) they will often reply in English. But I have never experienced anyone in France try to speak English to me if I try to speak French to them (ha, its because I'm so good at French;))

    In English speaking countries I've often seen native speakers getting very angry with non-native speakers who cannot speak fluent English. It's often people like bus drivers who have this problem. Once in New Zealand, I was participating in a disaster relief exercise and we ran an imaginary scenario where an imaginary Japanese woman needed help but spoke no English. One of the participants in the exercise launched into a tirade against people who come to a country and do not try to learn any of the native language. I was quite cross with him and asked him how much Japanese he spoke, to which he replied "I've never been to Japan". I was amazed at how angry he got about an imaginary person that we were supposed to be trying to help.

    In Korea, people will come up to me and start a conversation with me in English just because I am European. They assume that because I'm European, I must speak English. Fortunately I do, but there must be Europeans in Korea who speak little English and this must cause lots of confusion on both sides.
  50. eujin New Member

    Korea, English
    the best thing I ever experienced was a take-away restaurant in Cairo which was run by deaf people. No need to speak Arabic, no need to speak English, just point to the menu for what you want.

    I guess I could've tried to sign :).

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