Marginal vs. Poor.

< Previous | Next >

khongnho

Senior Member
Vietnamese
The Chinese-American gentleman whom I met at a job interview told me, "Your English is very marginal!".

At the time I knew that this Chinese-American gentleman meant to tell me that my English was terribly poor. However, the word "marginal" that he used sounded (and still sounds) a little odd to me.

Do native speakers of English really use "marginal" to mean poor in this case?

I'll be grateful for your answer. Thank you!


PS: I did look up "marginal" and it means "barely within a lower standard or limit of quality".
 
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In English, we have the expression "damning with faint praise." In other words we use a term that definitely less that complimentary to indicate that something is really bad.

    If, and I stress the if, that gentleman was really saying your English was bad, then yes we use it that way.

    Some of are are more literal and straightforward however and if we say "marginal," then that's what we mean. In your case, if you were able to conduct the interview in English, then I would say that it was at least as good as "marginal."

    I don't see what relevance "Chinese-American" has here.
     

    khongnho

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    I don't see what relevance "Chinese-American" has here.
    Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough when I said that the gentleman is Chinese-American. What I meant was that this gentleman speaks English as a second language and he is not a native speaker of English. And that's why I sought an opinion from native speakers.

    Anyhow! I thank you so much for your reply Sir!
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think the Chinese-American gentleman was fumbling for a euphemism to describe your English, and I don't recommend you use marginal in this sense.

    I suppose he meant that your English was at the margins of what he expected - that is, it was on the borderline (margin) between
    - the quality he expected and
    - a lower quality than that.
     

    khongnho

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    I think the Chinese-American gentleman was fumbling for a euphemism to describe your English, and I don't recommend you use marginal in this sense.

    I suppose he meant that your English was at the margins of what he expected - that is, it was on the borderline (margin) between
    - the quality he expected and
    - a lower quality than that.

    This Chinese-American was not the interviewer, he was there to "beg" for a job just like I did:). I know for sure he meant to say that my English was extremely poor because he told me that he did not see how I could secure a job with my very "marginal English".

    All the native speakers that I have ever encountered would just say that my English is poor, none of them has ever used the word "marginal":). This Chinese-American gentleman, however, chose "marginal" over "poor" and that is why it sounded a little "interesting" to me.
     
    Last edited:

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    khongnho, perhaps you write English much better than you speak it, but judging from the initial post, I don't think your knowledge of English can fairly be described as "marginal," in the sense of "barely acceptable" or "not very good." It's often obvious from posts here by English learners that English is not the writer's native language, but that is not the case with the message with which you started this thread—it reads as if it were written by a native speaker. Since I haven't read anything by your interviewer, and haven't talked to either of you, I can't say that your English is better than your interviewer's, but I don't think you should take his comment too seriously. If that's his judgement, and it is incorrect, it might still cause you not to get the job, but don't let that prevent you from applying for other positions that require a good working knowledge of English, especially written English.
     
    Last edited:

    khongnho

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    I think the Chinese-American gentleman was fumbling for a euphemism to describe your English, and I don't recommend you use marginal in this sense.
    Mr. Se16teddy, I'll stick with "poor" in this sense, Sir.

    I thank you very much for your recommendation! I honestly appreciate!
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top