A few tips for interacting with people who are learning your language

May 5, 2015

 

Be patient.  Admittedly, it might be difficult when you want to make your point come across and you’re in a hurry, but your conversation partner will be able to tell when you’re impatient. Talking to a native speaker can already be nerve-wracking enough as it is, especially during the first steps of the learning stage, so extra pressure is really not needed.

 

Try not to laugh too often. Sometimes someone who’s learning your native #language can say something absolutely #ridiculous, making it almost impossible not to laugh. That’s fine, but try not to lose it every time they make a mistake or say something that sounds a bit funny.  Just put yourself in their shoes and you’ll understand. It takes a lot of guts to learn a new language.

 

Never say: ‘oh, but you speak [insert language] quite well’. While it is always said with the best intentions and usually meant as a #compliment, it can also come across as somewhat #patronizing and condescending, and frankly it’s a bit insulting, especially if the person you’re paying the compliment to has been speaking that language for years. It’s a simple sentence but it immediately states that you have noted that the person you’re talking to is not a native speaker, implying that in fact they do nót speak the language so well. Worse, you create inequality by putting the other person in an inferior position, and nobody likes that.

 

When the other person indicates they did not quite understand what you said, don’t just repeat it in exactly the same way. At the very least, consider that perhaps you speak too fast, or that what you’re saying might not be as eloquent as you think. When talking to someone who’s not a native speaker  (well, when talking to anyone, really) good pronunciation is just plain basic politeness.

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