Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Asking A Favor Can Require Courage; Respond Accordingly

Dear Tazi:

I have been dating a man I will call "Ernesto" for three months, and I like him a lot. He is not native to this country, but his English is pretty good. It could use improvement, but it is better than my high school Spanish so I don't make a big deal out of his grammatical mistakes. My problem is that Ernesto does.

Ernesto is very self-conscious of his speaking skills, having learned English by watching TV and listening to educated people talk. He has asked me to please correct him when he speaks "imperfectly". I have told Ernesto that a lot of native English speakers do not speak proper English and to not make a big deal out of it, but he has told me his dream is to speak flawless English and in order to do so he needs to have his mistakes corrected as he makes them, or else he will not know that they are mistakes.

Tazi, I am his girlfriend not his ESL teacher! I suggested to Ernesto that he try taking a few adult education courses at the local community center, but he was offended and told me he didn't think his English was that bad. I explained to him that he took what I said the wrong way and told him that I am not comfortable pointing out his errors. Ernesto has told me that my "reluctance" to help him with his problem shows and that he fears it will create "vicissitude" in our relationship. Tazi, I am not even sure what that word means and I told Ernesto to stop talking like a Word a Day Calendar, that no real American talks that way!

Ernesto was very hurt by my reaction and has barely spoken to me for a week. We still see each other; he just does not say more than a few words. Do you think I was too harsh on him? Should I risk embarrassing him to help him learn better English?

Not A Teacher

Dear Not A Teacher:

I can think of a few words to describe what you are, but I am afraid that they are not very nice - in any language. To ask the kind of favor Ernesto asked of you can take a lot of courage and the way you responded - with disinterest and insults - was downright cruel. I realize you do not wish to embarrass Ernesto by correcting him in front of others, but he has requested that you do so. Might you reach a compromise and make a mental note of his errors to bring up with him in private?

You give me the impression that Ernesto's native language is Spanish. Might you ask him to teach you Spanish (because knowing a second language is a huge career boost) while you assist him with his English? In doing so you will learn that the Spanish you learn in high school is much more formal - and a lot less accurate - than the Spanish spoken in most areas of the world, especially in Latin America where the vernacular is much different than mainland Spain.

If you really like Ernesto, you will learn to be more sensitive of his feelings, be more willing to assist him when he asks a simple favor, and be open to compromise in order to find a solution to the challenges of dating someone from a culture that is different from your own.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

No comments:

Post a Comment