Taught not Learned: Correcting Someone Else's Word Choice
April 6, 2021 6:10 AM   Subscribe

My neighbor, for whom English is a foreign language, confuses "learned" with "taught". For example, yesterday she told me that she "learned [her son] how to tie his shoe laces". This is a common error for her in otherwise quite good English.

My neighbor is from a small European country and learned English in school. She has a law degree from that country (where they often had lectures, reading and discussion in English). She and her husband moved to the US and across the hall from me about 5 years ago. We are friendly neighbors and chat often. I notice few grammatical errors when she speaks, and her vocabulary is excellent. So, the learned/taught error really sticks out (to me). I take the approach with speakers of English as a foreign/2nd language that, unless they ask, I do not comment on grammar, etc. She has not asked. But, I think she might want to know about this (common) error.

So, do I tell her? I'd especially be interested in hearing from folks who use a foreign/2nd language in their daily lives.
posted by Pineapplicious to Human Relations (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Whether this is OK is really a matter of relationship and personality. For some people, being offered advice on a language they're not 100% fluent in will be welcome; for others, this could be seen as seriously insulting or condescending.

You can do it without making a 'thing' out of it. When she says 'I learned my son to tie his shoelaces', try to reply with something like "I can't remember who taught me to tie my shoelaces.", without placing any undue emphasis on the word. Maybe she'll pick up on it, maybe she won't. If she notices her mistake and corrects herself, perhaps you can inch towards having that conversation. But I wouldn't bring it up uninvited.
posted by pipeski at 6:24 AM on April 6 [9 favorites]


"I learned my son how to tie shoes"

"Oh that's nice! I loved teaching my kid to do that."
Or
"I remember learning that, my dad taught me."

Don't literally offer a correction, just model correct usage, same as with any language learner outside of formal instructional contexts.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:25 AM on April 6 [16 favorites]


I should have stated in my ask that I do model back the correct usage. Either she doesn't notice or it doesn't "stick" (cause language is hard!). I'm asking about being more direct (in a nice way)
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:29 AM on April 6


She has not asked.

I would leave it alone.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:32 AM on April 6 [58 favorites]


OK, this has happened to me with German and Italian and I have welcomed being corrected, but that doesn't really say anything about how she will feel.

Two incidents stand out in my mind: I was using what I thought was the German equivalent of an English word, and it was sort of a homophone. But, it sounded much harsher and more judgmental in German. So my friend said (in German), "In German that sounds a lot harsher." She was giving me a heads up that I was going to come across as a jerk if I kept saying that. She wasn't apologetic about telling me that; there were real stakes involved and I was nothing but appreciative.

In Italian, my Italian was just a mess and I was living in Rome. I would see the same guy every morning when I stopped by his coffee shop. He would say, "Your Italian is really getting better! But if you want to say that perfectly, you should say..." This was kind of a little skit we played out and it was fine.

I don't know, if you know enough about her other language(s) maybe you can sort of commiserate with her. English sucks to learn! I remember seeing a guy on a bus going, "I go, I went, I have gone?" Like WTF!
posted by BibiRose at 6:34 AM on April 6 [8 favorites]


Keep out of it, other than modeling the correct verbiage. (I'm a copy editor, so this is familiar to me wrt people's writing.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 6:34 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


"to learn" someone (as in "to teach") someone is still accepted/ informal usage in a lot of areas. Sure, she's probably not intentionally using the informal vocab, but the meaning is still 100% clear, which is the entire purpose of the word. Leave it alone.
posted by Think_Long at 6:35 AM on April 6 [16 favorites]


It's not on a daily basis, but I regularly interact with some folks in my social circle who have Spanish or French as their native language, and we will switch between English, French, and Spanish depending on the exact combinations of who's talking.

In our interactions, the only "language help" that seems to be proactively offered is in two situations:

- if someone is clearly struggling for a word, e.g. "the next step is to, uh, let the dough do the thing where the dough becomes bigger?" --> "ah you mean let it rise?" --> "yes!"
- when the language error is an offensive / embarrassing / pejorative / vulgar usage and the non-native speaker doesn't seem to be aware of that

We are closer than I think your neighbor and you are (i.e. we're friends, have traveled/rented houses together, gone out, etc.) and we still generally avoid language corrections except for the above two situations.

Basically I think it's all dependent on personality but in this situation, I'd skew conservative -- only correct if explicitly asked to correct.
posted by andrewesque at 6:35 AM on April 6 [12 favorites]


Now that I'm looking at other people's answers, I realize my situation was different because I had identified myself as a language learner while she has apparently not. Your position should be that her English is perfect. (If it's just a few words, she probably picked them up at an earlier stage of learning and she would have a hard time completely getting rid of them.)
posted by BibiRose at 6:39 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


You don't say which small European country; there are some where most people might find correction rude and others where it would be completely unremarkable. In general is she pretty forward by American standards (asking things like how old you are, how much you earn, how much you paid for something, things like that)? If so, I might take the chance. Just say it like it's no big thing.

If she's very proper and reticent, then probably not.

Personally, I get embarrassed when corrected but I still absolutely prefer to know. (And annoyingly, the embarrassment helps me remember better than I usually do otherwise.)

"to learn" someone (as in "to teach") someone is still accepted/ informal usage in a lot of areas.

The thing about this is that people judge you on your language, and this often affects how they treat you, what opportunities they give you, etc. Doubly so if you have a "foreign" accent. You know that "hidden curriculum" post on the blue? Hidden curricula are everywhere. So there is actual value in knowing what the standard, "correct" usage is, and what impression a non-standard usage is liable to give; and potential harm in not knowing. Might not be big enough to make the correction in this case, but it's not something you can pretend doesn't exist.
posted by trig at 6:40 AM on April 6 [6 favorites]


I'm from a small European country. I wish everyone would correct my English vocab immediately and matter of factly, I'd learn so much faster! That said, I signal that I appreciate corrections. I'll use a word I'm not certain of and look questioningly at the native speaker opposite me, and then if they correct me I'll enthusiastically use their suggestion. I've noticed that some people though not all will then more willingly step in if they hear me misuse a word.
If you're not gtting that kind of signal, it's better not to presume. Sometimes we all just want to get a sentence out any old how.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:40 AM on April 6 [12 favorites]


Here in my new Canadian-heavy neighbourhood, I don't believe it would be polite to correct a neighbour, unless the neighbour had specifically asked me.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:57 AM on April 6


ESL parents here, grew up among all their ESL friends. Leave it alone.

Some people are going to welcome a gentle correction. Some will not. But all ESL speakers are hyper-fucking-aware of their shortcomings in their second language, and a great many will be petrified of having their fears confirmed that they're doing it wrong. It is a very tender point, and you'd be poking right at it.

The point of language is communication. Have they communicated their idea to you successfully? You understand what they meant, so yes. That's all anyone needs.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:02 AM on April 6 [23 favorites]


I vote NO. Presumably she speaks fluent English in an English-speaking country; she’s not struggling for a word and expecting you to fill in the blank, or asking for grammar lessons.

Think about what you’d do if any of your neighbors who are native speakers of English misused a word—hopefully you wouldn’t say anything, because it would be rude to point out a shortcoming unsolicited, and it’s not your place to educate them. It’s really no less rude with her. In fact it sort of “others” or lowers her as someone in need of correction because of her status.

My best friend, who I’ve known for decades and with whom I have an extreme level of comfort and candor, is not a native English speaker. She has some consistent imperfect usages. But I would never point them out unless she were asking me to, e.g., review a resume.
posted by kapers at 7:17 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


If she has a son in mainstreamed American education, he'll correct her soon enough.

(Central-Eastern European ESL here, I welcome corrections - which tend to be pronunciation errors because I read more than I listen argh - but each time it's like someone pinching me. And yeah, it's a typical false friend error, in Polish "uczyć" (learn/teach) is the same transitive verb).
posted by I claim sanctuary at 7:19 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


To preface my answer, I stipulate that people will know what she means when she says this, so the primary function of language will be served in any case. What I'm about to say is more about the perception of her that will be created, which may or may not be important to her in whatever specific setting.

Does she have a noticeable accent that indicates she is speaking English likely learned not as a native speaker? I ask that because I think people's snap judgement about this error -- taught/learned -- is something that would elicit different reactions with/without a clear "foreign" accent.

If I heard one of my neighbors use that phrase (they are mostly WASPy native English speakers from a semi-rural environment), I might assume that they were "country" or that they hadn't fully connected with standard English in an educational environment.

If I heard someone with an obvious international accent use that phrase, I would think "Damn, this person speaks a WHOLE SECOND LANGUAGE so well, way better than I possibly could, that one mistake is probably some quirk of how the word translates from his/her native language." And then I would probably feel bad for a minute about taking French for so many years in HS/college and still not being able to hold a conversation.

If people can understand your neighbor, and the situation is such that it's understood she is speaking in a second language, there's probably no reason to have an unprompted vocab lesson beyond modeling the correct usage, as you are doing.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:40 AM on April 6


I should have stated in my ask that I do model back the correct usage. Either she doesn't notice or it doesn't "stick" (cause language is hard!). I'm asking about being more direct (in a nice way)
This is really common among people who have been learning a second language for a long time! It's "fossilization" when you mislearn a grammar point, or overgeneralize from your first language, and then... it gets stuck that way.

Often these are grammar points that they know, but don't know well enough to implement in real-time, especially in casual conversation where they're focused on just communicating more than on saying things correctly. Speakers in this kind of situation often do just fine on tests (when they're focusing on the form) or essays (when they have time to proofread).

Sometimes, it's that the difference between the two verbs isn't something they ever really noticed - because of that false-friend error that I claim sanctuary pointed out above, and because it's really not obvious that "taught" should be the past tense of "teach" - at least, not noticed well enough to consciously pay attention to the difference.

From a linguistic perspective, I think it can be helpful to point out the second kind of error, but not the first. From a social perspective, of course, the answer may be completely different! But in general, I prefer not to correct people because very often they know the correct way to say something, but won't get it right unless they're really being careful and paying attention, and getting nervous and self-conscious and paying a lot of attention to getting it right is worse for your overall language competence than just going on saying "learned" for "taught."

(Disclaimer: I've studied linguistics but am not a Real Linguist!)
posted by Jeanne at 7:51 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]


If you're asking on an Internet forum, you don't know them well enough to do this.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:58 AM on April 6 [5 favorites]


the reason I vote "don't say anything" is that you have already been modeling the correct term and she hasn't picked it up, despite being generally fluent.

This suggests to me that getting rid of any lingering usage errors is not a high priority for her. If she had shown you in word or deed that she was anxious to avoid any usage errors, then I'd suggest just casually saying "it's usually 'taught'." But it doesn't sound like it's hugely important to her, so why risk the embarrassment?
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:29 AM on April 6


Please don't correct this. It's literally univited and would be rude.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:31 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I don't even think this is a language learning issue. This is an unsolicited advice issue.

It's not a good idea to give unsolicited advice to someone you're not close to unless they're either visibly suffering in ways you can relieve or else unknowingly endangering themself. And talking differently than you do doesn't count as either of those things.

You might think they should be suffering. Maybe you think they really ought to be feeling sad, ashamed, discouraged, or some other way about their grammar. But those are your reactions. You have no reason to believe they actually do feel that way. And even if they were, you wouldn't know that pointing out their errors would fix it. In fact, as others are pointing out, it would be quite likely to do the opposite and leave them feeling more sad, ashamed, and discouraged. If you're not sure they're really suffering and it's really fixable, leave it alone.

You might worry that they are endangering themself. Maybe you're afraid they'll face bigotry for talking differently than you do. Well, maybe so. But surely they aren't doing it unknowingly. They know far better than you what bigotry they face in your country. In this respect, they're not like an inexperienced swimmer who needs your unsolicited safety advice to keep from drowning. They're like a big wave surfer who's spent years swimming through water conditions you can only imagine. Yeah, they're doing things that would scare you, but they don't need you to flag them down and point that out.

If, at some point, your neighbor is visibly suffering in ways you can easily relieve (like, talking openly to you about an interaction that keeps going badly where picking a better word would be enough to make it go better) or unknowingly endangering themself (like, taking a dangerously wrong dose of a medication because they couldn't understand the label), then you should speak up without being asked. Not before.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:37 AM on April 6 [4 favorites]


"I take the approach with speakers of English as a foreign/2nd language that, unless they ask, I do not comment on grammar, etc."

This is the way.
posted by nathanfhtagn at 9:06 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


is your friend from Denmark? I ask because "at lære" is used in danish for both "to learn" and "to teach" - so this is what I immediately thought of, and is a common english phrasing I have heard from danes speaking english. Do they also use "that's funny", when a native english speaker would say "that's interesting"?

Anyway, to your question, although a person might come from a culture where they are mainly straightforward with one another (like Denmark, for example), this may not apply to this specific individual, so I would advise discretion. I am the type that would gladly accept correction even from just acquaintances or well-meaning strangers, not everyone is like this. If you ever get to the point where you are directly invited to help, then please do so.
posted by alchemist at 9:19 AM on April 6


Is your neighbor gainfully employed and generally functioning well in US society? Than yeah, I'd just let this slide. If it ever came up at her work, this one little mistake is very unlikely to get her fired (it could potentially look bad in a job interview though).

In graduate school I had a number of friends for whom English was a second language. If they made a mistake, I'd kindly correct them. The first time I'd do this I'd preface it with "I hope you don't mind me correcting you but I figured you'd want to know that..." and this always went over well. But crucially this was in a context where we were all learning/helping each other navigate academia, which was new and stressful to all of us. And we all knew that eventually we'd need to be able to interview for jobs, where little mistakes can lead to significant judgement.

But again, from your description your neighbor seems to be doing fine in the US, so your correction is more likely to come off as judgement than genuine help.
posted by coffeecat at 10:30 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Yikes, no.

I think you are coming from a place of wanting to help her, rather than judging her and feeling like you are entitled to "good English" from her.

The problem is that there are a lot of people out there who feel entitled to "good English." It can be tiresome to move through the world knowing that your language is open to judgment, to criticism and correction, and so on. People can have very little empathy for language learners. Even the genuinely helpful ones often think that their advice is more important than it is. You're moving through your day, and you say "le" instead of "la" - okay, thanks for the correction, but in the scheme of things, I was still perfectly understandable and I just wanted to buy a courgette.

I think nebulawindphone makes a really good point,

Maybe you think they really ought to be feeling sad, ashamed, discouraged, or some other way about their grammar.

Like, if you are anything like me you were raised to think that "good grammar" was some kind of moral imperative. This is really common in countries where there exists a standard language (official or not) and your ability to use it becomes a proxy for judging your class, your ethnicity, and so on. "Good grammar" becomes a thing you do - a mark of social status. "Bad grammar" becomes offensive because it is associated with things that are low class, foreign, and so on.

So correcting people also becomes a sort of imperative.

But not everyone feels that way. And it's not the same in every country or for every language. It is extremely possible not to care about your grammar in casual interactions as long as you are understandable. And that's fine! In fact, it can be a pretty healthy attitude to cultivate, depending on how self-conscious you feel about your language.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:57 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


I am a fluent, but (obviously) non-native speaker in a certain European country. My old job included writing technical legal reports and my boss complimented me several times on the fact that my rapports often had less grammatical mistakes than my native coworkers.

I love language and I love learning about grammar but I generally don't appreciate it when someone corrects me in casual conversation when my meaning is perfectly clear. Often I hear the mistake coming out of my mouth but it is too late and it is just tiring to have it flagged when I am just trying to tell you that I learned my son to tie his shoes! (Also, native speakers get away with "incorrect" or "different" usage, why can't I?!?). Only correct her if she asks you to do so.
posted by Blissful at 11:33 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]


I teach English overseas in a context where people take English extremely seriously because English is a gateway to power, respect and the exam scores you need to emigrate or get promoted at work. Achievement in English, as others have said above, is absolutely a marker of social status, even if what is perceived as good English here still marks you as foreign when you go somewhere where English dominates. Because protecting this status and improving people's English abilities is what I'm employed to do, I do feel a responsibility to correct errors.

In the classroom, I make an effort to explicitly check that people are saying what they mean to say. This can sound quite, well, teacher-y, and I think other posters are right in saying that you want to avoid taking that pathway here.

But outside the classroom, I'm a lot less direct with people I speak to for whom English isn't a first language. In fact, I never, ever correct people I know and am social with as if we were in class if I am even remotely aware of what they meant. Only in cases where I think I have genuinely misunderstood the main content or direction of what someone's saying do I quickly ask if I've understood. In your case, perhaps this looks something like this:

[you both are talking about her kid's week at school]
Her: [tells you something about how the kids at her son's school are teaching something instead of learning something]
You: "Wait, so are the kids teaching each other, like tutoring buddies? I don't remember that from the last time we talked about his class.
Her: [responds that he's learning, not teaching]
You: "Ah, got it - I definitely don't remember that from [your own kid's] class."
[conversation continues]


So, if:

- it comes up in normal conversation
- you are genuinely confused
- you ask for clarification because you need to understand to respond
- you quickly move on with the rest of the conversation

...then I say try it.

Finally, if you're at all worried about not being close enough to her to do this: I would go back to your description of her English as "quite good", which I noticed you chose instead of "excellent" or "fantastic". She may indeed be used to having people ask what she means all the time, people with far less grace and care than you are taking here. I think she may indeed appreciate it.
posted by mdonley at 11:56 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


This is a really common one, I hear it all the time especially from Europeans speaking english, to the point where it kind of charms me as the regional English one hears in Europe. Another one that comes to mind is borrow vs lend e.g. "She borrowed me her car".

The fact that English is spoken imperfectly so often because so many non native speakers use it is a feature, not a bug!
posted by internet of pillows at 1:55 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I'd like to push back on the whole 'the primary function is to get meaning across' as the main yardstick. People 120% do judge other people's intelligence, personality and general worth based on their ability in whatever language they're speaking. If the neighbor wants to be taken seriously in an English speaking country, avoiding this kind of mistakes is crucial.
I'd ask her, nicely, 'hey your English is great, but you make some small mistakes sometimes. I usually don't say anything because I always understand what you mean anyway, but if you want I could let you know when you do make said small mistakes' or something.
This coming from somebody for whom English is a second language and who's lived in the U.S., I absolutely would want somebody to have pointed this sort of thing out to me, the same way I'd want a friend to let me know I have toilet paper on my shoe.
posted by signal at 2:00 PM on April 6 [2 favorites]


internet of pillows: This is a really common one, I hear it all the time especially from Europeans speaking english, to the point where it kind of charms me as the regional English one hears in Europe. Another one that comes to mind is borrow vs lend e.g. "She borrowed me her car".

That is probably because many languages use the same word for these two different things. In Dutch, both 'to teach' and 'to learn' are leren; both 'to borrow' and 'to lend' are lenen. It's a distinction that we are not used to making, just like English speakers are not used to making the distinction between 'het' and 'de' (=the) and between 'je' (=you, singular) and 'jullie' (=you, plural).

That said: as a non-native speaker of English, I'm not keen on being corrected when I'm just having a conversation. It breaks the flow. But if I make a mistake consistently, I don't mind a gentle correction, being offered with good timing so it doesn't ruin the conversation we are having, and only once.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:18 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Have some conversations with her about her past / current experience learning English and what she thinks of its idiosyncrasies; if the chance arises ask her about the idiosyncrasies of her language. Chatting about idiomatic sayings (e.g. "don't count your chickens..." etc.) is my number one inroad to a friendly, non-pressured language conversation with intermediate or higher level English learners.

Once you've shown interest in her experience of English and the process of learning it, you'll probably find the chance to mention this specific error comes up sooner or later very naturally. But don't stop there; friendly highlighting of understanding, surprise, incomprehension and correction all have their place in a useful interaction between a learner and a native speaker. You just have to establish that context of you being non-judgmentally interested and (casually, of course) invested in her learning journey.

It's also worth highlighting that there comes a point when a learner gets good enough in the target language that the volume of correction fed in by native speakers drops off massively, because (as many have highlighted above) a sufficient degree of communicative efficiency has been established. Conversation proceeds quickly enough that context switching into verification (learner) / correction (native speaker) modes takes a lot more effort. For a lot of learners this is actually pretty frustrating point, and it can be easy to hit a long "good enough" plateau at this point. Native speakers who make the effort to help are doing a hard job themselves, and most learners realise this quite instinctively.

Source: English mother-tongue; English as a foreign language teacher; (now) fluent non-native speaker living in France for 15+ years.
posted by protorp at 2:57 PM on April 6


I think you should follow Badger's advice from The Wind in the Willows:
"Don't say 'learn 'em,' Toad," said the Rat, greatly shocked. "It's not good English."

"What are you always nagging at Toad for?" inquired the Badger, rather peevishly. "What's the matter with his English? It's the same what I use myself, and if it's good enough for me, it ought to be good enough for you!"

"I'm very sorry," said the Rat humbly. "Only I think it ought to be 'teach 'em,' not 'learn 'em.'"

"But we don't want to teach 'em," replied the Badger. "We want to learn 'em — learn 'em, learn 'em! And what's more, we're going to do it, too!"
Be more Badger.
posted by verstegan at 3:34 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


English is my husband's second language, and I have corrected his grammar because he has asked me to/demonstrated that he is interested in that type of feedback. We have a lot of friends who also speak English as a second language and I have never offered a correction unless asked or I truly couldn't follow what they were trying to communicate (and even then I ask "is this what you mean" more than say "you mean this"); to me, it's rude. I'm not certain that it would be taken that way, but I'd feel like it was an overstep. I also think it'd be easy to slide down the slippery slope of wanting to be helpful but not being able to stop correcting the other person, making each conversation feel like an oral exam.

On the flip side, English is my first language and I don't mind being corrected in my second language, because I am still in a mode of learning and I am definitely signalling that I'm open to that. I also think that it flags less harsh/judgemental to correct someone in a language where they are clearly not fluent.
posted by sm1tten at 5:27 PM on April 6


Tell her exactly what she's doing wrong and watch the relationship freeze just that little bit that you know is never going to unfreeze.

That'll learn ya.
posted by flabdablet at 9:24 PM on April 6 [3 favorites]


A little less snarkily: "to cause to acquire knowledge; to instruct in; teach" is a recognized, if nonstandard, meaning for "learn". To my ear, it's in the same class of vaguely broken idiomatic usage as "literally" for "extremely" and "I could care less" to mean that I could not, in fact, care less.

English as she is spoke has never been as prescriptively defined as most people seem to think it ought to be. Grant your neighbour her poetic licence.
posted by flabdablet at 10:04 PM on April 6 [1 favorite]


I know this isn't the place to start anything, but saying 'the point of language is to communicate meaning' is like saying 'the point of food is to ingest sufficient nutrients as to not die'.
Superficially true, but very reductive and dismissive of a lot of human, social, political, etc., interaction and nuance, especially in regards to asymmetric relationships among groups with different social capital and perceived prestige.
posted by signal at 8:27 AM on April 7


Nah, I'd for sure definitely leave her alone about it. In fact, she may be one step ahead of you, per the following excerpt from merriam-webster.com:

'Teach 'em' or 'Learn 'em'?
When did 'learn' stop meaning "to teach?"

WHAT TO KNOW
We do offer a definition of “teach” for learn, although it is labeled nonstandard and tends to be used in an intentionally informal manner.

Once upon a time it was entirely normal to use learn with the meaning of “to teach,” or “to inform of something.” All the cool writers did it: William Shakespeare, Noah Webster, Goffe Thomas (we are stretching the boundaries of what might be considered a cool writer just a touch).

Strophius: Remember Clytemnestra, he's your sonne. Clytemnestra: He is so, and I'll learne him to be so.
— Goffe Thmoas, The Tragedy of Orestes, 1633

Sweet prince, you’ll learn me noble thankfulness.
— William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing 1599

I have far too much pride to stand indebted to Great Britain for books to learn our children the letters of the alphabet.
— Noah Webster, (letter) Weekly Monitor, 15 Feb. 1785

posted by SageTrail at 10:53 PM on April 7 [1 favorite]


I'm fluent in Portuguese, but even after 25 years of speaking it, I still phrase things awkwardly sometimes, and sometimes I really mess up word choice. The situations that are the most frustrating to me in Brazil are those in which I know the right way to say things, but in the heat of the moment of conversation, I don't always string them together right. When someone corrects me in these cases, assuming that I don't know a simple grammatical thing, it is hard to take.

That said, I have an inner circle of friends I am really close to that can correct me. They know me well enough to sift out the things that I know but mess up under duress, versus the things I learned wrong or actually don't know.
posted by umbú at 9:33 AM on April 9


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