How to Correct Others

K. T.   Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:00 am GMT
I don't think we can learn unless we are able to figure out what we've been saying or doing wrong in another language we're learning. I don't mind if someone corrects me. It's better to know the right way to say something, imo. Some people hate to be corrected, though. I've noticed that some people will correct you more than others.

French speakers: Will correct you (good).
Spanish speakers: Will correct you some of the time. Very encouraging.
Japanese speakers: Won't correct you enough (imo).
German speakers: I don't remember them correcting me. Maybe I don't take enough risks in German.

What's your experience on being corrected? Like it? Hate it?
imho   Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:04 am GMT
English speakers: Would rather die than correct you. Anyone other than a professional English tutor would consider it a sin akin to farting in someone's face.
Lief   Wed Apr 29, 2009 4:52 am GMT
I would only correct someone in these types of situation:

1) He/she is trying really hard to speak English and wants feedback the entire time.

2) What he/she is saying is considered a faux pas and would embarrass him/her if many people heard it.

Otherwise, I don't like to correct others' grammar unless it's my family and even then, I don't do it that often. I think too much correcting is rude and pretentious.
Eddy   Wed Apr 29, 2009 7:26 am GMT
You correct them in a subtle way. For example:

Learner "I eat the apple already".

Tutor "Oh, you ate it already"
J.C.   Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:10 am GMT
Interesting topic and also tricky to reply...
From the languages quoted by K.T I have the following opinion:

French speakers: I haven't met many but they don't have anything to correct in my very simple French :)

Spanish speakers: Either I speak a very good portuñol or people I've met don't think my mistakes are too messy to correct me.

Japanese speakers: They NEVER correct you and freak out when you get a level that is close to theirs.

German speakers: correct you right away, which forces me to keep the genders and declensions under my fingers.

Chinese speakers: When they can get my tone right they say they don't speak English!! :D
I remember asking a dude in Beijing how to get to the 颐和园 park and said 我怎么去到颐和园? just to hear the answer: 我不会英文。。。

Dutch speakers: Don't speak in German!!! Or at least they'll tell me I shouldn't pronounce words like in German...
I got sick of hearing "Duits is geen nederlands"...

Since I teach Portuguese for foreigners I correct people only when their mistakes can cost them a nasty misunderstanding or be rude. As for the way of correcting I enjoyed Eddy's method. I wish I had people around me who corrected me without making me feel embarrassed.

Paul   Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:57 pm GMT
<<English speakers: Would rather die than correct you. Anyone other than a professional English tutor would consider it a sin akin to farting in someone's face. >>

This is why people go on speaking broken english for 20+ years; they internalize their bad english, since nobody would dare to correct them.

We need to change this culture, because it is not conducive to language learning.
Xie   Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:50 pm GMT
These days I'm also correcting the German of foreigners too...

In practice, I don't ask for corrections. I only ask for new words or explanations. In practice, I get corrections automatically (through speaking). I don't have to know how to be correct at all. My experience now shows that... there exists a student world, where I should learn correct forms on my own or with a native-speaking teacher, or a native speaker who can correct as far as possible. But for pronunciation, for example, usually native speakers won't notice that at all. They just say it, not study phonetics. For this reason, as independent beings (adults), I think I'm supposed to learn correct forms and monitor my own grammar, even when speaking. But in the real world, most native speakers don't know how to correct others, or dare to, or bother to. Unless you know a native speaker so well that... s/he can have the right to correct you all the time, otherwise the role of a caretaker speaker is rather limited. Suppose if you have a native-speaking date... you spend far more time on the relationship, not how to say something correctly. In an adult world, native speakers, most of them, don't expect at all if you might eventually speak just like them. They know (think) you won't, anyway. That's not like parents who will eventually, through day-to-day exposure for years, teach their children their native language COMPLETELY.
Xie   Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:58 pm GMT
I also mean that I don't have the need to ask for corrections. Most of the time I simply have already filtered my language, making it perfectly transparent to understand. When I speak to Germans or German learners, sometimes I just ask for clarifications by repeating what they say. (I do this too in Cantonese)

Unfortunately, as long as there's still not a caretaker speaker, I know my German is still flawed. I can make myself understood most of the time, even though I can't express really complicated ideas. But the downside is, as soon as they find my German to be so clear (accent), they start to speak really quickly, without considering that I don't understand everything at all. Sometimes they do admit that, but they still speak with a lot of verbs I don't really know. In many cases, even worse, when they give up and switch to English instead, I can't understand their English.

With such reasoning, I strongly believe that caretakers can be very hard to meet. Without caretakers, other native speakers simply won't bother... simply because you wouldn't bother, too, in normal situations. Like if you want to buy something, you wouldn't probably dwell on correct forms, but on meanings only. In many cases, even minimal understanding will still do, and there you are, you just won't learn at all.
Rahela   Thu Apr 30, 2009 12:53 am GMT
If not explicitly asked to correct somebody, I don't bother to do it even if they speak/write terribly; in the other hand, if I'm asked to do it, I'm rather strict (in a good way :D) - I correct everything right away, from pronunciation to verb tenses, and correct again and again, as long as it takes.

I personally appreciate being corrected, and I ask for it. I don't find it embarrassing, I think of it as an opportunity to learn and not to reinforce the mistakes I make.

It all depends on how well and why you want to learn a language. If you simply want to be understood then nitpicking about the details won't help you as much as it'll irritate you; if you want an academic-level competence in the language, then you probably want to be corrected a lot since you're basically trying to reach the level of an educated native speaker.
Ted   Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:06 am GMT
the day after tomorrow

This is very bad English.