A Monolingual’s Apology
Being on the receiving end of a multitude of French conversations that I don’t understand has taught me a lot about the best way to talk to someone who is learning a new language. I now know that I did a really terrible job at this for the first forty years of my life.
To all the non-native-English speakers that I have ever talked to in English: I am sorry.
I am sorry for talking so quickly. Believe it or not, that speed actually was me trying to talk slower than I usually do. I now know that it wasn’t anywhere close to comprehensible. From now on, I will do better. I. Will. Put. Separations. Between. Each. Word. I. Say.
I am sorry for making jokes and laughing. It wasn’t that I meant to be rude, it was just my way of trying to make you feel comfortable. I realize now that jokes are almost impossible to get when you’re just learning a language, and that the laughing probably made you feel more uncomfortable than anything else I could have done.
I am sorry for using more words when you didn’t understand the first time. When I talk English that works. Now I know that it helps to have a phrase repeated exactly the same way – maybe even a couple of times.
I am sorry for treating our social interaction as a “learning opportunity” for you. I only meant to be kind, not pressure you to talk correctly when just stringing together a noun and a verb that makes sense is an enormous mental effort.
I am sorry for not giving you time to think. I assumed those pauses meant you had nothing you wanted to say. I will keep quiet more so you can search your brain for those words that are just out of reach in the moment.
I am sorry for using polysyllabic words when a simple word would have worked. That really is the way I talk. It didn’t occur to me that you were more likely to understand “good” and “bad” then “magnificent” or “disturbing”.
I am sorry, and I will do better from now on.