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Thread: Be honest!

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    Default Be honest!

    I just reacted to a message from a person from Belgium whose mother tongue is Dutch ('Hollandish'). I responded in English, since that's DD's linguistic vehicle. But it felt rather silly, since Dutch speaking people are used to communicate with each other in Dutch, not in English.
    Now, this raises a question. I sometimes have the feeling that (English speaking) people reading a message formulated in poor English by a person whose mother tongue is not English confuse the (poor) English fluency of the person in question with his / her dignity/intelligence. Am I wrong? What's your immediate reaction to a person expressing himself / herself in funny English? Be honest!
    Just curious (again: be honest!),
    Arie.

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    My gut reaction is that they're stupid and/or lazy. However, if I can also tell that they're not native speakers, I try my best not to let my gut reaction rule me. Sometimes though I find that a person is rude and/or demanding regardless of their command of English. If someone like that happens to be a non-native English person, it's confusing. Are they coming across that way because of their poor command of the language? Or is it just how they are? Usually, I think it's just how they are. I've seen many non-native English people here who are very polite.

    BTW Arie, we usually discourage folks from communicating in other languages than English here. However, I think I saw the thread you're talking about, before you responded. It's still probably better to stick to English. But I certainly would let it slide if you typed in Dutch to that person. I would hope other mods and ddadmin would feel the same. They probably would. You've been around here long enough to have earned that privilege. The best thing, though it would be more work, would be to do it in both languages. That way the person you're helping would probably get a clearer idea of the solution, and other's on the board who don't know Dutch could benefit as well. Unless of course, you already covered it in English (I realize it's a long thread). Then a Dutch only response would be entirely appropriate. And as I say, since it's you, I don't think anyone would mind it anyway. Someone else could always ask for an English version if they thought it would be of use to them.
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    I can usually tell the difference between people who are
    a) not fluent in English
    b) reasonably fluent in English, but
    being lazy, and/or
    using the language barrier as an excuse to be arrogant or rude, and/or
    purposely using absurd writing styles (e.g., 13375p33k)
    c) simply cannot from coherent thoughts, in their native tongue or otherwise.

    In any case, I'd agree that English should be used in all conversations on Dynamic Drive.

    As John hinted at, this wouldn't be meant to exclude anyone, but to be as inclusive as possible. I would encourage anyone who is multilingual to help out and translate (post in both languages) for anyone with a legitimate language barrier.

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    My post is in many ways similar to John's.

    As a linguist, I'm far from the normal person to respond. But certainly before I studied linguistics, I would have (sometimes) had a sense that the person was unintelligent-- I'd usually know that's not literally the case, but it could still have felt that way. But in general a lot of people do feel that way (something that I think is unfortunate now that I know quite a bit about the subject and have been in that position myself in a handful of other languages). While I hate to say it, the stereotype about Americans can be true-- but I emphasize, not all of us! And it may be unrelated to English as a world language, though that's hard to say. Given that English speakers tend to not need to learn other languages (it's usually useful for speakers of other languages to learn English for financial reasons, for better or worse), that may contribute to the relative isolation of English speakers. I know I spend a lot of time trying to break out of just speaking English, and that's tough (since I got a late start, and there's of course limited time).

    Regarding policy on the site, there are two points:

    1) This is an English forum. I don't go to Japanese or Swedish forums and ask questions in my very limited version of those languages. In the same sense, if someone truly cannot communicate in English, then I don't think we have any obligation to help them or try to guess what they mean, either posting completely nonsensical strings or words or cutting and pasting from Google Translate. If it's reasonable to help them, I will. But if it's just not reasonable, I don't think it's our problem. That's a somewhat harsher stance than I'd prefer, but I don't see a good alternative. In short, I expect posters here to be able to communicate what they need to ask in English. In the event that they happen to find another member who can help them anyway, that's fine, but that's the exception, not the rule.

    2) The purpose of posting is for communication for everyone. Everyone can help to answer the question reliably and quickly, and everyone can benefit from the answer and discussion. This is the reason that we don't allow requests of "please email me the answer when you solve it" and discourage general discussions by PM. For that same reason, it is somewhat odd to have a conversation in a different language-- although you two share it, the rest of us do not. You're welcome to communicate in Dutch by PM, and of course that would make sense. But when you're speaking in front of an audience (we may often forget that, but this is public, visible to everyone, with our shared language of English), I think it is more appropriate to stick to English. Some extra thoughts:
    --I have no objection to you having casual greetings in Dutch in the posts (and I've done the same); if the rest of us can probably guess what it says and it's not part of the technical content, there's no problem I don't think.
    --If you need to use Dutch to help communication (perhaps to translate a tricky term), that's fine too! (In theory, we could gloss all of our posts with translations into various languages).
    --In general, the content should be clear from the English alone.

    I have in the past found cases where communication was extremely difficult in English. In those cases I've attempted to have a bilingual conversation-- always in English, but also with a translation. If a user is truly having severe difficulties with English, I'd even encourage them to write their original post in their native language (and at worst we could use Google translate to get some idea), along with their best guess about the English. The result is that less is lost in translation and if someone is around who happens to speak that language they can help.


    So in short, it's best that you speak in English-- for the rest of us, not for you. If the two of you get really involved in a discussion that no one else is participating in, I don't think I'd try to stop you from speaking Dutch, but it would mean that the rest of us would not benefit from it. If you want, feel free to post in both Dutch and English. Or, perhaps a little easier for you to type, include an English summary of messages in Dutch (or the reverse).


    Given limited resources, it's best to use what we share-- English. Beyond that (in some alternate DD full of many speakers of all languages) I'd have no objection to using various languages, except to the degree it might limit inter-communication. Regardless, here that's not the situation. I hope that makes sense.




    For the record, there's also an unofficial policy: if a post is not in English, not from an established user, and is completely unintelligible to the mods*, it is considered spam. The same applies to anything that is spam, in English or any other languages, of course. Anything that seems on topic would be dealt with as necessary, probably by requesting that they re-post in English.
    (*By "mods" I often mean me, and I usually at least figure out what language it is in, if for nothing else than to amuse myself, and if at that point it still cannot be identified as related to web design, I delete it as spam. I do mean "completely unintelligible", though-- I'll try Google Translate, or something else if it's not on there, at least.)
    On the other hand, I can't remember a post that was not clearly spam (eg, commercial links) or, on rare occasions, clearly on topic (if in another language). It might take me a minute or two, but I've never been unsure about a post when I delete it. Sometimes I still have no idea what it actually says, but it's obviously not about web design and probably just random spam text.
    Daniel - Freelance Web Design | <?php?> | <html>| espa˝ol | Deutsch | italiano | portuguŕs | catalÓ | un peu de franšais | some knowledge of several other languages: I can sometimes help translate here on DD | Linguistics Forum

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    Thanks for your honesty folks.
    I've often noticed that Dutch speaking people tend to express themselves in a 'blunt' way when they (try to) speak a foreign language (English, French...). Most of the time, the reason is not bluntness but poor command of the language-specific means to express politeness.
    For instance, in English and French, politeness is often expressed by the use of the conditional mode (could you pass me the butter / pourriez-vous me passer le beurre?). While this is also possible in Dutch, it's less frequent, which has probably to do with another Dutch way of expressing politeness: using 'modal particles', words that loose their normal meaning in sentences that are ment to be polite. For instance, you can say, being polite: 'wil je me de boter even geven?' ('will you me the butter FOR A SHORT MOMENT pass?'), 'ga eens even zitten' ('sit ONCE FOR A SHORT MOMENT down'), etc.
    So a speaker of Dutch who does not instantly know how to politely express himself / herself in English or French using the conditional mode will not use that mode but the 'normal' indicative mode. And since he/she may have the vague feeling that modal particles hardly exist in English or French, he/she might say 'pass me the butter' or 'sit down' without having the intention of being rude. (Well, most Dutch speaking people would add 'please', just to be sure).
    Add to all of this the feeling of many speakers of Dutch that a direct way of talking to a person has more 'warmth' than an indirect way (often felt as 'cold', 'reserved'), and there you have the result: a blunt person who is not being blunt after all.

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    I don't think any of the non-native English users here whom I thought were rude had Dutch as their main language, certainly not you, Arie. Even in our few disagreements I thought you were civil about it. I do see your point though. And I suppose it could be true of any language. If you don't know it, it could be hard to be polite in it. By rude though I mean continual demands beyond the initial request once it's fulfilled and an apparent expectation that all will be done and in a prompt fashion, without regard to the realities of coding, neither the time involved nor the constraints of what browsers will allow, even when these are explained. Sometimes native English speakers do this as well, as I previously mentioned. I don't like it then either. When a non-native English poster does it, do you think it is or could be a language barrier?
    - John
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    Usually the rudeness (or at least the kind that bothers me) is when they expect more than is reasonable. The language barrier can make it a little more confusing, but beyond that, it's pretty clear that it has nothing to do with language.

    As for politeness in other languages, I know exactly what you mean. I don't think I'll ever master the t˙/usted (tu/vous) distinction in Spanish-- I often rely on usted to be extra formal, but then I get the feeling that my friends (or somewhat close acquaintances) think I'm being distant. It's easy enough to know the "most polite" ways to speak (or at least it's possible), but being extra polite can have the wrong effect sometimes. If you always spoke in the conditional in English you'd sound archaic and perhaps a little stuck up. But I've never noticed any particular difficult from Dutch speakers of English; in fact, I've found it to be the opposite. (On the other hand, I personally prefer direct communication rather than focusing on politeness. I often skip it myself, although I have a strong command of it if the situation demands it-- such as writing a letter to an authority figure where I want to emphasize the politeness. But that's relatively rare.)

    There's some interesting evidence out there that the more competent someone is at something, the more they question their abilities in it. I'm thinking about a survey of employees, finding that those with the most self-confidence were rated the lowest by their peers, and those with the highest peer-ratings questioned themselves the most. I'm pretty sure the same applies to language. Or at least in some sense-- I know that I'm exceptionally hard on myself (although I am certainly not fluent/perfect in any of my non-English languages), probably more than someone who knew a lot less about linguistics.
    Daniel - Freelance Web Design | <?php?> | <html>| espa˝ol | Deutsch | italiano | portuguŕs | catalÓ | un peu de franšais | some knowledge of several other languages: I can sometimes help translate here on DD | Linguistics Forum

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    I am married to a Greek woman, her mother lives with us in an in law apt, and she only speaks Greek. I can understand Greek, speaking it back is OK but sometimes I mess up on the proper placement of the nouns and verbs.

    I've been over to Europe a few times and notice that most Americans seems to want to speak English overseas, and have other groups speak English when they come here.

    I have many thoughts on this, but that's enough for now..

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    Quote Originally Posted by jscheuer1 View Post
    By rude though I mean continual demands beyond the initial request once it's fulfilled and an apparent expectation that all will be done and in a prompt fashion, without regard to the realities of coding, neither the time involved nor the constraints of what browsers will allow, even when these are explained. Sometimes native English speakers do this as well, as I previously mentioned. I don't like it then either. When a non-native English poster does it, do you think it is or could be a language barrier?
    Quote Originally Posted by djr33 View Post
    Usually the rudeness (or at least the kind that bothers me) is when they expect more than is reasonable. The language barrier can make it a little more confusing, but beyond that, it's pretty clear that it has nothing to do with language.
    Well, in certain cases (I don't remember which ones) I had the impression that the perseverence of the poster might have to do with his / her not quite understanding the response of the person who helped him / her. But I'm not sure.
    Quote Originally Posted by djr33 View Post
    There's some interesting evidence out there that the more competent someone is at something, the more they question their abilities in it. I'm thinking about a survey of employees, finding that those with the most self-confidence were rated the lowest by their peers, and those with the highest peer-ratings questioned themselves the most.
    Yes, be assertive in what you know you're capable of, and modest in what you know others can do better. And that requires that you know yourself. Assertiveness coaches (quite popular nowadays) should think about that.

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