So there I was, minding other people’s business, casually scrolling through my news feed on Facebook. Cousin has updated her profile picture again today, touchy-feely philosophical questions posed by friends, commentary on Paul Ryan, pictures of grandparents, links to funny Ellen clips on Youtube. You know, the usual. Then I saw an acquaintance of mine in a picture with a group of people that apparently makes up her Spanish class. The lessons are given by two young women (Americans), and they meet in places like Panera. So far so good. I was encouraged to see this dissemination of the Spanish language in my town. The students–six adults–all beamed at the camera, so happy and eager to learn. Wonderful, wonderful. I’m a big fan of these kinds of things. I was tipping my hat to these two fine women who are providing such an inestimable service to our city when, mid-tip, my eyes alighted on something ghastly. The music stopped; the party was over. Read these words and just try to imagine the violent effect produced on me.
My awesome small group Spanish-conversational class! Tenemos mucho divertido juntos :)
Tenemos mucho divertido juntos? Tenemos mucho divertido juntos? What is that? It sure ain’t Spanish, I can tell you that. If one of those winsome students had written that, I would never say a thing. It’s a totally understandable mistake. This was written by one of the teachers, though, teachers who charge no less than 40 bucks an hour for private lessons. This kind of egregious mistake from teaching professionals is wholly inexcusable in my book. “We have a lot of amusing together”–it makes zero sense. It’s not even a literal translation of “We have a lot of fun together” from English. That, although also wrong, would at least be logical. No, this was the most illogical construction I’d ever seen. It came from flat-out not knowing . . . and being blissfully unaware of just how much this person didn’t know. I don’t care if you grew up in Latin America. (Missions work) I don’t care if you got a degree in Spanish. I was not impressed, and I was certainly not amused. What to do?
1. Leave a really snarky comment disparaging the purported Spanish fluency of this teacher to shame her. Maybe write it in Spanish to vaunt my superiority and shield it from the understanding of her students. Keep checking Facebook every five minutes to eventually find my comment deleted and the caption slyly changed to Tenemos mucho diversión juntos.
2. Write them a private message as a concerned do-gooder. Excuse me, we don’t know each other, but . . . I just thought you’d want to know . . . this isn’t exactly the best kind of advertising for your services . . . I’m sure your Spanish is otherwise most excellent . . . Very respectfully yours, VB.
3. Do nothing at all. Lose sleep, take a little opium for my nerves, blog about it.
What would you do? What do you do?
I can’t stand to be wrong where Spanish is concerned. That is, I can’t stand to make mistakes and not realize it. I love to be proved wrong, though, and the second that someone points out to me that I’ve made a mistake, I reform myself and, voilà!, my Spanish instantly improves. If you ever correct my Spanish, you will become my dearest friend. I will make a ridiculous scene about it, getting down on my knees to kiss your feet, blubbering grateful tears like a maniac, bringing you little gifts “just because” for years to follow. I beg people to correct my Spanish. You will never see me put up a fight, never witness me argue with you and try to tell you “but I’ve been saying it this way forever and no one ever says anything!”, never observe anything even resembling pride or stubbornness in me. I’m the humblest Spanish learner you’ll ever meet. And I fancy that one of my most winning qualities.
The problem is that I tend to think that everyone is like me. Sadly, I find that many learners do not want to be corrected. The idea is, Well, as long as I can get my message across. I agree that this pragmatic position is OK for the average learner who doesn’t have any professional ambitions involving Spanish, but it really boils my blood when bad Spanish is taught and promoted. Relax, Katie, relax, I know you’re thinking. Sorry. It’s not in my constitution. How can some people just not care that they make (and teach) mistakes? I get that our Spanish is and always will be a work in progress, I get that communication is more important than perfection, I generally am not the type to have a cow about little details. I don’t sweat the small stuff and let molehills be. I simply believe that teachers are held to a much higher standard. Call me what you want, but statements like Tenemos mucho divertido juntos indicate to me that your commitment to excellence is laughable. It first inspires disbelief in me, then hilarity, then indignation, and gradually leads to disappointment and despair. I mean, seriously? Is this the best we can do in my city? It would seem so.
They won’t be getting an A for effort from me. I said before that I’m not proud, but I am definitely judgmental. Oh, how I judge! It’s not personal. I judge, I want to be judged, and I want to be rewarded for my merits. I want to be respected, it’s important that I be able to respect myself, and I respect people who are good at what they do. I can’t respect a teacher who isn’t a master of their subject material, no matter how interesting their pedagogies are or how much their students like them. If you butcher your Spanish in your own attempt to promote your Spanish teaching services, begone. Some of us actually take this Spanish thing rather seriously.
Update: I decided to just send these girls a kind message with the correction. Instead of twisting myself into a pretzel with social anxiety, expecting them to tune me out, I thought I’d assume the best. Maybe they’d simply suffered a brain fart. We’ve all had them. I went to their Facebook page and, lo and behold, the caption had been changed! It now said: Nos divertimos mucho juntos. I was floored. They read Vocabat???? No. (Well, unlikely.) Some girl had offered the correction in a comment y ya. Easy as that. Not that I take any of it back, but at least they are open to correction.
How do you handle it when you hear people who should know better (but don’t) make fingers-on-a-chalkboard mistakes in Spanish? Does it affect you at all? How do you feel about being corrected? Do you ever correct others? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with? How do you feel when you hear someone make big mistakes . . . and later find out that that person teaches Spanish for a living? What’s your policy about correcting the Spanish of your foreign friends?