Tenemos mucho divertido juntos

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 :)

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

*Headdesk*

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?

Options:

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?

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13 responses to “Tenemos mucho divertido juntos

  1. Great question! As a Spanish teacher (that never thought I would be a teacher EVER), I like, and welcome, the behind the scene correction. I rarely get a chance to talk to natives and I speak mostly simple sentences with my classes.

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    • Good to hear. I hope that most teachers are like you. (In these girls’ defense, it’s not like I tried writing them and was rebuffed. Maybe they would have taken the correction well. It was more the fact that they made that mistake at all that bothered me.) Me, I check EVERYTHING that I say. I try to not just learn individual words but rather phrases and collocations. And I check, check, check, ask, ask, ask. I also take in massive amounts of input via listening and reading. However, as everyone around here knows, I’m a little nuts :)

      I don’t think that teachers have to speak perfectly by any means. I can’t imagine the need for them to hold a discourse on technical- legal, economic, medical, etc.- subjects in the classroom. I just think that what they do say and teach should be correct. And I consider being able to correctly say “We have a lot of fun together” to be very basic.

      So, can I hear the story of how you ended up as a teacher if you never EVER thought you would? I bet it would make for a great blog post for you!

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      • whatwhileweslept

        (For what it’s worth, KT, I think you’d make an incredible Spanish teacher on the college level. I’ve thought this for a long time, but being in the college scene again only confirms it doubly. Trebly even. Why not put your sense of lingual justice to a one-to-one [or, one-to-twenty two, or however large a class you might get] use? This kind of righteous indignation is just the kind of thing that can be put to use in a classroom!)

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  2. cesarincarabello

    Aaah, the evil side of the poor souls with a strong sense of justice…

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    • Strong sense of justice? What do you mean? I never called for having these girls placed on the guillotine…

      Does it just bounce off you? I’m not religious, but in this sense I suppose I am a little fanatical. I genuinely feel grief for those who don’t know the error of their ways, and I’m committed to saving them for their own good :)

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  3. I’ve never had this experience since with my level of Spanish, I probably wouldn’t notice the mistake. I also love to be corrected, as long as it is done with good intentions and not to belittle me, (which has happened so I reminded him that at least I speak English which shut him up).

    However, I had a visitor here to Canada several years ago who was a Technical English teacher in Toluca, Mexico. She was here taking English classes because she was making a lot of mistakes which were taught to her by Mexican English teachers and she was passing this along to her students.

    So… I really think you should correct this teacher because a mistake in Spanish as in English is the gift that keeps on giving. Some of those student could go on to become teachers and like a disease, continue to spread the horror!

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    • Thank you so much, Angela, for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you, and, as I posted in the update, decided to get over my ridiculous fears and just tell them. I certainly would want to be (kindly!) corrected were I in their shoes.

      And it’s not really a gift that keeps on giving, right? More like a curse that keeps on cursing ;)

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  4. Sometimes, though, corrections are done to make the corrector feel superior in their language skills, not really to help the other person. I was raised bilingual and educated in both Spanish and English and still make the occasional blunder –in both languages. I look like a typical American so it is presumed that Spanish is my second language, and I get the “helpful” corrections of my Spanish. At the same time, I sometimes have trouble with pronunciation of certain English words (especially those that start with “s” or “w”) and the helpful English speakers delight in correcting not only my English pronunciation, but also my grammar, syntax, etc.. When given the helpful correction, I always wonder if the person is trying to help me, or make them-self look superior. If I feel they are trying to be helpful I thank them and try to learn from it. If the latter, I smile and think what a jerk the person is and move on. Sometimes (yes, I know this is just not right) when I come across such superior people I use the worst linguistic skills and pronunciation possible just to irritate them. :)

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    • Hi David,

      What you said is very true, and I am always suspicious of my own motives when I feel aghast and indignant at someone else’s errors. It probably means that I am at least somewhat insecure about my level of Spanish, and I am able to deflect that insecurity by gleefully jumping on someone else’s mistake. I just can’t consider this particular blunder a small mistake. In general, though, when I do correct people (whether in English or Spanish), it’s from the genuine desire to be helpful. Not everyone is the same as me, but personally I appreciate it when people correct my mistakes. You’re so fortunate to have been raised bilingual! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Like Kara I, too, ended up being a (part-time) teacher, even though just after graduating I knew that this is the one thing I DON’T want to be. The funniest thing about it is that I actually like it :O (though I teach 1 on1, and not classes, which I guess changes things). Talk about irony…
    One thing what pisses me off is when I see NATIVES making horrible mistakes in their own NATIVE language when trying to help learners. Sadly, I see that a lot on lang-8 with regard to Polish users (or I did when I last checked…).

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    • I bet you’re a great teacher! I’m glad you’ve come to like it.

      Yes, it is horrible when natives make (and teach and then pass on) mistakes. Off with their heads, I say.

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  6. So I finally found this post… I knew that I was supposed to check one more post for your answer but I couldn’t remember which one it was. Maybe subscribing to some form of “post digest” is a good idea after all…

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