Lisa's week: To correct or not to correct, that is the question
I was chatting to a good (German) friend yesterday when they used the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs.” It made me smile as this is an expression I hear very often especially at this time of year or when people are trying to be “funny” about the British weather. But to be honest, in the UK we don’t use it as often as Germans like to think we use it. It’s certainly not wrong as an expression in itself; it’s just that we have other terms such as “it’s pouring down”, “it’s chucking it down” or “it’s bucketing it down” that we tend to use more often. But it would appear that people have learnt the expression about pets falling out of the sky while they were at school and over all the years, this is one that they remember.
We talked about it, I offered some alternative expressions and we moved on.
A few minutes later, a genuine grammatical mistake popped up and I automatically corrected it without thinking. I guess I was just in teacher mode at that moment. Of course, this type of correction interrupts the conversation and this time, it generated a small discussion because I immediately apologised. Outside work, I feel it’s a little rude to correct people’s English in regular conversation. It’s something I had to learn in the early days, especially with my German family who were making a big effort to speak English to me when I could hardly say a word in German! I correct people all day at work and when I’m outside work I tend to think that it’s not my place to make corrections unless someone specifically asks me about a particular word, grammar point or sentence. But my friend told me that they didn’t have a problem being corrected and positively welcomes it. However, we continued to chat and I made an effort not to make any more corrections.
It’s a difficult subject though. I know that when I speak German, my sentences are full of grammatical mistakes and I’m rarely told what was wrong and how to say it better. I’ve asked friends to correct me and they might manage one or two sentences but then we just go back to the regular conversation, mistakes and all. It’s difficult in social situations to keep the conversation flowing if interruptions are made to point out errors, and it can feel impolite to highlight people’s weaknesses – especially if you know that they’re making an effort in a foreign language.
But which is the right way? Would you want to be corrected (outside class) if someone heard you make a vocabulary or grammar mistake? Or would you prefer to just talk and deal with those little errors only in a classroom environment? It’s a dilemma for me to be sure.
Food for thought on this dark and dreary morning. It’s not raining yet but who knows? It might rain cats and dogs later!
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky
Episode 16: Through the tunnel
Episode 17: Keep left!
Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise
Episode 19: How do you say that?
Episode 20: Back to School!
Episode 21: Sweet cravings
Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?
Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"
Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)
Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?
Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.
Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!
Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot
Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?
Episode 30: Bless you!
Episode 31: What are you thankful for?
Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?
Episode 33: What's behind the door?
Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!
Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?
Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year
Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?
Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2
Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?
Episode 40: Sweet Valentine
Episode 41: A Reminder
Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!
Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils