DontEnglishMeMy good friend from El Salvador, Luis David, wishing to thank a couple for hosting him during one of his trips to Dallas, Texas inadvertently said, “Thanks for hostage me.” He really wanted to say, “Thanks for hosting me.” However, since he is still learning English, he sometimes finds it difficult to think of the right word in expressing himself. That is inevitable in language learning. I make the same mistakes when trying to speak Spanish. Some are funny; others are embarrassing.

  • I have used “sucios” (dirty ones) to refer to our “socios” (partners).
  • I referred to “pecadores” (sinners) as “pescadores” (fishermen).
  • I used “huevos” (eggs) when I wanted to say “huesos” (bones).
  • In my sermon this morning, I caught myself saying “queremos” (we want) when I should have said “creemos” (we believe).

In all of these mistakes, I was never judged or made fun of. Sure, my Spanish-speaking friends laugh but never in a disparaging way. They are pleased that I am trying hard to speak their language. They correct me when needed and give me large doses of affirmation. As a result, I am motivated to excel even more.

Parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors need to know how to wisely and intentionally use correction and affirmation. These are indispensable tools in helping others succeed in their learning goals–whether it’s learning a new language, learning how to drive, training for a sport or a profession, and so forth. The tricky part is how to strike a balance between correction and affirmation because I believe that all correction and no affirmation is cruelty, while all affirmation and no correction is deception. Your children or learners will not benefit from such imbalance.

Paul said, “Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). Do you see the principle? When you speak the truth in love, you help others grow. That’s the same with correction and affirmation: the result is growth.

Luis David’s hosts were not offended by his wrong choice of words. They just laughed, corrected him and affirmed his progress. Now, he is speaking English confidently more than ever. However, what would have happened if his hosts just felt insulted? I think Luis David would be telling people now: “Don’t English me; I’m panic!” Where’s the growth there?

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One thought on “Thanks for hostage me!

  1. Language learning is a very humbling experience. After our Portuguese ability got pretty good, our Brazilian friends told us all the dumb things they had ever heard foreigners say. One example: a missionary speaking in church there said, “E um prazer estar aqui em vossas meias.” which means, “It is a pleasure to be here in your socks.” He should have said “em vosso meio”, which means, “In your midst”.

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