What I’m about to say might seem offensive to some people. I’d like to say right away though, that I’m not trying to tell others how they should talk to their partners or indeed to Thai people in general – that is not my business. I also don’t mean to imply that I’m doing things the right way and others are doing things wrong. This is something that I continue to struggle with; even though I promised myself not to do it anymore years ago. I’m just going to make a few observations and explain why I decided to stop talking to my wife as if she were a moron.
How I Treated My Wife Like a Moron
Sometimes when you listen to foreigners talking to Thais it can be difficult to decide who is speaking English as a second language. Of course not all foreigners do speak English as their first language but I’m referring here to those that do. When we hear somebody use sentences like, “where you go?” and “you go me” it can be tempting to think that this is somebody who doesn’t yet have a firm grasp of the English language. While I can’t remember every using “you go me” I have used many other forms of bad English when speaking with my wife. It isn’t just here alone though, yesterday morning I said to my three year old bilingual son, “why you not wear clothes?”
I’ve had conversations in the past about this habit of speaking poor English to people who speak the language as a second tongue. The usual way to justify it is that it makes it easier for the other person to understand. I’m not convinced of this argument at all because I think it just reinforces bad English. One of the key factors in picking up a language seems to be interacting with native speakers, but if these people are speaking gibberish then what chance does the learner have? Those of us who have spent a long time trying to speak Thai would probably prefer that the native speakers of this language don’t teach us how to sound like a moron. I honestly do feel that we are doing the other person a disservice by not speaking to them in the right way.
No Need to Speak Gibberish
The thing that bugs me the most about all of this is that there is usually no need for it at all. My wife can speak excellent English and she has spent a lot of time in my home country. She understands me perfectly well without this odd way of speaking. It is just an old habit that I sometimes fall back into. When I do it always makes me feel like a bit of an idiot and it seems disrespectful to my wife. Since our son was born this is something that has become even more important as we want him to speak both languages like a native – what chance does he have with sentences like “why you not wear clothes?”
What do you think?
Is speaking this way perfectly acceptable?