I have been speaking Spanish now for almost fifteen years, living in Spanish speaking countries most of that time. Some years I spoke almost no English in fact. My wife and I speak only Spanish at home. At this point you can say I have achieved Spanish fluency.
Then why do I get less compliments on my language fluency now then when I first stepped in-country. I mean, I don’t really want them at this point. In fact, for some reason I feel insulted when someone does compliment me. It just seems strange that I am more fluent now, yet less people comment about how well I speak Spanish.
I remember just starting out, getting to Chile and being complemented on how well I spoke. Now mind you, this came BEFORE 13 years of living in Spanish speaking countries, BEFORE my private classes learning phonetics and BEFORE I could follow conversations between natives.
I have seen the same experience with my brother who has spent the last five years in Puerto Rico. He arrived with your basic grade school Spanish and now daily conducts business in Spanish with non-English speakers (that’s an important distinction in Puerto Rico). You could call him fluent, although he still makes mistakes. Yet, in his first year of learning I would hear people complement him all the time. He could barely string together a sentence and people would complement his level.
Hmmm, so what gives?
This stumps me a bit. All I can come up with is that people are pleased when a foreigner makes an effort to learn their language and are looking to encourage them. For someone just beginning to learn, their struggles are much more obvious and so people look to encourage them. Perhaps once a certain Spanish fluency is reached, native speakers unconsciously realize that the learner is already motivated enough and does not require any outside encouragement. I dunno.
Have you ever complemented someone on how well they speak X language? What were your reasons for doing that?
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