LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||31/MAI/2010 9:34 PM|
|Assunto:||Dogs and caravans|
Thanks for your concern, guys!
When I found the "fan mail" waiting for me at EMB, I was somewhere in Nicaragua. It pissed me off (upset me). In our culture, if there is a problem between two people, the ideal is for them to take care of it one-on-one, not to wash their dirty laundry in public. Obviously, my "admirers" think differently. Criticizing in public is not a really good idea, but I can learn new rules. I don´t like to react when upset. Anger prompts us (me in particular) to say and do really stupid things that cause damage that lasts much longer than the initial act or words. I decided to hold my tongue and reply after I had returned home and had time to look into the matter.
If you remember how things began, an EMB member posted a request for information. Teacher, a Brazilian, responded in surprise to the post. I then responded to Teacher´s post, registering my surprise too. That is when things hit the fan (the trouble started). Apparently, it was acceptable for a Brazilian to make an observation about Brazilians but not for an American. Crazy? That is how it seems to me.
Some of you have dealt with foreign students, and some haven´t. I have taught to groups of Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Chileans, Argentines, Turks, etc. The Brazilian student, particularly the young student, is unique. Forget my personal experiences. Here in this forum we have had people refuse to use this word or that because they preferred a word outside the English language. Reformulating the English language? Reinventing it? There is resistance to spelling, resistance to grammar rules, resistance to pronunciation, and so forth. It´s not enough that "THE" is spelled T-H-E, explanations are required and arguments ensue. "THE" is spelled T-H-E. Accept it and move on to the next word. While reading old posts and researching other things, I found observations of this genre made by Brazilian ESL instructors. They had observed exactly what I had observed. It was a Brazilian instructor who warned me years ago about the ego of young Brazilian students. (I have had Italian teachers say the same about Americans.) I would replace "young" with "immature". This subject also pops up in posts of Brazilian ESL teachers. I don´t recall having problems with it before, but maybe I was just extremely lucky. In MG I reached the conclusion that Brazilian students in the street were some of the nicest, sweetest humans who ever walked the face of the earth. Once inside the classroom, I was tempted to murder every last one of them. After an hour of regretting I did not have a hand grenade in my briefcase, the bell would ring and I would get hugs and kisses from the same little monsters whose end I had just spent fifty minutes plotting. Yes, I am exaggerating about murder, the hand grenade, monsters, etc. My God. Am I going to have to do this every time I make an attempt at humor?
I am accused of making people feel of making people feel "ignorant". I was very surprised and disappointed to learn I had hurt feelings. I don´t doubt that it happened, but it is a mystery to me HOW it happened. Without specific examples, I have no contexts to consider. My posts are sprinkled with praise and admiration for those who post. The more the student struggles, the more I respect him or her. Read my old posts and you will see this is true. Rather odd for a heartless SOB accused of belittling students, don´t you think?
As I said earlier, all this was thrown at me while I was on a trip through Nicaragua. I wasn´t going to sit for hours on a wooden stool in a cyber cafe where even the ice in the Coca Cola was warm while trying to understand and gather more information. My butt would go to sleep on those stools. The lighting was often so bad it was difficult to see the keyboard. Neither my bumbum nor my eyes are eighteen years old anymore. And the heat never stopped, not even at night. Eventually, I came home but almost immediately I fell ill. I have not felt like writing, but I have done some research. The research has been interesting, but I will not discuss it thoroughly here and now, and maybe I never will. There is no doubt in my mind that sometime under some circumstances I have said things that offended. My question is, "What?" I feel like the husband whose wife tells him, "I am angry with you!" He asks why, and she replies, "You know why!" Well, I don´t know why. I read dozens of my old posts and the mystery continues. If I am the SOB others think I am, why am I spending time trying to understand something that should have been explained to me right off the bat? Are you following my thinking? Don´t tell me that I am a bad cook and then run away. Tell me that this morning at breakfast I used three times as much salt in the eggs as the recipe calls for, that I burned the garlic, that my coffee was more "chafé" than it is "café", etc. OK?
Clearly, I took things far too seriously. I do not know if Portuguese has an equivalent for the expression common in the USA, "Consider the source." It means that the message is not enough. One must remember who is giving it. It is something like "E sospeito." Something like it, but not quite. The research turned up some interesting things about the fan club. Finally, I am beginning to understand the adage, "Things are seldom what they appear to be."
If the need arises, I will share some of the things that I have learned, things that you can verify. If I had known two weeks ago what I know today, I would have told them all to go fly a kite. Consider the source, and don´t let appearances deceive you.
Sid, I understand I have offended you. I assure you that I hold you in very high regard. When you have time, please write to me and give me the dates of the posts so that I can understand where I went wrong. Was I in a bad mood that day? Did I say something that was humorous to me but possibly misunderstood or simply in poor taste to you? I am a "brincalhao". There is no doubt about that. I can only learn from my shortcomings if I know exactly what they are. You have a friend in Costa Rica. If an apology is due, I will make it. Count on it.
One more thing. My e-mail address has never been a secret. When I am home, it routinely appears when I post. When I travel, I rarely include because I rarely use the same computer twice. Anyone can find my e-mail address in EMB records or they can simply ask for it directly. I have nothing against "nicks" or screen names, but I am who I am. Yes, Virginia, there is a Dale Thomas who lives in Santo Domingo de Heredia, Costa Rica. Juro mesmo.
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