We need to stop looking down on “trying too hard”.

Have you ever encountered the feeling that when you’re trying to pronounce a foreign last name, you sound sillier when you’re trying to get it right but still quite noticeably do not than when you don’t try to at all and just pronounce it as if it were English? Somehow, it often feels worse to try and still not quite get it than to not try.

But why should this feel worse? If one is dedicating an honest effort to be more considerate of proper pronunciations, and what one’s saying is in fact closer to correct, one should be rewarded for it. Rather, our society makes it awkward or weird when this halfway-correctness occurs, very much discouraging people to take the activation energy to make improvement.

This effect, though, is not isolated to pronunciation, although it is a particularly notable example for demonstration. From field to field, people will look down on humble, honest attempts to improve as silly. It’s one thing if such a person is trying to pose as having much more competency than they actually have, or if they’re arrogantly unaware of their abilities in reality, but the act making fun of those trying to hard seems rather uniformly applied.

Effort is effort. But effort is not always rewarded. So please let people learn and try their different ‘r’s. There’s a rainbow of them out there.

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2 thoughts on “We need to stop looking down on “trying too hard”.

  1. Thanks for putting this out there. It is a concern worth noting. I am currently studying Spanish, but I am afraid of speaking Spanish to native speakers in public because I am fearful that they will criticize my accent or feel offended by something I unwittingly said. Most of these fears are unfounded, as I have met many Spanish speakers who encourage my use of their language, but the anxiety still persists. Maybe I need to grow a thicker skin and just speak Spansih anyways.

    1. I actually find that I wish native speakers would be willing to correct me more, so that I don’t stay in partially-correct limbo-land. I understand that one wants to not seem like they’re picky or uptight, but being able to be more confident that I’ll be helped in getting my pronunciation more correct helps remove the feeling that I’m talking not-quite-right.

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