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I have a friend, let's call him Bob. I met Bob many years ago back when I was working in another country. We keep in touch over Facebook, occasionally we can have a small conversation.

Bob wants to learn English, so some time ago he started sending messages in English over his own language. He claims he does it for practice. However, Bob's English is not that great. I can understand what he is saying most of the time, however he does make noticeable errors in words choice and spelling.

Now, normally I would consider it rude to correct him, but he does claim to be doing this for practice.

How do I let him know he is making mistakes in a way that encourages him to continue to learn English?

  • Related question: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/8774/… – Em C Apr 26 '18 at 18:44
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking "should I do something" Questions asking "should I" have been determined to be off-topic. If you can edit your question to be about a specific skill (such as how to politely correct someone's grammar) then it would be on topic. – Rainbacon Apr 26 '18 at 18:59
  • Have you ever answered language related questions for this person before? If so how did they react? – Jesse Apr 27 '18 at 8:16
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When I lived in a foreign country, I remember saying something to the effect of "he is instructing me his dialect". The bartender was chatting with us and said to me, "I understand what you are saying, but that's not how we say it. In this language, we say: ..."

I really appreciated his taking the time to help me be better understood. He was gracious about it and helped me speak better.

If Bob wants to learn the language, he needs to be corrected. I'd suggest taking the same approach. "I understand what you're saying; we say it this way...". Don't nitpick and don't always correct, but be willing to take the time. I'd also advise telling him FIRST "I realize you want to learn English. I'm happy to help you improve and this is what I'll do. When you want me to stop, just say 'stop' and I'll quit." That way, he knows why you correct him, and he can tell you to quit and you will.

  • Something to add: Remember to quite when he asks. – FreezePhoenix Apr 26 '18 at 18:51
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Take what he says at face value - he has told you that wants to speak with you in English for practice, so accept that he wants to be corrected.

You said that you can understand him most of the time. This is a huge advantage, because it means you can correct him. If you had absolutely no idea what he was saying there would be considerably more embarrassment and frustration because you would have to ask him to repeat himself and ask lots of supplemental questions before you could even tell him the right way.

As it stands, all you have to do is repeat back what he said with the correction. If he is practicing his English then he won't be offended, he will see this as a help. By simply stating the correct expression you show that you understood him despite the error, and that you are willing to help.

Example:

BOB: "Can you explain me this?"

YOU: "Can you explain this to me 😉"

Emoji is optional, but I think if you are doing this over Facebook as you state, it might help. In real life I would smile.

Hope it helps!

I think you are meaning "hope this helps", yes? 🤔

Oh yes, so I do. Thanks Bob.

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