Ever been told this by someone, with the best of intentions, in an attempt to compliment you? Ever cringed so much upon hearing this, that it took all the power you had to to squeeze out a superficial thank you?
A myth was developed at some time in language education that the reason you have been able to learn a language is because you were born with some magical talent that has granted you the ability to just casually stroll your way to success. A fluent-elevator has been made accessible to you while everyone else has to take the spiral staircase.
This “compliment” needs to be put to rest, immediately.
I hate it for 2 reasons
1. It takes the ridiculous amount of work, blood, sweat, and tears that you put into learning Japanese over several years, and turns it into “you were lucky to be given a gift.”
2. It’s an excuse why that person decides that he can’t do it himself.
Unfortunately (fortunately?), there is usually no malicious intent, and the speaker genuinely is trying to make you feel better. This makes it harder to respond in a negative way, and you often are left with no choice but to give the most awkward of “umm… thanks” smiles. And don’t you dare try to argue with the speaker, and say “well it really was a lot of work,” as this will just result probably in the second worst compliment, “oh I wish I had the time to study like you.”
What do you think?
Ever been given the “talent” comment? How do you feel about it? Have any other misguided compliments that rank up with it? And yes, I know it should be “I wish I were…”