If you’ve ever tried learning another language, you’ll know that it’s painful, time-consuming, frustrating, yet rewarding. You can make a lot of weirdly hilarious mistakes, make multi-lingual puns, spend hours trying to memorize that one word you always forget, blab off to strangers in gibberish…. and swear unintentionally!
Terrible yet hilarious. And until you (accidentally) learn those cuss words in Japanese (or French, or Afrikaans, or whatever), if someone is screaming at you in the street for no apparent reason, you’re blissfully ignorant of the horrible things they’re cursing on you and your family and your cow. So you can just politely smile and nod, and be the good Christian everyone always tells you to be.
Yup. Evidently there are perks for not understanding some things.
At the same time, though, when you don’t know the swear words, you might (accidentally, of course) cuss at your poor language tutor, who no doubt wonders why she puts up with you in the first place, since this may or may not be the first time this has happened. But I mean, come on, cut us some slack; we’re just silly foreigners who are trying to say “grass” in Chinese. Can we help it that we got the tones wrong and told you to (beep) off?
But this can go the other way, too. Maybe that one Russian guy wasn’t actually trying to swear at you; I mean, it did seem kind of random that he would put that kind of word right in the middle of the sentence when he was asking you for directions to the store, right? And he seemed so nice.
Plus, English is hard. If you think about it, most native English speakers can’t even get it down nowadays. You know how hard it is to spell “onomatopoeia,” or to know when to use “lie” or “lay,” or to pronounce “Worcestershire.” And if you’ve ever tried explaining the grammar of even small things like article adjectives to foreigners, you’ll begin to appreciate the complexity of this language that’s been influenced by so many other backgrounds.
So as you would have others cut you slack in language, cut slack for them too. You’re probably slaughtering their language just as much.