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Off topic: "rude"...an insult?
Thread poster: Maha Ararat

Maha Ararat  Identity Verified
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Local time: 12:19
English to Arabic
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Feb 13, 2010

Hello everyone,

A friend of mine phoned me this morning telling me that the teacher of her child who is a third grader sent a note describing him as "rude". My friend and I are natives of Arabic and we both see the word as an insult. The teacher who wrote the note is South African of European origin. Before she replies, my friend needs to be sure if the word is meant to be an insult, or is it just a way to describe a behavior. She is keen not to overreact. And by the way the child has been described as rude because he spoke out an answer without raising his hand first, in a rare instance according to the teacher herself. I appreciate advice especially from native speakers of English and certainly South Africans.

Warm regards,
Maha


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:19
English to German
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No insult. Feb 13, 2010

The teacher simply considered this behavior impolite, discourteous and bad-mannered.

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writeaway  Identity Verified
French to English
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Rude is too strong a word Feb 13, 2010

As native English speaker, I find it's a rather harsh word to use for speaking out of turn on one occasion. It may be have 'rude' to do so, but to brand the child as rude is indeed insulting. It could well be normal usage in South African English though. Or just a non-native En using the wrong word.

[Edited at 2010-02-13 10:48 GMT]


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kmtext
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
English
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Not an insult Feb 13, 2010

I'm surprised that a teacher would send a note home to say a child was impolite for speaking out of turn once.

Certainly when I was in school, the teacher would have dealt with the matter immediately and no further action would have been taken. It's not a serious issue and shouldn't merit discussion outside the classroom, far less a note to the child's parents.


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Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:19
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
no insult intended Feb 13, 2010

I think that the teacher is trying to make a direct point, without intending to insult.

However, the criticism could have been more constructive if the adjective had been applied to this particular behaviour rather than the child.
(A rude child sounds worse than rude behaviour)


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 02:19
Spanish to English
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I think "rude" is a bit strong, too Feb 13, 2010

if the child only answered a question before being asked, but it's not an insult. I wonder, though, whether the reverse is true and the cultural/language differences mentioned make the child come across as rude to the teacher, when his behavior is, in fact, quite acceptable in his own culture.

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PCovs
Denmark
Local time: 09:19
Member (2003)
English to Danish
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Focus on the message, not the term choice Feb 13, 2010

In this case I think I would talk to the teacher asking politely if this is an issue that should be addressed by the parents, or if this was simply an information to the parents that the child had been reprimanded to some extend for speaking out of turn. Given the potentially different cultural backgrounds there is really no way of knowing if this was indeed meant as an insult or not - go to the head of the message, not the "backside" ;o)
This could also be an oportunity to let the teacher know how this term choice is percieved - namely as an insult?

Maybe this is just to let the parents know what the child might be referring to when telling his/her parents what went on in school that day?


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 10:19
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Finnish to German
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Support the teacher Feb 13, 2010

Parents nowadays are all the time defending their offspring against the teachers. Why should a teacher insult a child? If a child behaves badly, it must be corrected. Otherwise schoolwork will suffer.
Regards
Heinrich


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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@Maha Feb 13, 2010

Maha Ararat wrote:
A friend of mine phoned me this morning telling me that the teacher of her child who is a third grader sent a note describing him as "rude".


I assume the child (not the parent) was described as rude.

The teacher who wrote the note is South African of European origin.


Is she from European origin (i.e. her parents were from Europe or the United States) or is she white (i.e. her family could have been African for up to 10 generations)? I assume the latter.

My friend and I are natives of Arabic and we both see the word as an insult.


There are two issues here, namely the meaning of "rude" in South Africa (which would largely be an academic discussion) and the principle of saving face (which may be important to understand why you and your friend thinks that there is an insult).

1. In international English, "rude" has two meanings. It can refer to rude act (i.e. being inconsiderate) and to rude attitude (i.e. being impolite). I have met non-South African English speakers who are unable to make this distinction. In South African English, the word is rarely used to describe a specific act or lack of consideration, and is usually a synonym for "very impolite".

Not offering your seat to an older person in the train isn't considered "rude" in South African English unless you also scowl at the old person. Or, smoking when it bothers other people isn't considered "rude" in South African English, unless you're also being unfriendly towards the non-smokers. So, if a South African tells you that a child is "rude", it likely doesn't mean that he had once acted in an inconsiderate way, but that his behaviour is generally impolite.

However... a South African who has spent a lot of time in the company of non-South Africans may well have picked up the international use of the word "rude", so the discussion about what "rude" means is really academic.

2. South Africans tend to communicate implicitly, but they typically do not have the issues with saving face (or the need to maintain face) that people from Arab cultures tend to have.

If the teacher tells you that your child is rude, she is not trying to insult you, but she is probably implying that she regards you as (partly) responsible for teaching your child good behaviour, and that you should take steps to ensure that child's behaviour get changed.

A teacher may try to discipline a child by calling him rude (in effect, insulting him, and hoping that the insult would make him feel guilty and thus change his behaviour), but if the teacher tells the parent that his child is rude, it basically means that the teacher is asking the parent to teach his child manners and to be polite.

A teacher telling a parent that there is something wrong with his style of parenting isn't considered insulting in South Africa and does not damage the face of the parent (unless if large numbers of the public are present when the statement is made).

And by the way the child has been described as rude because he spoke out an answer without raising his hand first, in a rare instance according to the teacher herself.


This sounds like the non-South African use of the word "rude". Is the teacher possibly trying to tell you that the child is generally impolite, and is mentioning this act as an example of it?

And... what is a rare here? Is it rare that this particular child behaves this way, or is it rare for all children in the class to behave this way?

Before she replies, my friend needs to be sure if the word is meant to be an insult, or is it just a way to describe a behavior.


It is unlikely that a South African teacher will try to insult a parent, unless she regards the parent as infantile. I can imagine that a teacher may try to use insults on a parent in the same way that one might use insults on a child (to elicit a reactionary response). Does this teacher generally behave towards Arabs in an insulting way?

[changed final paragraphs]



[Edited at 2010-02-13 14:09 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:19
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
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@Maha, again Feb 13, 2010

I'd like to address a slightly different issue, hence the new post.

Maha Ararat wrote:
My friend and I are natives of Arabic and we both see the word as an insult. ... Before she replies, my friend needs to be sure if the word is meant to be an insult...


Why would it be necessary to determine whether the word was meant as an insult before you can reply? Why can't you reply without knowing whether the teacher was trying to insult you? If the teacher was indeed trying to insult you, it would probably have been done for a reason (possibly to coax you into responding). If the teacher wasn't trying to insult you, would that really change the way you respond?


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
Swedish to English
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Who/what was described as "rude"? Feb 13, 2010

Person or behaviour?

Somehow I doubt it was the child who was described as "rude". I can imagine the following scenarios:

"Your son is rude" - insult, to both my son and the way I've brought him up.

"Your son was rude in class today" - not an ideal way for a teacher to communicate, but it's the behaviour that's being addressed.

"Your son's behaviour in class today was rude" - in this case it's clearly the behaviour at that particular time that's being addressed. This is how I'd expect a teacher to communicate, although I would hope a qualified teacher would be able to find a more appropriate, and more informative, term to use.

[Edited at 2010-02-13 14:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-02-13 14:28 GMT]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:19
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Russian to English
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Not an insult Feb 13, 2010

If a teacher considers a child to be rude, and describes him as such, this is simply a fair statement of the teacher's opinion (which may or may not be correct), and it is not insulting (or rude) for the teacher to say this. People often see insults where no insults are intended, and this tendency seems to be increasing, which is a pity.

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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 09:19
English to Polish
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what's with the insult thing Feb 13, 2010

Why would any teacher want to insult a child in the first place? What psychological sense does it make, with all the advantage that the teacher has over the child? I'd never interpret the note in such a way. Makes no sense whatsoever.

What I would assume, however, is that when a teacher sends a note mentioning a kid speaking without raising a hand, then it's not a one-time behaviour.

And why do you want to know if the teacher was trying to be insulting, anyway? Teacher sends note saying "Kid was rude by speaking without raising a hand", do you reply "Shut up, you insulted my kid"?

[Edited at 2010-02-13 15:27 GMT]


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:19
English to German
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What exactly did the teacher write? Feb 13, 2010

Right now we are discussing hearsay only. Common sense vs. linguistics.

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Lucinda  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:19
Member (2002)
Dutch to English
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Rude? Feb 13, 2010

Dear Maha,

I am not sure that I can see the child's behaviour as rude from the information you shared with us. I imagine that the child knew that answer to the question the teacher asked and was eager to answer and thus perhaps neglected to raise his hand or wait for the teacher to give him his turn.

Why would the eargerness of a student to share his answer, to participate warrant the sending home of a note? Did he do somehing else, some rude noise or act?

I would contact the teacher to exactly find out what happened. Then you'll have both sides and know better how to handle the situation.

Good luck! Please share the outcome with us.
Lucinda


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