Archive for the ‘Niger’ Category

“GOOD NIGHT, MADAM!” Was the Shocking Greeting I Received….

November 17, 2011

When connecting for the first time with a  foreign female English speaker on Facebook, GOOD NIGHT, MADAM!  was the momentarily shocking first greeting I received.  I soon realized she didn’t speak English very well and thought she was being polite.

After speaking with her for some time, I suggested a better greeting the next time she spoke with a native English speaker would be something like, “Hello, how are you?”  I explained that, in English, “good night” actually means “goodbye” and that a “madam” is a woman who runs a house of prostitution.  I explained that I understood these were not her meanings, but suggested other greetings, nevertheless.

Madam Dee Flowers

She was quite surprised at this information.  She asked me if “madam” in English is not the same as “madame” in French.  Since she’s from a French-speaking country, women one does not know are always addressed the the single word “Madame…” as a form of politeness.  She mentioned some very old-fashioned English novels (from mid-1800’s) which also seemed to use this form of address.  I explained that those novels were just about  the only place you might find that form of address used these days.

She said she’d never heard the other meaning of the word “madam.”  I asked if she’s had an instructor who taught them to say that in English.  She said no, that it was her own idea of what she might say to be polite.

She asked me if “madam” was not correct if there was a word she should use instead.  I explained that we don’t usually use a word to replace madam, except when we actually know the person’s name, in which case we might add “Miss Green” or “Mrs. Green,” for example.  She was surprised and thought that every language must use such a word to address anyone as a form of politeness.  I did say that in the American South, they sometimes use “ma’am,” which is an abbreviated form of the old-fashioned word “madam,”  but that it is mostly a regional usage.

This is a perfect example of how someone from one culture can go out of their way to be polite, yet achieve disastrous results.  Someone else might have taken immediate offense and not taken the time to think about the speaker’s intention.

–Lynne Diligent

Reflections on Poverty in Saudi Arabia

October 23, 2011

American Bedu wrote about a video-blogger-journalist who was arrested in Saudi Arabia for this short, but extremely well-done documentary on poverty in Saudi Arabia.  I especially liked that the journalist tried to offer some positive suggestions for help to the poor at the end.  The reason he was arrested was for violating the Arab cultural norm of never speaking out in public regarding in one’s own country (or any other Arab country); speaking out publicly is considered more shameful than letting a shameful situation continue.

However, in this video, I was somewhat surprised by a couple of things.

First, having lived in the Middle East for the past twenty years, the level of poverty shown in this video is not nearly as bad as what is current in some other parts of the Middle East. The people shown in this video as living in extreme poverty in Saudi Arabia are living at the same level as much of North Africa’s lower middle classes today (excepting Libya), for example.  For example, I noticed all these homes had TVs and hot water, as well as refrigerators, even if they are in bad condition.   (The poor in other places have none of these things.)  The kids in the poor neighborhood were all dressed in the latest sport shirts.

Clearly, what makes people feel poor is not how their life is compared to poor people in other countries, but how their life compares to those around them in the same society. The wealthy in Saudi are living at such a high level compared to other countries, that even their poor are living at a high level (when compared to some other Arab countries).

The second thing which struck me about this video was the attitude about what should be done about these problems. Unlike in America, there was no talk of any personal responsibility. One man shown in the video explained that he was married to two women, and that the first one had six children, while the second one had five children.  Whatever is a poor man like this doing with two wives and eleven children? If he had one wife and even two children, he would not be poor with what he stated his income was in this video.  Furthermore, each person interviewed in the video just asked for the government to “give” them a house. It seems to be the norm in that society to just ask others to give people what they don’t have, rather than taking any personal responsibility for one’s life, and planning accordingly.

Saudi Journalist-Blogger Feras Boqnah, Arrested for Documentary on the Poor

Saudi Journalist-Blogger Feras Boqnah, Arrested for Documentary on the Poor

Oddly (to a Westerner) the journalist never suggests anything about working harder, or looking for better paying jobs, or improving one’s skills, or even being responsible about how many wives a man chooses to marry, or how many children he chooses to have.  At the end of the video, the journalist makes suggestions that charities be especially organized to regularly assist poor people with their lives in all the poor areas.  It’s clear that ideas of personal responsibility don’t even occur to the interviewer, indicating that what these people are asking for seems “normal” for Saudi Arabian society. It’s just an interesting contrast with the values and ideas of the Western world. Many people in Saudi Arabia and much of the Middle East assume that they are not at all personally responsible for how their lives turn out; they view themselves as victims of fate and circumstance and God’s will, or as victims of “bad luck.”

In America, by contrast, people are seen as being about 90% responsible for their own fate. Perhaps this is too much. But in Saudi, where people seem to believe that they have no personal responsibility for their fate, this is too little. People should make an effort to “help themselves” and not just wait only for charity from the government, or from others.

–Lynne Diligent

Why These People Will Never Be Hired By an American Company

October 1, 2011

Would YOU hire any of these foreign applicants? Each of the following practically SCREAMS “I want a job but I am completely incompetent in the language–“Don’t hire me, or this is how I would communicate with your clients in English….”  None of these applicants seems to realize that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DETAILS.

These examples (names changed) come from a job board in Morocco, from people looking for jobs with  American companies:

1. “I’m a student at Ben Messik University in casablanca. i got my DEUG in English literature and i’m intrested in having a job with you.”

American Employer Reaction: Casablanca is not even captitalized, interested is misspelled, and no American company would have a clue what DEUG means. “i” is not capitalized in two places.

2. “iam 23/m iam looking for any chance to work in usa in any think i have a experionce and i speak english not bad”

American Employer Reaction:  This person clearly doesn’t know that a sentence must be started with a capital letter and finish with a period. “iam” is not even a word. The country is not even written correctly. It must be all in capitals with periods following each letter, and preceded by “the,” as in “the U.S.A.” The word “i” must NEVER be written in lower case. Experience is misspelled. English is missing a capital letter. It is a run-on sentence instead of two clear sentences.

3. “Hello; my name is mohamed saddiki, i work for the Marriott Company in Myrtle Beach South carolina as a Laundry Assistant Director. I would like o have a job with one of the American companies or Agencies in Morocco. Thanks.”

American Employer Reaction:  This person lives in America, yet hasn’t even learned that his own name needs to have capital letters! Carolina is missing a capital letter and to is misspelled as o. Agencies should not be capitalized. YES, even a laundry director is expected to know these things in an American company.

4. “my name is hicham, american citizen (probably a dual-citizen) looking for job with one of the american companies in rabat, morocco”

American Employer ReactionDid not start sentence with a capital letter, doesn’t even know to capitalize his own name, or the word American, nor the words Rabat and Morocco. Does not put a period at the end of the sentence.


5. Hi, Im mehdi bouaziz I study english at cady ayyad college and I wish to work in english copanies or hotels

American Employer ReactionI’m is lacking an apostrophe.  This person doesn’t even know that his name should be capitalized.  The words Cady, Ayyad, College and English all need to be capitalized.  Companies is misspelled.  There is no period at the end of the sentence.

6. “Hello, first to start this off, I am american living in the USA, and looking to make my life in Morocco. I am fluent in english, spanish. I can speak, read and write a bit of french as well. I am very motivated, hard worker, flexable, and i will make a full commitment to the company that will hire me. I currently working for a academy out of maryland as an account manager which i have been here over 3 years. At the current moment i am working on my B.S. degree in accounting. my past and current experiences has been, account manager, payroll manager, bookkeeper and regional sales. i have plus over 10 years in accounting field. and looking for a position in morocco prefer casablanca, rabat or setat.in a american company or moroccan company, but i dont speak moroccan yet. in god willing i hope that i can. you can reach me at sweetlove2792@yahoo.com only if you think that you make me an offer. please only serious commitments i am not here to play around. i travel two times in a year to casablanca morocco, so if there is a need to meet that would not be an issue. salaam”

American Manager Reaction:  Even if this person is born in America (even worse), they clearly didn’t learn much in school.  Lack of nearly all necessary captials. English, Spanish, Maryland, Morocco (2x), Casablanca (2x), Rabat, Setat, American, Moroccan (2x),  God,  and Salaam are not captialized.  First words of sentences are not capitalized.  The word “i” is never captialized, as it must always be.  USA is not written correctly with periods between the letters.  Says “a” instead of “an” academy, and “a american company” instead of an American company. Leaves words out of the middle of sentences.  Doesn’t leave spaces after periods at the ends of sentences.  Don’t is missing the apostrophe.  Has 10-15 years of work experience in the U.S., yet cannot write at the standard expected of an 8-year-old child in America (using correct capital letters).  Has an extremely inappropriate email address, which alone would preclude her from being contacted.  This person claims to be serious, but who would ever believe she is serious with a post like this? Who, from an American company in Morocco, would EVER call this person? NO ONE.

7.  iam pleased to write this words to directors of american companies and agencies in morocco to ask for job that requires the english skills;in communication or in writing. i would to inform you that i am 23 years old, i obtained my university diploma(licence) in english department in the hassanII university in casablanca in 2008, as well i can speak and write frensh and arabic.Besides this, i have some computer-using abilities such as microsoft words, excel, powerpoint, and navigating in the internet. Concerning my professionnal experiences, i had an important experience in an anglophone callcentre in casablanca in august 2006, and at the present time, i am working as a cashier in the shop of petrolium stationin casablanca as temporary job. Finally, i will be so delighted to receive an ansewer from you as soon as possible.

American Employer Reaction:  There are just as many, and similar-type errors in this paragraph as in Example Six above.   Run-on sentences, spelling errors, no attention to capitals of any type, several words run together without spaces.  NO ONE would consider calling this person, either.

When applying for an international job, in ANY language, it’s the DETAILS which make ALL the difference.  While the examples in this post apply to English-language applicants, the same principles no doubt hold true for any language in which the applicant is not a native speaker.

Applicants are ignorant of what is required, and many teachers are equally ignorant in terms of not emphasizing these skills with their students.  Even supposing any companies happened upon this website, does ANYONE seriously think that ANY of the above people have the REMOTEST chance of being contacted???

My TWO important points in this post:

1.  Foreign teachers of English need to start paying attention to these details of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling, and to  MARKING THEIR STUDENTS OFF FOR EACH AND EVERY TIME A STUDENT MAKES THESE PUNCTUATION OR CAPITALIZATION MISTAKES. This is what we, as native-language teachers, do with American or British children, from the time they are seven years old. When you first teach the spelling of a proper noun, if they write the spelling correctly, but don’t capitalize it, then it is MARKED WRONG (even if the actual spelling is correct). Every time “i” or the first letter of a sentence is not capitalized, it is -1. Every time a period is forgotten, it’s -1. When they get two or three papers back with a big fat ZERO score, they start to pay attention QUICKLY.  Furthermore, after the teacher makes these corrections, each student needs to REWRITE their sentences or essays with all the required punctuation, and DO IT CORRECTLY, as well as to understand the WHY of each correction.  I would say that foreign teachers do not realize that capitalization and punctuation is JUST AS IMPORTANT as correct grammar.  (And yes, it IS normal for American and British teachers to spend MANY hours of their OWN time outside of class correcting these papers.)

I’m sure there are foreign teachers out there paying attention to these things.  But my experience in North Africa these past 20 years has shown me that many teachers in this part of the world give little importance to these issues.  I have been continually amazed by many of those I know with university degrees in English who tell me, “I don’t pay any attention to punctuation or capital letters.”  But when I ask further, most of these people tell me that their high school instructors and university instructors didn’t pay attention to any of these details, either.

As an example, in past years, my own daughter (a dual-citizen, and a native speaker of English who was in a North African school with a daily English class) came home from both her secondary-level English class in a private school, AND from another class at a private language center (both taught by teachers from the local North African country), neither of the teachers had even marked as wrong my daughter’s forgetting to put periods at the end of sentences!  When I had a “fit” about it, my daughter told me that EVEN THE TEACHER did not bother to put periods on the board!!!  Applicants are ignorant of what is required, and many teachers are equally ignorant in terms of not emphasizing these skills with their students.

2.  If you are a student of English and have an instructor who is not paying attention to these details, or even teaching them, be aware that you are getting a VERY INFERIOR education which will never serve you well in the international job market.  Students need to insist that their teachers correct their papers in terms of all the little details, and then take time to rewrite those papers correctly (keeping both copies for reference).

Most Important:  If you are posting something on a job board, sending a CV or resumé, or communicating in writing with ANY potential employer, by all means, have a teacher or a native speaker review the piece of communication for correctness before sending it or posting it!

–Lynne Diligent

Can the Arab Spring Be Equated to the American and French Revolutions?

August 22, 2011

This picture was taken at the 2010 "Arab African Summit" in Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown. The four leaders in front: Tunisia's Ben Ali (deposed), Yemen's Saleh(soon-to-be deposed?), Libya's Gaddafi (deposed) and Egypt's Mubarak (deposed).

The American and French Revolutions happened two centuries ago.  Living in the region of the Arab Spring, I feel I am living through a similar groundswell movement, which is just happening in another part of the world.

Just as living through the American Revolution, for Americans, must have been a time of great uncertainty about the future, many have hope, and others have fear.   Most people want democracy and an end to corruption.  Those who fear democracy fear it because they feel a strong man is needed at the top to control this corruption.

Having lived in the region for 20 years, I feel they are wrong, that a strong man can control corruption.  Corruption does not come from the top, down.  It comes up from the bottom, only getting larger and larger as power and opportunites increase near the top.  In societies that rely on external forms of control (as North African and Middle Eastern societies do) instead of internal conscience (as northwestern European and American societies do), fewer people feel a responsibility to act with high standards.  It’s easier to rationalize, “Everyone else is doing it, so I better get mine, too.”

One of the biggest problems in Middle Eastern and North African societies is endemic repression and corruption.  The people hope to stamp it out by cutting off the head of the problem.  But I say this problem comes up from the bottom. This is why so many countries have had the experience of having one dictator after another, each promising to stamp out the corruption in the administration before.  This just doesn’t work.  For REAL change to happen, every person must be motivated to change their own personal behavior and attitudes and behave with the highest ideals in order for this problem to disappear.

Not everyone in North Africa and the Middle East behaves badly.  I do know plenty of honorable, decent people.  I believe it’s a matter of how a child is raised in his own family.  As a teacher of young children for over two decades, I have seen that the values of honesty and integrity are somewhat set by the age of seven or eight, and well-set by the age of ten.  If teachers at school discuss honesty and integrity with students they can have some influence, but that influence is nill if the family promotes the opposite values at home.  I see religious education happening in the school curriculum, but that mostly centers on correct religious practice, as opposed to attitudes and beliefs.  Training in integrity and honesty really comes from the home and one’s family.

Another problem with promoting honesty is the problem of entitlement.  So many people steal or are corrupt just because they feel entitled.  The person of a higher class feels entitled to take because he feels he is better than others.  The poor who steal do it because they feel entitled to steal from those who are better off (dishonest maids or office employees, for example).

The middle-class bureaucrat or public servant who takes daily bribes justifies it by feeling he is entitled because of his “low salary.”  These societies are rigid, with little class mobility, which reinforces this mindset–almost like having a chip on one’s shoulder–a “me-against-them” mindset.

These attitudes need to change from the bottom-up in order for corruption to truly be stamped out.  The younger generation (under 30) is the first generation in most of the region to have a very high percentage of their generation be educated and literate to some degree (maybe 80 percent), so I have high hopes that by the time this generation hits their 40s, (in 20 years) that the Arab Spring will indeed have created functioning democracies with reduced corruption.

–Lynne Diligent


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