Tuesday, July 12, 2005

English with Golshan!

Hi y’a. I’m Golshan P. Lessa. My name is Iranian (Golshan means “a flower garden”) but I was born and bred in Tennessee. Since I graduated from college, I’ve been teaching English to people from all over the world. I have studied in France, and done some traveling around Italy, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The best thing about my job as an ESL instructor is making friends with all the wonderful people from all the many beautiful corners of the earth, and learning and enjoying their unique perspectives. I specialize in teaching people to speak in a way that Northerners can recognize yet with the courtesy and politeness that we’ve always valued down here in the South. (My favorite movie is “Good Morning Vietnam”; that Robin Williams is one hairy devil!)

Charm school says: the social efficacy of the most ordinary and even the seemingly most routine communications of ordinary life derive from their charm. Clichés and otherwise glib, empty talk help us get along in society and humor others, but you gotta get underneath that if you wanna be more effective socially. Now, I’m gonna make some verbal demands that may seem picayune, but I assure you that you’ll be better for it, y’heah.

I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t like people who ring out commands to spur conversation: “Don’t be a stranger.”; “What are you thinking?” The first is a command, the second is one disguised as a question. Both are unseemly, disconcerting, awkward, in a word, too candid and straightforward.

If you wanna know what someone is thinking, “A penny for your thoughts” is better, and charming. “You look pensive” invites response while indicating your interest in the other person. Or something more poetic, like, “your tongue has fell silent,” will not come amiss either. All are better than brutally interrogating someone about their thoughts, which you won’t elicit except by a more delicate, genteel route.

If you are really trying to stoke a dormant or distant friendship, ending an engagement with the command, “don’t be a stranger” is ineffective, if not counterproductive. The saying sounds not only insincere, but downright desperate. It reminds me of that country song, where the man realizes that he’s been a fool and she ain't comin' back:

Last time you went away
You made me cry, cry, cry
Said I didn't need you anyway
But I lied, lied, lied
Love don't be a stranger
Don't worry bout the danger
Love don't be a stranger round here

The phrase is useless because it is neither inviting nor insisting on anything in particular. If you had a good time, say so. If you want to do something together in the future, be specific. But above all, if you want someone to be friendly to you, be friendly toward ‘em. It takes two to tango.

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