1. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9

    Can we say "You'd better be a native speaker" ?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ohmyrichard, Sep 14, 2012.

    Hi,everyone.
    Yesterday evening, I read a post on a forum on the website of the Chinese university where I am pursuing my doctoral studies, a job ad seeking a private English tutor, which goes as follows:

    A girl who is at her second year of middle school wants find a English tutor.You'd better be a native speaker. You main task is to help her practice her oral English at the weekend for one or two hours. The salary is high.Tel:15850579195

    What in the above post especially caught my eye is the second sentence of "You'd better be a native speaker." BTW this post was presumably written by a Chinese (I myself am also Chinese), most probably a Chinese university student who has learned English for a long time but whose English competence is still not so satisfactory so far as can also be seen from the several other errors. At first glance there seemed to be nothing wrong with the sentence but shortly afterwards I sensed that this was a literal translation of Chinese thinking which is wrong in English. I remembered that "had better" is used to make a suggestion whose tone of voice implied sometimes sounds impolite to the listener. I just now went to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (the 1995 third edition)and it told me on p. 110 that "sb had better" is used to give advice about what someone should do or used to threaten someone. We cannot suggest that someone who is not a native speaker of English change themselves into one. Seemingly by now I can feel assured of the usage of "had better" but my experience with dictionaries tells me that they sometimes fail to tell everything. And this is why I come here for your help. My question is, can we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Besides, if I were the post writer, I would have written the job ad like this:

    A girl who is in her second year of middle school(or junior high) wants to find a private English tutor.It will be better if you are a native speaker. Your main task is to help her practise her oral English on weekends. The salary offer is sure attractive and is still open to negotiation. If you are interested, pls contact me at 15850579195.

    What do you think of my revised version above? If there is still anything which does not sound natural to your native ears, please point it out. Incidentally, I am a teacher of English at a small Chinese university and next Monday I intend to explain to my students possible Chinglish expressions(literal translating done consciously or unconsciously by Chinese learners of English) which are more difficult to recognize in writings or oral English of Chinese learners of English, learning English in a non-English environment, and thus require much more effort on our part to correct. I hope you will not consider me to be stupid in raising such a question which may be quite simple to you native speakers but I am serious in making this inquiry.

    A BIG THANK-YOU in advance!
    Richard
     
  2. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,200
    Likes Received:
    4,211
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    I guess it depends on what sounds right in the ears of the individual speaker. If I were writing that ad, I would've written it as:

    "WANTED: A private English tutor to help a seventh-grade student practice her oral English on weekends. Preferably one who is a native English speaker. Salary is open to negotiation. To find out more, please contact me at this number 15850579195 or at my email address (insert email address)."

    (Though, on a personal note, I would've added other requirements like: "Must be patient, kind, and willing to teach")

    And don't worry, that wasn't a stupid question. No such thing as a stupid question in these forums.
     
  3. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks a lot for your prompt reply. Your revision is GREAT! And I want to be clear about whether you native speakers say "You'd better be a native speaker" or not. We Chinese think in Chinese this way but I guess it cannot be literally translated into English. How does "You'd better be a native speaker" sound to you? And is my revision of "It will be better if you are a native speaker" grammatically correct and does it fit in with the rest of the job ad? How about another revision of "It would be preferred if you are a native speaker"?Thanks.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,459
    "You'd better be a native speaker" communicates that the tutor absolutely must be a native speaker, and it communicates it casually and rudely. If it's a requirement, I'd phrase it as, "The tutor must be a native speaker." If it's optional, I'd phrase it as "A native speaker is preferred."

    Actually, though, an advertisement like this tends to have very terse, sometimes incomplete, sentences. I'd probably rewrite it as:

    Private English tutor needed for a student in the second year of middle school. Native speaker preferred. Primary task will be to help with oral English on weekends. Salary is high. Contact by telephone at 15850579195.

    Your use of "sure" in "The salary offer is sure attractive," is a little slangy. You could replace "sure" with "certainly" and eliminate the slang, but I would just leave it out.
     
  5. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks for your enlightening explanation and revision. As for my use of "sure" in "The salary offer is sure attractive," I should admit that I have not developed a good sense of consistency in terms of being informal or being formal although I have been learning English for so many years. I would like you to give me some advice in this respect if I may. Thanks!
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    'preferred' and 'will be better if' are much weaker than 'must be'
    ... for this job, if the person wanting to hire a tutor wants the best instruction, 'must' is a must...

    the beginning is way too wordy and thus loses impact on the reader... ads need to be concise and definite... i'd do something like this:

    hope this helps, richard... love and hugs, maia
     
  7. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks a lot for your revision and explanation, maia. You have used all complete sentences in your revision and this is what I would also like to know about. However, supposing that, in contrast to your revision of the job ad, I would intend to use You's as the subjects of sentences in this job ad to engage the reader, then what would the ad look like? In such an informal situation, can sentences like "Your main task is to help her practise her oral English on weekends" and "If you are interested, please contact me at..." be used in this ad? Can we consistently use You's or your's throughout this kind of ad in an engaging way?

    I've got some other related questions for you. Supposing that I would like to publish this job ad in a newspaper, then is it that grammatically complete sentences like your 'Applicants must be native English speakers' are more often used than grammatically incomplete sentences like 'Native English speakers preferred' ? Another question is, if the same job ad seeking a private language tutor is publised in a physical newspaper and an online forum or elsewhere online, then will there be a difference between the two versions of the same ad in terms of formality?

    Thanks a lot.
    I hope everything goes well for you these days.
    Richard
     
  8. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,459
    I can't speak for Maia, but I would find the "you" version of the ad to be _too_ engaging; it would make me wary. Employment ads tend to be phrased from a position of at least slight superiority; an ad that seemed to be begging me to apply for the job would feel odd. I would feel as if the advertiser were trying to sell me something.
     
  9. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hi, ChickenFreak. Just now I read your previous reply to my OP again and my reading caused to think of another question. Does your assertion that "'You'd better be a native speaker' communicates that the tutor absolutely must be a native speaker, and it communicates it casually and rudely" mean that except for its casuality and rudeness, "You'd better be a native speaker" is still a grammatically correct sentence, which may be used by some rude guys? If so, the implied meaning of your assertion seems to be running against the two uses of "sb had better" listed in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English-- to give advice or to threaten someone. So, is "You'd better be a native speaker" grammatically correct?

    This afternoon, my contemplation on this language issue caused me to think of another situation. Supposing that the boss of a company or the HR manager is dicating an employment ad seeking a language tutor for their company to his or her secretary or discussing with his or her secretary the possible content of the ad, then is it possible for them to say "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker"? I mean, although the boss or manager and their secretary will not write "You'd better be a native speaker" in the ad to be published, is "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker" something natural, usable and acceptable in their conversation? Thanks a lot.

    Please forgive me for giving you so much trouble.
    Richard
     
  10. DefinitelyMaybe
    Offline

    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2012
    Messages:
    866
    Likes Received:
    227
    Location:
    Leicester, UK
    I am bilingual. I have experienced a situation where someone came to me, and said "Where you go?" in English, in a way that sounded rude and pugnacious. I was shocked. I switched to Japanese and explained where I was going (to another ship moored near to the QEII), his response was very polite. Clearly he didn't meant to sound rude.
     
  11. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thank you, ChickenFreak. Your explanation in this reply is GREAT! You've helped to gain the most accurate understanding of this writing situation. Your explanation is what I desperately need as a learner of English.
    Thanks again.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i agree with that... using 'you' in a classified ad would not be recommended...

    a truncated version could be:

    wording depends on cost per word and how much one wants to spend on the ad...

    the venue [newspaper/magazine/whatever] doesn't have a preference... it's always up to the advertiser to word their ad any way they want... but since ads are priced by word count or 'per inch' of copy, the more concise, the better...

    there'd be no reason for that to be... some people write very professional, clear/concise ads and some ramble on... the venue doesn't care how it's worded...
     
  13. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,459
    I would say that the two uses are essentially the same use - they both imply that some negative consequence may result from failing to do whatever the sentence advises. In the "advice" sense, the negative consequence will come from outside the speaker and that makes it advice. In the "threat" sense, it's implied that the negative consequence will come from the speaker and that makes it a threat.

    It is grammatically correct as an idiomatic phrase, but it's extremely informal - you would use it in informal conversation and writing that is like an informal conversation, such as some kinds of email.

    Some more examples:

    From a mother to a child: "You'd better have your room cleaned up before I get home, or we're not going to the mall." (Consequence comes from the speaker.)
    From one adult to another: "You'd better start working on your taxes, or you won't make the deadline." (Consequence comes from outside the speaker.)
    From one child to another: "You'd better not call me that again!" (Consequence comes from the speaker.)
     
  14. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thank you, ChickenFreak.
    I agree with you that the two uses of "sb had better" are actually the same use. And I now get to know with your help that "You'd better be a native speaker" is something grammatically correct but that it is an informal expression which may, on many occasions, be offensive.

    Sorry for having given you so much trouble. However, I still would like you to do me another favour and address the latter part of my last post? Supposing that the boss of a company or the HR manager is dicating an employment ad seeking a language tutor for their company to his or her secretary or discussing with his or her secretary the possible content of the ad, then is it possible for them to say "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker"? I mean, although the boss or manager and their secretary will not write "You'd better be a native speaker" in the ad to be published, is "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker" something natural, usable and non-offensive(the boss or manager and the secretary is not directly addressing an applicant) in this particular conversational situation?

    Along this thread of thinking, when an applicant has read this job ad published in a local newspaper, she or he calls the company which advertises this job vacancy. Is there any chance that the secretary who receives the telephone call says "You'd better be a native speaker" or "The applicant had better be a native speaker", which may be viewed as a mistake just like a slip of the tongue?
    Thanks a lot.
     
  15. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,200
    Likes Received:
    4,211
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Well, I imagine that they'd try to make it clear that whoever they want is a native speaker, so they may say something like, "Must be a native speaker". Simple, direct, and not rude. If I learnt anything from my Technical Writing class, it was that business will make sure, for the most part, that they don't do anything that they may percieve will cast them in a bad light.

    Secretaries are human, however, and they may accidentally say, "You'd better be a native speaker" in which case...it'd be up to the person whether or not that secretary was making a mistake or being intentionally rude. If it were me and I heard this? I'd think, "Wow, you're an asswipe..." However, someone else may think differently.

    I'd still take it, though, because I won't let a secretary's snobbish response stop me from grabbing a job opportunity.
     
  16. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thank you for your GREAT explanation about the possibility of a secretary saying "You'd better be a native speaker".

    Then would you please address the latter part of my last post? Supposing that the boss of a company or the HR manager is dicating an employment ad seeking a language tutor for their company to his or her secretary or discussing with his or her secretary the possible content of the ad, then is it possible for them to say "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker"? I mean, although the boss or manager and their secretary will not write "You'd better be a native speaker" in the ad to be published, is "The applicant (had) better be a native speaker" something natural, usable and non-offensive(the boss or manager and the secretary is not directly addressing an applicant) in this particular conversational situation? In my view, there is not the issue of rudeness in this situation.
    Thanks a lot.
     
  17. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
     
  18. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,200
    Likes Received:
    4,211
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Well, I wouldn't word it that way because if my target audience is a native speaker of English, I would assume that whoever is going to read it speaks English. Plus, the phrase itself, as you have it, sounds blunt, harsh. A boss trying to advertise would want to try and make it seem like they WANT a native English speaker to come, make it seem inviting.

    A question, though. Shouldn't you also include what the native language of the girl is? If I speak both Spanish and English, and she speaks Chinese, then there might be trouble, as I wouldn't be able to understand her if she's speaking in all Chinese.
     
  19. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hi, LinktheWriter. In the writing situation I explained in my OP the target audience can be either a native speaker of English or a non-native speaker of English whose English is relatively good compared with other non-native speakers of English whose English proficiency is limited but who may also read the ad.

    Right now what I am most concerned about is, in the corporate situation where a HR manager is discussing with his or her secretary the possible content of a job ad seeking a foreign language tutor for their staff, is it possible for the manager to say "The applicant had better be a native speaker" in their discussion? In my view, in this different situation, there will be no offense evoked.

    Hope this time I have explained this point clearly.
    Thanks in advance.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,459
    If he just wanted to communicate, "The applicant must be a native speaker," he wouldn't use the "had better be" phrasing. This is partly because it would be rude and unbusinesslike, and partly because the implied negative consequence is not present. If a non-native speaker doesn't apply, he won't be hired. If a non-native speaker does apply, he won't be hired. So there is no _extra_ negative consequence that would result from the non-native speaker's decision to apply. For the boss to use this phrase in this context would feel so "off" that it would make me wonder if I'd mis-heard the words. If I was sure that I'd heard correctly, it would make me wonder if the boss had some serious personality problems.

    We could add another person to the scenario--Assistant, who is actually responsible for hiring the employee. In that case, Boss might tell Secretary "Assistant had better hire a native speaker." In that case, Boss could apply some negative consequence to Assistant for failing to follow Boss's instructions. Here, I could see the phrase making sense, but it would still feel bullying to the point of being unbusinesslike.

    I could see Assistant saying to Coworker, a peer, "I'd better hire a native speaker, or Boss is going to be annoyed." There, it makes sense to me. Or Secretary might tell Assistant, "I talked to Boss--you'd better hire a native speaker for that job." It's a fraction ruder then, because Secretary could be seen as passing on Boss's threat, but Secretary would probably be seen as giving advice not threatening.

    No--it would be grammatically correct and easily understood, but it would be extremely rude and unbusinesslike.

    I see the confusion. I think that the more formal meaning of "You'd better be a native speaker," would be, "If you are not a native speaker, you should not apply, and if you do, there will be a negative consequence."

    I think I missed this. The phrase "had better be" communicates that the applicant _must_ be a native speaker. The use of the word "better" implies an interpretation of "it would be better if..." but that's not what it means. Instead, the phrase communicates something that is mandatory, and implies that if that mandatory requirement is not fulfilled, there will be a consequence.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,923
    Likes Received:
    5,459
    Oops. Forgot to combine my responses. Combined now.
     
  22. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    "The applicant had better be (a native speaker)" equals in meaning "The applicant must be a native speaker"? Are you sure of this assertion? Why do I find this so hard to understand? Please do not feel offended, but I would like to know whether you are a native speaker of English. If you are, then your native linguistic intuition is what I can rely on to improve my English and understanding of English language issues; if not, then I may need to unlearn what I have learned from you in the future.

    If you are a native speaker of English, then please address my other question directly. In the corporate situation where the Human Resources manager is discussing with his or her secretary what the possible content of a job ad seeking a foreign language or second language tutor will be, is there any chance that one of them says in their conversation that "The applicant had better be a native speaker"? Pls be clear that in this private conversation, there WON'T be any offense evoked since they are not speaking to an interviewee(applicant) face to face-- when they are conversing with each other, no third party is present or right on the phone. My question is simply, is it possible for "The applicant had better be a native speaker" to be used in such a conversation and is "The applicant had better be a native speaker" grammatically correct? PLEASE answer my question directly.
     
  23. JamesOliv
    Offline

    JamesOliv Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    New York
    If I say "you better be ready by the time I arrive" there is an implied, though not explicitly stated, "or else." The phrase carries with it an imperative which leaves no room for negotiation. At least, that's how I (and many other English speakers) would take it.

    There are two issues at play: the first is that "you had better be a native speaker" would tell me, were I to see this add, that a native speaker is a requirement. The posting isn't saying a native speaker is preferred. It strongly comes across as "if you are applying and are not a native speaker, you are wasting my time." The second issue is the tone I just mentioned. It comes across a bit terse. So it ends up working against you in the end. As a native English speaker, I would never respond to an ad which told me I "had better be x."

    Then again, forceful yet ambiguous job postings are a personal pet peeve of mine. Most recently I encountered an ad in the paper which said "Apply only if you have a business degree from a good school." it irritated me because it comes off as arrogant. Also, does "business degree" include a BSBA or is only an MBA acceptable? What about an MS in Management? What is a "good" school? I went to the University of Scranton, a Jesuit college. Is that school "good enough?" Ultimately it comes down to a personal policy of mine; if the ad seems to be prejudging candidates, I won't apply.
     
  24. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    It is really the first time that I have heard that "You'd better be a native speaker" is equal in meaning to "You must be a native speaker". Thank you for explaining this aspect of the issue under discussion.

    Then would you please deal with the latter part of my last post:

    In the corporate situation where the Human Resources manager is discussing with his or her secretary what the possible content of a job ad seeking a foreign language or second language tutor will be, is there any chance that one of them says in their conversation that "The applicant had better be a native speaker"? Pls be clear that in this private conversation, there WON'T be any offense evoked since they are not speaking to an interviewee(applicant) face to face-- when they are conversing with each other, no third party is present or right on the phone. My question is simply, is it possible for "The applicant had better be a native speaker" to be used in such a conversation and is "The applicant had better be a native speaker" grammatically correct?

    Thanks!!!
     
  25. JamesOliv
    Offline

    JamesOliv Senior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2012
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    New York
    Your question is a bit more complicated than I can answer in a single sentence. At my company, because we are owned by a large international corporation, we have non-native speakers working all over. Granted, we don't employ tutors or English teachers. We employ a lot of engineers. So, we would never say that a person must/better "a native English speaker."

    BUT, there are other things we are hot on. For example, there are a lot of (typically older) engineers who don't have a college degree. They are typically toolmakers and technicians who, through many years of hard work, trained to be engineers on the job. However, our corporate policy is to only hire engineers with college degrees in engineering fields. So, within HR, you will hear things like:

    "All applicants must have a degree in engineering."
    "A degree in engineering is required for this position."

    You MAY hear "these applicants had better all have degrees in engineering" as an internal conversation between a manager and a recruiter. But that statement would never make it to a posting and would not be said to an applicant.

    The only time we ever dealt with a language issue was when we were hiring an employee to work overseas in Scandinavia. In the US, we can't advertise a job for native speakers only. We would get in trouble. At the same time, we wouldn't want to waste time on an applicant whose only exposure to Scandinavian culture is watching the Swedish chef on the muppet show.

    So, we said "the incumbent will operate from a field office in [country] to serve as a liaison with our foreign parent. The successful applicant will be fully conversational (fluency preferred) in [language]."
     

Share This Page