Lower Intermediate - Advice on how to advise

December 17th, 2011 17 comments
When it comes to advising or correcting other people's mistakes, some seem to do it in a way that belittles the person at receiving end. We go through a piece of poetry which teaches you how to give advice in a decent manner.

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Sydney says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@12:33 am

'Commit yourself' sounds a little crazy in American English...it sounds like you want the person to put themselves into a mental hospital. A lot like Muhamed laughing about the similar sound of the word for poverty in English... But, after all, Employers in any country like 'committed' employees. (an acceptable adjective, not an easy sounding verb...)
Sydney says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@12:53 am

I'm not lost on the irony of being a 'committed' employee either, but 'devoted' would definitely escape that potential irony...LOL. In English, we offer or give advice. 'Please give/offer me your advice in private'. 'Please make it a habit to offer me your advice in private'.
Darby says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@01:19 am

May I seek some advice not related to this lesson? I realise there is the forum but it seems to not be used often so please indulge me....I have just bought an android tablet and am wondering what people may be using as a flashcard programme that they can recommend? Thanks in advance.
Desmond says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@10:19 am

@ Sydney

"Commit oneself" + INFINITIVE is grammatically correct. Example: Both sides committed themselves to settle the dispute peacefully." (OALD, s.v. commit). However, this type of word combination is rarely used in the imperative. In the present instance "promise" would sound much more natural than "Commit yourself".

It remains to add that the Arabic verb which is used in the first line of the text is related to "'ahd", which can mean "oath", "promise" or "commitment".
Sydney says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@01:13 pm

Desmond, as you know, good translations may not follow word for word but sometimes they can be very rough sounding if they do. It's very interesting to come upon the cultural Arabic nuances of some expressions.
Desmond says chat
Sun 18th Dec 11@02:45 pm

@ Sydney

"Commit yourself" and "promise" are both literal translations. The only difference is that one is right while the other is wrong.
Edw says chat
Mon 19th Dec 11@07:21 am

Darby, You might want to try "BYKI" , they have a free version. Just google BYKI
Sydney says chat
Mon 19th Dec 11@06:05 pm

Desmond, if it sounds funny in one language but 'normal' in the corresponding language, the translation is off. Doesn't make it wrong, it just fails at conveying the true meaning of the exchange in the other culture. Promise could be wrong here, but commit definitely sounds too strange for an English speaker. But promise is definitely less rough. Of course, the boss or the requesting party could be quite a tyrant and commit could be the proper selection of the word for the intended request. Then we know that anyone would have to be crazy to work for such a controlling boss. No doubt, commit here is a very revealing choice. Interesting, eh? But, I do remember a prior exchange between Ahab and Mohamed about keeping busy at work, Ahab suggested that Mohamed should demand his employees be kept busy all the time, while Mohamed protested that if anyone should work for him, that they should stay busy at all times. See Beginner Lesson #202...language is very revealing as to the nature of the speaker/writer. Sorry if I misspelled anyone's name here.
Desmond says chat
Tue 20th Dec 11@10:27 am

@ Sydney

I agree that "Commit yourself" is a bad translation, but I think you have overinterpreted these words. In my view the use of "commit yourself" as an imperative merely reveals a poor command of English. "That I don't accept hearing" also sounds very odd, but it doesn't tell us anything about the relationship between the fictitious persons presented in the poem.
chazyouwin says chat
Wed 21st Dec 11@12:33 pm

"Commit" connotes a promise in comparable to a contractual promise, and sounds strange in English in regard to one's self. We "make a resolution" (e.g., New Year's Day resolutions). However, to "make a resolution" does not seem to be a one-for-one translation of the elements of the Arabic poem. However, awkward "commit yourself" seems, I suspect it is a fair enough translation.
jenkki says chat
Mon 16th Jan 12@05:52 am

There is a saying in English, which I got from the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie... not sure if you have anything equivalent in Arabic; but it goes like this:

"If you want to gather honey, don't knock over the bees nest".

This is the title of a chapter on why you should never commit any of the 3 "C's", 1) Criticize 2) Condemn 3) Complain. That is, if you want to win friends and influence people. Criticism is only a good idea if the object of the criticism esecially asks for it (like a coach to a player), and even then it only works if you give some sugar to go with the bitter pill. Eg. You are a great player, Joe, but you need to work on so and so...

People are very sensitive to criticism, so the comparison to a bee hive is quite apt. You criticize somebody for no reason, and you are just asking to be stung.
Desmond says chat
Mon 16th Jan 12@09:44 am

@ jenkki

Assad is more like a hornet than a honey bee. He's extremely sensitive to criticism, and it's dangerous to criticise him openly if you live in Syria. Incidentally, "hornet is "zunbuur" in Arabic.
chazyouwin says chat
Mon 16th Jan 12@02:41 pm

Here's a link to some arthropod proverbs: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/proverbs.htm . The catch more bees with honey than with vinegar proverb is popular here in the U.S.
durruti says chat
Tue 17th Jan 12@05:25 pm

@chazyouwin - I have actually heard that saying as "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar".
Desmond says chat
Tue 17th Jan 12@06:11 pm

@ durruti

There is a French proverb that goes: "On n'attrape pas les mouches avec du vinaigre" (literally: "You don't catch flies with vinegar.") In English this is sometimes rendered as "Gently does it", and in German it corresponds approximately to "Mit Speck fängt man Mäuse" (literally: "You catch mice with bacon.") Perhaps Ehab and Mohamed will be able to provide an Arabic equivalent.
Ehab says chat
Tue 17th Jan 12@10:15 pm

Well, interesting topic. We have a proverb in the Shaam area (Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) that goes: الكلمة الطيبة بتطلع الحيّة من البير which is: A good word could get a snake out of a well.
Desmond says chat
Wed 18th Jan 12@05:19 am

@ Ehab

It's interesting to note that many proverbs refer to animals. That would be a good topic for a podcast.
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