From time to time it’s good for native speaking teachers of English to experience life from the point of view of the language learner.
Over the weekend I was in Llandudno, north Wales, for the British Esperanto Congress. One of the highlights was a performance by an excellent local male voice choir, Côr Meibion Maelgwn ˈkoːr ˈməibjɔn ˈməɨlɡʊn. This choir, who won the first prize for choral singing in last year’s national eisteddfod, are strict about using no language but Welsh in their rehearsals and socializing.
I had been asked to say a word of thanks afterwards, in Welsh and in Esperanto. The latter is no problem for me, but my Welsh comes entirely from books and from evening classes in London, so I am not very confident in the spoken language. Nevertheless, I thanked them in my best attempt at good fluent Welsh, managing to include a reference to one of the songs they had just performed. The choir members looked appropriately pleased and modest, and afterwards their leader and I exchanged a sentence or two of small talk.
I felt rather proud of myself. But no one congratulated me on my language ability. To begin with I felt a little disappointed at that.
But then I thought: if a non-native-speaking professor of English at some overseas university thanks me in good English for a lecture I have just given, I don’t congratulate him or her on the fact. I treat it as normal and unremarkable.
For me as a NNS of Welsh, to have my use of the language taken as normal and unremarkable is the best accolade I could receive.
(Or perhaps they were just being polite.)