ryan-swain-manners-cost

 

As a native English speaker and teacher living in Spain I am often told that we English speakers say ¨please¨ and ¨thank you¨ too much. I answer by saying that it is better to say these things too much than not at all. I often point out that I find it so disappointing and frankly,maddening, when I hear how children usually make requests here in Spain.  The ¨requests¨ can often begin with an ¨Oye¨ ,which means ¨hey¨.  This ¨hey¨is normally accompanied by a very loud or even screechy voice. This alone instantaneously makes my skin crawl because my name is not ¨hey¨and I hate shouting. (If you don´t respond immediately, the voice just gets louder) .The ¨hey¨is usually followed by the phrase ¨I want ……¨  And that is that.  The other way children make known that they want something is by making statements. For example, Paco does not have a pencil so he comes up to me and says, ¨I don´t have a pencil¨and he will expect me to give it to him.  Conversation over. When I give people these examples of what I can only call blatant rudeness, I am often told that these are cultural differences. That is where I draw the line. No!!  That is not possible because I married a Spanish man and he does not speak this way nor does his family or do his friends.  It seems to me that the generation of adults having children today have lost sight of the importance of good manners. I am not saying all of them, but yes, many. I work in a school that is focused on the children learning English as well as Spanish. Parents have this dream of their children becoming bilingual (though most don´t know much English or have any real desire to learn it themselves) and spend a good amount of money for this to be achieved. They want their children to be well rounded and ready for the future that awaits them. But unfortunately, good manners seem to be disregarded as a means of educating a person fully. I do what I can to teach the children that politeness and kindness is fundamental in my classroom. One day I asked my students, who are only 6 and 7, ¨Which is more important, learning English or learning how to be a good and kind person?¨The students answered that English is more important. I told them that although English is important, being a good and kind person is more important because no matter what language you speak, if you are cruel, rude or unkind, nobody will want to be your friend. The students were shocked that I told them that but it made a difference in their attitude towards each other. The trend is for children to learn so much and yes, their opportunities have increased in many ways, but since when did good manners become unnecessary?