Swear words

Swear words exist in all languages. Some languages are more tolerant of them than others. Some people are more tolerant than others. In principle, I find it is wise to avoid them when we are not native speakers. It sounds strange to use them if we are not natives.

I also would prefer no to see them on our Forums. To some people they are not offensive, to others they are.

Yeah, it’s a lot like slang I find.

As a nonnative you can run the risk of misusing a word and sounding nerdy or give off a meaning you didn’t intend. But with common swears the danger of misuse is a lot lower, so I’d say go for it if you want to.

But as for being offended, I think that’s a total waste of one’s energy, especially if the swear isn’t directed at you. Actually in general I see offense as an undesirable emotion, but what do I know.

But it’s your forum Steve and you can set the rules how you want so I have no objections there.

“with common swears the danger of misuse is a lot lower, so I’d say go for it if you want to.”

I’d agree that this is true with some of the more common expletives in English. But on the other hand, I have heard several non-natives and particularly those who haven’t spent (a lot of) time in an English speaking country make bad judgements about how and when to use common swearwords and some less common and more offensive ones, because they don’t understand the cultural or social context of the words and don’t understand how and when they might be offensive and to whom.

I recently had to explain to a quite advanced English learner that a word that began with “mother” might have been amusing in the context she heard it in a US movie, but was incredibly offensive and out of place when she used it in a sentence at a dinner party :slight_smile:

Well that seems like a lack of sense more than anything else.

Except of course if she didn’t realize that it was a swear somehow. Heh.

My students always ask me to teach them swear words, well, I can’t do that really!! haha But, I think we all know that the first thing students learn in another language is the swear words. If they are going to use them, it’s best to educate them. So, if I have a student that asks me about a swear word, I will explain, because it’s better to know about it, than to go and use it in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As a person who lived in England for almost 6 years I found that swearing was quite commonplace and done by everyone. In South Africa, my home country, it is a lot more offensive. So, I’d say, unless you’re in England, don’t go for the swearing unless you hear everyone else doing it too. :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, it’s good not to do it on forums or websites because it’s just not polite, and if you really must swear online (not on lingQ!!!) you should at least asterix out some of the main vowels. e.g. dog > d*g But anyway, if you’d like to debate this topic further, why not book a lesson. :slight_smile:

The lamentable usage of profanity was the primary reason my wife and I fled England a few years ago. Mind you, I only recently discovered the meaning of “merde” in French, and I was quite shocked, I can tell you.

Oh, bells, jolly unlucky that! Could you not have covered your bally ears?

Probably Russian is the most “richest” by swear words. Most of them are untranslatable. But it seems like they themselves take them as conjunctions.

I think swear words are awesome and fun. Observing how cursing works in different languages offers an interesting insight into the culture. For example how words that would sound hideously profane if directly translated into English or Swedish are used so casually in Spanish or Italian. Or conversely how Japanese curses to many ears won’t sound like curses at all.

As for if one should use them in a second or third language, I don’t think it’s worth lecturing about. If you’re used to swearing in your native tongue you probably will in any other language, eventually. As long as you adhere to the “don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in your native tongue” rule you should be fine as far as I’m concerned. I agree though that you might want to be cautious in the early stages because you might sound silly if you don’t have a good grasp of it.

One thing that really irks me however is when people complain that swearing makes you sound uneducated or having a small vocabulary. Not being able to finish a sentence without a stream of expletives is one thing, but seriously, just as any other words there is a time and place when to use them. You may not like it, that’s fine, but if you really find it that incredibly offensive, I’d say you have problems.

I dislike hearing swear words in English except in the locker room of my hockey team or from close friends. I think it is terrible that we have to hear these words in movies all the time. I strongly advise against a non-native using swear words in English until they are very very fluent. It just sounds silly, inappropriate.

I cannot vouch for how it sounds in languages in which I am not a native speaker.

I should add that language is first of all social, and is an important part of how people interact socially. Therefore language is based on conventions that are implicitly agreed upon. This includes the meanings of words, the functions of words, and what is considered polite, friendly, appropriate etc. In many languages swearing offends this sends of what is appropriate. Thus in English swearing sends out the signal to many people that the speaker is ignorant.

And what is appropriate varies from language to language and depends on context, and for that reason it requires a sophisticated level of knowledge of a language to get it right.

Well, you should not really swear just as you would in your native language if you want to be socially successful because you probably do not know how people of that culture tend to react.

I have spent my entire life passively learning that there are some things you don’t say to Steve’s generation if you want a favorable response that you can say to my generation. There are some swears you can say in front of people from Europe that many types of people from America would find highly offensive. There are some swears that you should not say in front of all sorts of groups that are fine within others.

Whether it’s politically correct or not, you learn to profile people that speak your native language and use curses accordingly. But until you have a very high level of proficiency in another language, that sort of thing is not easy to do.

But as Steve said, when a nonnative speaker swears it can, 99% of the time vary to me from hilarious to just silly, which I doubt is the image one is going for.

I forgot a comma after time.

But as Steve said, when a nonnative speaker swears it can, 99% of the time, vary to me from hilarious to just silly, which I doubt is the image one is going for.

Hopefully that’s easier to read.

And I as usual made a few typos, “In many languages swearing offends this sends of what is appropriate.” should have been “this sense”.

Isn’t the whole concept of swears strange. It’s a bunch of letters, arranged in such a way that if you say them, it may offend some people. Yet if you took another bunch of letters and arranged them in a different way, it can mean the same thing yet be less offensive to the person hearing them.

You should also be careful when swearing in a foreign language, because you never know who can understand you. I was in a meeting with a woman from Croatia, who let slip a very juicy epithet in her native tongue. Croatian is a Slavic language like Russian, so I understood it :slight_smile: She was rather embarrassed.

Croatian has a richer vocabulary of curse words even than Russian, I believe.

I think it can be quite useful to know swearwords (after all, I’d like to know what people say to me :wink: but just as Steve I’d strongly advise against using them unless you are among friends. Personally, I don’t like listening to people who seem to turn the use of swearwords into some sort of competition. Sometimes I also have the impression that people are just too lazy to look for another way to express their feelings. It is so much easier to just say the F…word (or its equivalents).
I don’t swear that much in German and I very rarely swear in any of the foreign languages I have studied. And if I do, I mostly do so when I’m alone ;-). It’s just a choice I make, nothing else. Besides, whenever I heard foreigners swear in German it sounded either really weird or even more offensive because somehow they just did not manage to use those words in the proper context. And I’m sure I would not be able to do so either most of the time (if at all) if I were to swear in a foreign language.

Another interesting thing is that I could easily say things in English for example which I would never ever say in German. The most terrible swearwords in English to me would just be some words I studied, while in German their impact would be completely different. I guess this is because English will always remain a foreign language to me and I just can’t relate to it the same way I relate to my mother tongue.

Steve said: “I dislike hearing swear words in English except in the locker room of my hockey team or from close friends. I think it is terrible that we have to hear these words in movies all the time.”

Hmm… If it’s okay in the locker room, then why is it SO bad in the movies…!?


Steve said: “I strongly advise against a non-native using swear words in English until they are very very fluent. It just sounds silly, inappropriate.”

Yeah, this is pretty much spot on.

It always sounds pretty crass to hear a foreign guy ‘effing and blinding’ in English in some situation where it is totally inappropriate to do so. Therefore I reckon it’s fair to assume that this is exactly what foreigners feel like when they hear English speakers trying to use cuss-talk in their languages.

(Having said that, it’s good to have some ammunition to use against people like uppity cab-drivers! ;-D)