Knowing how to politely give advice is not only an excellent tool for making small talk, but helps ESL students establish friendships with native English speakers, engaging with them in a meaningful, friendly way.
I could probably conjecture that most Koreans are eager to make friends with an English-speaking foreigner so they can practice their English, share cultures, have an interesting time, and from my experience, perhaps because they genuinely want to show you “their Korea.” And from my experience meeting new Korean friends, there is always a lot of advice sharing. I hadn’t realized how often we native English speakers offer our thoughts and suggestions to others, especially to co-workers or friends.
I always make sure to include a good lesson or three on how ESL students can give advice.
A few of the difficulties I’ve noticed when teaching “Giving Advice”:
- Advice is cultural and may not always be polite or practical when transferred to the listener’s culture. Real life example: Me – My stomach hurts today. Friend: You should try making a big dung.
- It’s better to give advice that is closer to neutral rather than politically, emotionally or otherwise “fired up.” In other words, suggesting solutions that are too strange can feel awkward and create distance between the speaker and listener. Real life example: Person 1 – I am tired of riding the bus. Person 2 – Well, riding the bus saves the environment, so you should be happy about doing it.
- Being polite is not easy in a second language, even with the best intentions. Native English speakers can often take offense easily (and here I’m speaking as a polite, “I’m sorry” loving Canadian). Real life example: Me – I’m feeling sick. Co-workers – You ought to come to work anyways like other Koreans do.