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Foreigner - What do you think about that word?

What do you think of this word? It is said a lot here on iTalki because we are from different countries and anyone that isn't "native" or "born" from your country is a foreigner.  And before anyone types out the definition to the word "foreigner", I understand completely what the word means. But my question is that given that this is a meeting place for everyone around the world to help one another through teaching our respective languages to one another, should we refer to each others foreigners?

Can we not refer to each other as people from different countries? Can we not say, "I am here to meet people from different countries?" instead of "I am here to meet foreigners?"


Sep 23, 2016 10:04 PM
Comments · 43

Some words are always offensive.  "Foreigner" is a normal inoffensive word which can be used offensively, and this happens sometimes. However, it is not sustainable to say that the word "foreigner" is always offensive in standard US English, (or British English) as my link to sentences from USA Today etc. indicates.  

Any normal word can be used offensively.  I could use the word "learner" in a negative way if I wanted e.g. "What do you know - you're just a learner". Then I should be criticised for my tone and overall meaning, not for the use of the word "learner" in itself.

People on this site are learning how to use language well, and most of us probably pride ourselves on using our native language well. In my opinion, we need to have the confidence to use words with their normal meanings while being sensitive to particular usages or contexts where we known those words can be offensive to a group people. And of course, all of us should try to avoid using words unkindly and give each other the benefit of the doubt. 

If we ban ourselves from using words like "foreigner" in all circumstances, we impoverish our language and our freedom to communicate normally.

September 25, 2016

It's an interesting question.  I suppose it can be a loaded word in certain contexts.  

If the contrast is simply with people in your own country, and the context is factual, then foreigner can be a good descriptive word, in my opinion.

e.g. Many foreigners who go on holiday in the UK struggle to drive on the left.  

I don't think anyone could reasonably be offended by that usage of "foreigner".

September 23, 2016
I understand what you are saying and I agree with your idea of referring to each other as 'people from different countries' rather than as 'foreigners'. Foreigners can have a negative connotation, it can sound like it is 'us versus them'. So, yes, I think your idea has merit.
September 23, 2016


September 24, 2016
I admit, the word "foreigner" has a negative connotation to me. In the US, I have never heard the word "foreigner" used is a positive way. As Bronwyn Clarke said, it does have an"us versus them" feel to it. Whenever I hear someone say that they want to meet foreigners, it brings the image of a side show to my mind, as if these "foreigners" aren't people, but an exhibit, something to be looked at and something to tell your friends about. 
September 23, 2016
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