Marlana
Using profanity as a non-native speaker
Swearing: silly or expressive?

As a native-English speaker, I find swearing to be useful in a sense that it can emphasize a serious situation that someone is in. The less someone uses profanity, then the more effective it can be. But I think it's also very easily abused in language, and if used too often and for reasons that aren't necessary, it can make the speaker seem unintelligent. In some cases, it can also make them seem disrespectful.

When it comes to non-native English speakers, anyone with an accent (outside of English) using profanity to me just sounds silly. I am not even including fluent speakers here, because being fluent does not mean a non-English accent isn't present.

I have heard people who learn some expletives, but don't exactly understand how ridiculous it is when they use them. For some reason, the accent coupled with the swearing actually gives the opposite effect of what they are trying to say. Why? Because in many cases, an accent from non-English speakers often times sounds charming. Also, for extremely new learners, pidgin-speak often times sounds cute. So when profanity is laced in with either a charming accent or cute pidgin-speak, it doesn't harmonize with the pleasantness we hear from a foreign accent.

Sure, it's helpful to learn some profanity in the case of identifying it if you hear it around you or something is said directly to you, but to use it yourself? My advice is to learn more vocabulary than use profanity as a crutch.

What are your opinions on people learning profanity in your native language?
Jun 16, 2020 8:15 PM
Comments · 3
Hi Shannon! :) I have to wonder if a non-native speaker truly understands the sound they are making. Pick any obscene word: It's a foreign sound to them. Stringing together sounds when you learn a language is just going with the motions sometimes.

Whenever I hear a foreigner speaking English and they overuse "sh**" at every turn, I have to wonder if they really understand what that sounds like to us [native speakers]. To them, it's a sound, and they know it's supposed to mean something at a certain moment. They may even understand that it's profane. But do they really? Overuse becomes a crutch, and the speaker doesn't even realize they're doing it.

This is why to me it's foolish. There are more intelligent ways to express one's self without using profanity as a crutch all the time.
June 17, 2020
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July 20, 2020
I'm also a native English speaker, and I happen to be married to a non-native so I see him trying to use profanity where it doesn't really belong haha. I agree 100% about using profanity sometimes coming off as disrespectful, but I'd say the thing I find most disappointing is when learners assume that simply learning the slang and profanity gives them more fluency. If anything, I'd say that misuse of profane vocabulary actually takes away from their perceived skill. I'd say this mostly because of the fine social nuances that go along with the use of these more "crass" and abrasive words. When used wrongly, the learner can risk being seen as rude, disrespectful, not genuine, and lazy. This may result from profane vocabulary being learned from popular media and usually without context explanation, especially in sarcastic tones. Overall, I would absolutely share your opinion about learning profanity.
June 17, 2020
Marlana
Language Skills
English, French, German, Ukrainian
Learning Language
French, German, Ukrainian