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I have a colleague who is very new to this country (USA). His English leaves a lot to be desired, to the point that it often actually hinders communication. I think he's trying to learn, but it's obviously hard.

Sometimes in an email, there will be a few mistakes that are fairly glaring, even if I get what they're trying to say. I was considering asking him (so as to not just give unsolicited advice), "would you like me to correct any errors in your writing I see when you email me? It could help you improve more quickly."

It could definitely help him learn, but I'm also aware that it could be embarrassing for him, as well as presumptuous on my part. Personally, I (like to) think I'd really like it if someone made me that offer if I were in that position, but of course I can't know for certain.

Is that a good idea, or is it better to just mind my own business?

  • I don't think this is specifically an Academic issue. It is one that could occur in any workplace, so perhaps it should be more suited to the workplace group. – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Jun 28 '16 at 20:35
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is more suited to The Workplace – Brian Tompsett - 汤莱恩 Jun 28 '16 at 20:36
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    You are so kind. I wish somebody do the same for me. – qsp Jun 29 '16 at 4:31
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    @BrianTompsett-汤莱恩: I disagree with the close rationale. While the problem surely does occur both in academia and in business, I do think answers are somewhat different. Case in point, there is one similar Workplace SE question, and its answers mostly focus on whether the English issues are a problem for the company's business ("if the customers are okay with the imperfect English, then you shouldn't meddle with it too much") and on the relative hierarchical position of those involved ("Knowing when to shut up is very important (even if ... – O. R. Mapper Jun 29 '16 at 19:28
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    @qsp "I wish somebody would do the same for me." :) – user2390246 Jun 30 '16 at 9:54
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It is hard to say what your colleague would feel since I cannot predict how anybody would feel in any situation. Yet, if I received an offer like this, I would most certainly not get offended. I often consult my native speaker colleagues about my writing and get useful feedback.

One thing you definitely want to do is to not do this in front of others. Doing it in an e-mail privately would certainly decrease the "embarrassment" if there is any.

  • Oh definitely. I would never do it in front of others. – YungHummmma Jun 28 '16 at 19:13
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I have many friends and professional (academic) colleagues who are from other countries, and in my experience, they are eager to accept positive correction on their English pronunciation and grammar. While it may depend on each person on a case-by-case basis, someone who is willing to move to another country is most likely the type of person who is willing to improve upon themselves and their command of the English language. I definitely think it could really benefit the person receiving your corrections from a native-speaker such as yourself.

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