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    #1

    Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Dear teachers,
    Yesterday evening, I read a post on a forum on the website of the Chinese university where I am pursuing my doctoral studies, a job ad seeking a private English tutor, which goes as follows:

    A girl who is at her second year of middle school wants find a English tutor.You'd better be a native speaker. You main task is to help her practice her oral English at the weekend for one or two hours. The salary is high.Tel:15850579195

    What in the above post especially caught my eye is the second sentence of "You'd better be a native speaker." BTW this post was presumably written by a Chinese (I myself am also Chinese), most probably a Chinese university student who has learned English for a long time but whose English competence is still not so satisfactory so far as can also be seen from the several other errors. At first glance there seemed to be nothing wrong with the sentence but shortly afterwards I sensed that this was a literal translation of Chinese thinking which is wrong in English. I remembered that "had better" is used to make a suggestion whose tone of voice implied sometimes sounds impolite to the listener. I just now went to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (the 1995 third edition)and it told me on p. 110 that "sb had better" is used to give advice about what someone should do or used to threaten someone. We cannot suggest that someone who is not a native speaker of English change themselves into one. Seemingly by now I can feel assured of the usage of "had better" but my experience with dictionaries tells me that they sometimes fail to tell everything. And this is why I come here for your help. My question is, can we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Besides, if I were the post writer, I would have written the job ad like this:

    A girl who is in her second year of middle school(or junior high) wants to find a private English tutor.It will be better if you are a native speaker. Your main task is to help her practise her oral English on weekends. The salary offer is sure attractive and is still open to negotiation. If you are interested, pls contact me at 15850579195.

    What do you think of my revised version above? If there is still anything which does not sound natural to your native ears, please point it out. Incidentally, I am a teacher of English at a small Chinese university and next Monday I intend to explain to my students possible Chinglish expressions(literal translating done consciously or unconsciously by Chinese learners of English) which are more difficult to recognize in writings or oral English of Chinese learners of English, learning English in a non-English environment, and thus require much more effort on our part to correct. I hope you will not consider me to be stupid in raising such a question which may be quite simple to you native speakers;I am serious in making this inquiry.

    A BIG THANK-YOU in advance!
    Richard

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    #2

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by ohmyrichard View Post
    Dear teachers,
    Yesterday evening, I read a post on a forum on the website of the Chinese university where I am pursuing my doctoral studies, a job ad seeking a private English tutor, which goes as follows:

    A girl who is at her second year of middle school wants find a English tutor.You'd better be a native speaker. You main task is to help her practice her oral English at the weekend for one or two hours. The salary is high.Tel:15850579195

    What in the above post especially caught my eye is the second sentence of "You'd better be a native speaker." BTW this post was presumably written by a Chinese (I myself am also Chinese), most probably a Chinese university student who has learned English for a long time but whose English competence is still not so satisfactory so far as can also be seen from the several other errors. At first glance there seemed to be nothing wrong with the sentence but shortly afterwards I sensed that this was a literal translation of Chinese thinking which is wrong in English. I remembered that "had better" is used to make a suggestion whose tone of voice implied sometimes sounds impolite to the listener. I just now went to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (the 1995 third edition)and it told me on p. 110 that "sb had better" is used to give advice about what someone should do or used to threaten someone. We cannot suggest that someone who is not a native speaker of English change themselves into one. Seemingly by now I can feel assured of the usage of "had better" but my experience with dictionaries tells me that they sometimes fail to tell everything. And this is why I come here for your help. My question is, can we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    (I would understand this to be some sort of a warning
    .)

    Besides, if I were the post writer, I would have written the job ad like this:

    A girl who is in her second year of middle school(or junior high) wants to find a private English tutor.It will be better if you are a native speaker. Your main task is to help her practise her oral English on weekends. The salary offer is sure attractive and is still open to negotiation. If you are interested, pls contact me at 15850579195.

    (The "sure" is rather colloquial, and the "still" is not needed as negotiations have not begun yet. Salary is (In the US) understood to mean a set amount of money, regardless of the number of hours worked. Pay, compensation, or, wages would fit better here.

    Your version is a bit confusing in that you start with "a girl", go on to say, "is to help her", and then end with "please contact me". I'm unsure if the writer of the ad is hiring someone for the girl, or, if the girl is doing the hiring.

    This type of writing tends to be similar to what one might read in the headlines of a newspaper. The normal rules of grammar are suspended in favor of brevity.

    My version - Junior high girl
    seeking a private tutor for English. Native English speakers preferred. The main task will be to help me practice oral English on weekends. The pay is attractive. If interested, please contact me at xxxxxxxxx.

    What do you think of my revised version above? If there is still anything which does not sound natural to your native ears, please point it out. Incidentally, I am a teacher of English at a small Chinese university and next Monday I intend to explain to my students possible Chinglish expressions(literal translating done consciously or unconsciously by Chinese learners of English) which are more difficult to recognize in writings or oral English of Chinese learners of English, learning English in a non-English environment, and thus require much more effort on our part to correct. I hope you will not consider me to be stupid in raising such a question which may be quite simple to you native speakers;I am serious in making this inquiry.

    A BIG THANK-YOU in advance!
    Richard
    Gil

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    #3

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Like Gil, I would say 'Native English speakers preferred'. This would indicate to others that they would still be considered if they applied.

    Rover

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    #4

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillnetter View Post
    Gil
    Thank you very much. I'm sorry for causing you confusion; it is the writer of the ad who is hiring someone for the girl mentioned in the ad.

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    #5

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    Like Gil, I would say 'Native English speakers preferred'. This would indicate to others that they would still be considered if they applied.

    Rover
    But is he saying that a native speaker is "preferred" or is it a requirement? If it's a requirement, then it should say something like "Native English speakers only."

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    #6

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    But is he saying that a native speaker is "preferred" or is it a requirement? If it's a requirement, then it should say something like "Native English speakers only."
    I intended to say that a native speaker (of English) is preferred.

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    #7

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    Like Gil, I would say 'Native English speakers preferred'. This would indicate to others that they would still be considered if they applied.

    Rover
    Thanks a lot, Rover. There's another question for you, please. Your revision of 'Native English speakers preferred' is, strictly speaking, a grammatically incomplete sentence. My question is, supposing that I would like to publish this job ad in a newspaper, then is it that grammatically complete sentences are more often used? Another related question is, if the same job ad seeking a private language tutor is publised in a physical newspaper and an online forum or elsewhere online, then will there be a difference between the two versions of the same ad in terms of formality?

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    As Gil said: This type of writing tends to be similar to what one might read in the headlines of a newspaper. The normal rules of grammar are suspended in favor of brevity.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

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    #9

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    As Gil said: This type of writing tends to be similar to what one might read in the headlines of a newspaper. The normal rules of grammar are suspended in favor of brevity.
    Hi, Barb. I've got a follow-up question for you. Supposing that the Human Resources manager is discussing with her or his secretary the possible content of a job ad seeking a foreign language or second language tutor for their staff, then is it possilbe for any of them two to say "The applicant had better be a native speaker" and is "The applicant had better be a native speaker" grammatically correct and appropriate in this particular corporate situation where no offense will be evoked since no third party is present at the scene or right on the phone?

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    #10

    Re: Do we say "You'd better be a native speaker"?

    Hi,everyone.
    There is something which was on my mind at the time of my making my OP but I nearly forgot to mention. Now I think I wish to get clear about it with your help.

    Just now I consulted my other dictionary, Oxford Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, and like Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, it says that "had better/best(do sth)" is "used to tell sb what you think they should do". All the example sentences given in Oxford Advanced Learner's English Dictionary, also as in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, are all the "had better DO something" type of senternces and there are no example sentences of the "had better be something" type. I have now realized that "You'd better be a native speaker" is an offensive expression in most cases although it is grammatically correct, but I need to add here that the underlying reason why I thought of asking a question about "You'd better be a native speaker" was that to my understanding, if "sb had better", as explained by the above-mentioned two authoritative dictionaries, is used to give advice(suggesting that the addressee DO something), then "You'd better be a native speaker" can be ambiguous. In saying "You'd better be a native speaker", the speaker seems to be urging the addressee to assume the new identity of a native speaker, which is impossible to realize if the addressee is not a native speaker of a language more desired by the advertiser. I would like to know whether or my reasoning sounds ridiculous to you native speakers of English.

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