Did you know that your English is probably rude?

Now, you might be shocked by this suggestion. I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself – but I’m such a polite and respectful person!

Well, what’s polite in your language might not be in English as you’ll soon find out.

And if you’re making mistakes with intonation or body language, then you can also come across as rude. Even if what you say is grammatically correct!

Because being polite in English can be so tricky, I’m interviewing politeness expert Leandra King who helps speakers of English as a 2nd language to fit in with people in English-speaking countries.

Even at advanced level, politeness mistakes can be a barrier to fitting in with natives and thriving in your expat life or in your interactions with native English speaking colleagues or friends.

In fact, the more advanced your English is, the more important it is to understand the culture of the language. And the more likely you are to be perceived as rude if you make politeness mistakes.

Yes – your advanced vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation skills can actually work against you when it comes to polite English!

But don’t worry, Leandra is here to help you avoid sounding rude in English. And she knows a thing or two about this topic as she’s had her own issues navigating politeness in her second language, French.

In this interview, we touch on topics such as:

  • how Leandra helps people fit in with native English speakers through politeness and why she does it
  • our experiences living in France and politeness differences between our home countries, Barbados and the UK, and France. Note: I mention the importance of hand-shaking in France – this video was recorded prior to the Covid-19 crisis so hand-shaking was still ok. Obviously, even French people are adapting their greetings in order to avoid spreading the Coronavirus – shout out to the elbow bump! 
  • typical mistakes non-native English speakers make when talking to native speakers that make them sound rude
  • the danger of direction translation and why that doesn’t always work because of cultural differences between languages
  • why you need to “soften” your requests in English and how to do it
  • why body language is so important to spoken interaction and politeness
  • how all these elements interact with your relationship with different people – your boss vs your friends for instance
  • how intonation can change the way you’re perceived, and completely change the meaning of the same sentence!
  • why to use movies and TV shows to help develop your awareness of politeness in English-speaking cultures
  • the difficulties of being polite in written language, including for native speakers
  • why having a high level of English means that politeness is even more crucial to get right
  • why you need to keep up to date with changes in the English language to avoid offensive language
  • strategies for how to improve your politeness – working on your listening, mimicking how native speakers talk, observing native speakers in conversation
  • take it one step at a time – you don’t have to improve all aspects of politeness all together!
  • Leandra’s book – the Culture Sensitive Phrasebook and how it will help you sound more polite in English

Watch the video:

More from Today’s Guest


Leandra King is a native English speaker from Barbados.

She is the founder of English with Leandra and the author of The Culture Sensitive Phrasebook where she guides non-native English speakers on how to avoid being rude in English so that they can fit in with their native English-speaking friends and colleagues.

Get your copy of Leandra’s book here.*
Leandra’s website: https://englishwithleandra.com

*The link to the book is my affiliate link. This changes nothing for you – you pay the same price and get the same awesome resource.

But I’ll receive a commission thanks to the sale. I only support products that I really believe in. This helps support my work so thank you!

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