I’ve found myself in a situation multiple times where I’d be talking or answering a question and someone, usually, a white foreigner of a native-English speaking country, would go, “Your English is pretty good.”
From your perspective, you might think that it’s a compliment to me but from my POV, I don’t see it that way, I’m afraid.
Instead, your compliment comes across as if you’re surprised that when someone who may not appear like they could speak English—appearance and race wise—happens to be speaking English well.
And let me tell you something, just because someone may not look like they are from a native-English speaking country, doesn’t mean English isn’t their first language. There are so many Asian-born Americans, for example. So drop that stereotype, please.
And as for me, I started speaking English at the same time as Thai, which makes me bilingual instead of learning English as a second language.
For example, look at this video of Tom Holland being super surprised that Eric Nam could speak English. He even asked Eric Nam, “How did you learn English?”.
Here is another example when Tiffany of Girls’ Generation was answering a question about how the group worked very hard, and instead of continuing with the topic like any good interviewer should, he said, “Your English is very good.” Tiffany then replied, “I was born in America,” and he just repeated again, in a slightly slower accent, “Your English is very good.”
And here is a compilation of white people ignoring whatever an Asian person has to say to tell them they speak good English.
It’s always polite not to judge the non-white person’s ability to speak English. But then again why do you need to comment on the other person’s English proficiency? Like, really, why?
We need to stop giving the English language so much credit and using it to judge people’s intelligence or capability in other things in life.
Yes, I’m aware that it’s the language spoken as a central language in the world and can we just treat it as that, as a language used to communicate? It’s so none of your business to make any comments on another person’s ability to speak it.
And worse, to be “surprised” when you see people from the minority races—in this case, Asian—have proficiency in English skills. That’s just plain ignorant.
So please, next time, before you’re about to open your mouth to “compliment” someone on their English, ask yourself, “why must you do it?”