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Dangerous Language: English as a Blessing and a Curse

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Deconstructing Netflix’s “The Tinder Swindler”

The Tinder Swindler contains dangerous language, but not what you think.

I must say that it seems to me that any sensible person, when encountering someone who is blatantly portraying himself as a multimillionaire on social media of any kind begs the question: Why would a person this wealthy be on Tinder?

Don’t rich people have ways to meet other rich people?

But, ok, this guy has been conning people a long time, and he has his game down. And I’ll be you that he met a lot of people on Tinder who didn’t fall for his game. I’ve run into a few of these guys myself over the years, and one of the ways they expose themselves is when they appear to be following a script.

What bugged me through half the movie, though, and was a dead giveaway to me, was the Tinder Swindler’s English.

At first, I thought it was bothering me because his Israeli accent is so similar to a Jordanian English accent. I lived in Jordan for several years and met several not-so-great guys while I was there.

But eventually I realized it was what was WRONG with his accent…and the way he talks to people and puts words together. The Tindr Swindler poses as the son of a famous Israeli diamond mogul and has even changed his name legally to appear to be connected.

But people in the Middle East with those kinds of connections send their kids to schools where they are taught by Brits, Canadian, and Americans, among others…native speakers…and they usually send their kids to college in the States or possibly the UK.

In other words, they speak English well. They may even sound like native speakers.

This guy’s English is fine, but it is self-taught English. He doesn’t use idioms quite right, and most noticeably, he has a harsh way of speaking.

Recognizing a Language Fake

One way I have figured some people out is by the fact that they don’t use language the way that Americans do. They can fake their location, and their phone number, and even their photos, but they can’t fake their diction and their syntax, and that stands out whether you recognize a person’s accent or not.

It’s important to pay attention to the way the speaker puts words together and the expressions that are used. Americans have lots of different accents, but we put words together in similar ways.

I also realized that none of the three women profiled in the film speak English as a first language, and honestly, compared to the Fins, Norwegians, and Dutch people I know, their English isn’t that great. Norwegians and Dutch especially speak such good English it can be hard to detect that they aren’t native speakers. But all of these women have accents and seemed to struggle a little bit.

I’m not putting them down. They are much better at English than I will ever be in a second language. I’m just saying…they aren’t going to recognize the subtleties in English that they would recognize in their native languages.

So whatever dating app you use, show some sense. Ultra rich people do not advertise being ultra rich on Tinder. Think about it.

Dangerous Language: Exposing the English Con

But whoever you meet, and however you meet them, don’t forget to pay close attention to how they speak. Pay attention to how they put their words together. Does it match where they are supposed to come from and the type of education they claim to have?

Do they speak harshly? One of the ways less proficient people give themselves away is by not knowing how to be polite, or what is expected. They may not know how to adjust the register of their language to the situation.

Most Countries Produce Great English Speakers

If you’re an American, especially, don’t underestimate the ability of people with other native languages to speak English. Just because they sound American doesn’t mean they are. Conversely, if the person claims to have a great education or be wealthy and can’t speak English well, question that. World wide, people who want to go schools that have trained teachers who are also native English speakers. There are British schools, American schools, Canadian schools, and International Schools all over the world. Second and third tier schools have local teachers who teach in English…or in the local language while using English language materials…and there are more people who put the effort into learning English on their own. Make sure the person’s English is actually as good as the person they claim to be.

If the English seems native, but is unidentifiable, that may mean the person attended international school. The best international schools employ trained teachers from native English speaking countries, and long-term students develop perfect English. Almost too perfect. There’s nothing insidious about it…I actually call it “the international school non-accent”…unless someone is using it to scam you.

So why is English a dangerous language?

Because a lot of people will do a lot to get what you have: a good passport. The bulk of native English speakers come from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, plus Canada and New Zealand. Those countries all issue “good passports”. You get the right to live in great places with little corruption and lots of opportunity. You can travel to many countries with no visa.

English is one of the most major second languages. You can live in any major city in the world and attend school with native speaking, native trained teachers…not just for English, but for your entire education.

Many countries teach English in their schools starting with young children, right along with the local language, for economic reasons (increased job opportunities).

That means there are a lot of people out there who can speak English, with you and against you.

If you want to read a true story about a con man that won’t give you bad dreams (like the Tinder Swindler did for me), try Catch Me if You Can, the basis for the Tom Hanks/Leonard DiCaprio film.

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