This seems trivial but I am agonizing over it. My mom, who is smart and educated and a great conversationalist, somehow says the word “tortilla” wrong. As in, she says “tor-till-a” instead of “tor-tee-ya.” I want to tell her, but she’s sensitive and I don’t want to make her feel bad or embarrass her. Should I just let her say it wrong, or should I correct her the next time she mispronounces it? What do I say so I don’t make her feel stupid?
It’s probably more embarrassing for her to be in her Mexican cooking class pronouncing the word tortilla wrong every thirty seconds. Or to say it wrong in a restaurant in front of her clients, who are the largest tortilla suppliers in the country. Or your future in-laws, who are both Spanish professors.
She’s NOT stupid; she probably is completely oblivious to the fact that she says it wrong. I think it’s much better to correct a person privately and kindly than to let them carry on making that mistake for years. It’s going to annoy you, and end up skewing your perception of that person…not that anyone I know ever did this, but imagine that your boyfriend says the word “supposedly” like “supposably” so many times that you eventually become enraged and dump him. A short, nice conversation could have prevented such a tragedy.
So the next time she says it wrong, later, when it’s just the two of you, say, “Hey, Mom, I noticed that you said ‘tor-till-a’ earlier. I always thought it was pronounced ‘tor-tee-ya,” like the two ls together make a y sound in Spanish.” Your Mom will probably be like, “Oh, really? That’s not how I’ve heard it,” and you can let her save face and move on, and I bet the next time she says it, she’ll pronounce it correctly.