Here are some of my pet peeves that I had while learning Thai. Hopefully the next time you talk to someone, whose first language isn't English, you'll remember these things.
1. Talking down to a person:
I don't mind slow, so please don't confuse the two. Talking down to someone, means you speak to them like you have a higher intelligence than they do. I know a foreigner in Thailand who speaks like a five year old in English when he speaks to foreigners, and to me, this is another way of 'talking down'. Slow and clear is good. Speaking to them like you believe their intelligence is somehow lower than yours, is bad.
I remember checking out groceries multiple times, and asking how the cashier was (because I'm a good southerner). I received giggles, and 'aww, it's so cute!'. They then proceeded to talk cutsie back to me. It always made me feel like a different person than who I actually was.
Church members didn't mean to, but often I felt talked down to. They simplified the conversation so much, that it felt 'dumbed down'.
2. Laughing at an accent:
This probably didn't bother me as much as #1, however, when you are trying to learn another language, and you spend so much time working on it, just to have your accent laughed at, it can be frustrating. It can discourage someone from continuing to learn.
Some things I wish people understood about speaking a second language:
1. Sometimes you can seem blunt.
When you are learning a second language, you often learn the most direct way of saying something. You learn the sentence structure, then the words. I remember my driver calling me, but I didn't recognize who was calling. I picked up the phone and said 'Excuse me, but who is this?' Apparently this was both direct and rude. There was a much more polite and round-about way of saying it, but that was the sentence I knew how to say, and so I used it. I appeared much more blunt than I am in real life.
2. You are trying hard to communicate
There were many foreigners in Thailand at the time, who took no time in learning Thai. Their English remained perfect, and thus, made no 'cutsie' or 'rude' mistakes. They also made no effort in communicating, and thus, didn't seem to care quite as much about the people they were living with.
Here are some ways you can help
1. Get to know the person and their vocabulary
I have a friend in Thailand, who knows pretty much my entire vocabulary. That way when she speaks to me, I understand 99.9% of what she's saying. It went visa versa for me. I spoke clearly and learned what vocabulary she knew. We now have a conversation that is equally in Thai and English. We both learned from each other, and after I get done talking to her, I can't remember which language we were speaking. Try to be this kind of a friend, if you can. I understand with waiters and service employees you can't really do that, but you can speak to them like they are normal people.
2. Be interested in their country and language.
It was fun when people asked me about Texas, and different phrases from there. Be interested in what their interested in, and who knows, you may gain a new friend!