The value being praised refers to the topic or theme of the compliment. An important sociocultural strategy to have in compliment sequences is the ability to know when and what you may praise and what type of response is most appropriate.

Why is this important?

Attention to the value being praised can have a number of implications. Think about each of the situations below and the negative impressions they might give.

A highly ranked professor compliments a young, very attractive student on her blouse.

A co-worker compliments an office mate he doesn't know very well on the very large pay raise he received.

A stranger in the grocery store tells a woman who had a baby three months ago that she really likes the maternity clothes she is wearing.

angry man

 

As you can imagine, each of these situations would likely produce negative reactions and would not be perceived as compliments. Therefore, it is essential to know what topics you may compliment on and when you may do this. This is often determined by the value being praised. Also, your response should fit the situation. For example, you would not want to be perceived as flirting with the professor in the example above.

What are the most commonly praised values?

The most common topics for compliments in Australian English and British Spanish are: skill performance, possession, appearance, and the combination of appearance and skills (Cordell, Large, & Pardo, 1995). However, this list is not exhaustive. It is important to observe what other values might be common to praise in the Spanish-speaking community within which you are interacting.

 

EXTENDING A COMPLIMENT

 

Think about the compliments you have given to people over the last few days. What were the most common topics? Do they fit into these categories? If not, what other topics did they cover?

Now, think more about general complimenting in your native language. Are there any topics that you do not compliment on? Why do you think that these topics are not appropriate?

There is little evidence to tell us exactly what topics are appropriate to compliment people on in Spanish. However, by learning how to respond to compliments, based on the topic, you will get a better idea of what types of compliments are typically seen as appropriate within the Spanish-speaking community in which you are interacting.

man with arms out

RESPONDING TO A COMPLIMENT

Responding to compliments can be very tricky in Spanish, especially for native speakers of English since there are marked differences between Spanish and English varieties. We will get into the specifics of the language to use in the strategies section, but at this point, it is important to think about how topic might affect the response.

Let's look at two compliment sequences to get an idea of how the value being praised might effect the response. In conversation 1, a professor is complimenting her student. In conversation 2, two close friends are commenting on each other's possessions.

Play each conversation once to get the main idea of what they are talking about. Then play them again paying specific attention to the topic and response of the individual and answer the questions that follow.

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Were you able to notice a link between the topic and the response? If so, what did you notice?

 

If you had to guess, which of the topics is more uncomfortable? Why?