As reported by Yule, in the study of linguistic politeness, the more relevant concept is “face”, described as “the emotional and social sense of self that everyone has and expects everyone else to recognize” (2017: 148). That is to say, one’s public self-image. One of the most withstanding differences between English and Spanish politeness is the usage of face-threatening and face-saving acts. Face-threatening acts could be considered statements that represent a threat to another person’s self-image, quite used in direct commands and notably common in Spanish. These direct commands imply a sense of social power and they are seen as face-threatening acts when someone who lacks this authority uses them. On the other hand, face-saving acts are statements that lessen the possible threat to another person’s face. They are fairly frequent in indirect requests, withdrawing this way the previously mentioned social power. These acts are one of the particularities of British English.
To illustrate this point, a Spanish university student would ask the teacher to approach saying María, ven aquí un momento, por favor (Maria, come here a moment, please). This sentence would be considered a face-threatening act due to the fact that the student is using a direct command to address someone of a higher social status. However, it would not be considered rude or impolite if said with an appropriate tone and using the politeness marker por favor. Notwithstanding, a British student would say Mr. James, would you mind coming here for a moment, please? Which is a face-saving act articulated as an indirect request in the form associated with a question that respects the social distance between the student and the teacher. In contrast, if a British student said Maria, come here a moment, please to a teacher, he or she would be breaking the boundaries of social power; hence it would be considered extremely impolite. This means that rather than regarding Spanish society as bad-mannered and impolite, one should take into consideration other metapragmatic factors. As Ardila states “Understanding Spanish politeness from the viewpoint of metapragmatics is a crucial must – since many Spanish sociologists and intellectuals have traditionally regarded Spanish society to be conspicuously impolite” (2017: 204).