Foreigners Want to Speak English To You

English is the lingua franca. It’s hard to come across someone in Europe who doesn’t speak English. I’ve found that many of them like practicing their English. I had a few conversations where it was apparent the other person just wanted to speak English to me so talked and talked and talked.

Speaking their language is still preferred, but only if you’re basically fluent.

In most other cases, throw away the phrase books and speak slowly. If you want to build a good relationship, let them practice their English!

12 Responses to Foreigners Want to Speak English To You

  1. Tiara says:

    Ha! You’ve got to be extremely naive. In many places they’ll consider it arrogance on your part. You’re in THEIR culture, learn THEIR language. They shouldn’t have to adjust themselves to you!

    If you want to build a good relationship, let them practice their English!
    This is a very arrogant statement and p.o.v. You’ll soon see that this will not work for you at all. Make the effort to actually learn their language and culture; they will appreciate it a LOT more and actually be more open to you.

    Have this mindset in Japan and you will be horribly lost (as I’ve experienced). One of my mentors experienced this in Germany; he barely knew the language and his host dad won’t talk to him, but when he (the mentor) made the effort to learn some German, the host dad opened up to him.

    Speaking their language is preferred, fluency or not. They’ll understand that you’re not local and won’t judge you too much for it. Trying to impose English upon them (especially in a country where English isn’t always the main operating language) is fruitless.

  2. Tiara says:

    Also, the title of the post is problematic. “Foreigners want to speak English to you”?! YOU’RE the foreigner! They’re the locals!

    Yeah sure some of them get a kick out of speaking English (and many won’t mind), but actually making the effort to speak their language and be part of their culture goes very, very far.

  3. Ben Casnocha says:

    Tiara,

    Of course, learning their language is preferred. That’s the assumption we all operate on, and I even said that. My point here is simply to note that in my two months in Europe many foreigners wanted to practice their English with me and didn’t want to hear my mangled attempt at Italian, Spanish, whatever. Maybe your experience has been different.

  4. Hey Ben – you’ve been very fortunate. Most Mediterranean country folk don’t speak a word of English, don’t intend to or have a desire to.

    France has an enormous problem with this ever since French was dropped as the official diplomatic language by EU. Spain? They couldn’t care less where you’re from but speak Spanish or they ignore you. Same for Italians and Greeks.

    Capital cities and large towns where you’ve got friends or colleagues is very different. They’re microcosms of the ‘real’ country.

    Now if you’d accepted my offer to come out to the boonies you’d have spotted that straight away. Maybe next time around ;)

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  6. Rebeca says:

    “Spain? They couldn’t care less where you’re from but speak Spanish or they ignore you”. Sorry, but that is a little bit harsh, don’t you think? It would be interesting to find out how many examples from your own experience you do have – and how long ago those examples took place- in order to make such an statement… “Según datos del Ministerio de Educación, unos siete millones de alumnos de colegios, institutos y universidades estudian inglés, a los que hay que sumar más de 200.000 personas que están matriculadas en las escuelas oficiales de idiomas” [Europa Sur 17/1/2005] As you can see I’m happy to practise my English but hey, I can give you a hand with the translation of the quotation if you need to. No probs!

    “Capital cities and large towns where you’ve got friends or colleagues is very different. They’re microcosms of the ‘real’ country.” This paragraph is ambiguous. Would you mind explaining it a little bit better? Gracias ;-)

  7. Rebeca says:

    Ben,

    “many foreigners wanted to practice their English with me and didn’t want to hear my mangled attempt at Italian, Spanish, whatever.”

    1- I see you were in Italy and Spain in July. High season for the Tourism Industry. If you were trying to order tapas in a busy restaurant in your mangled Spanish I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that they wouldn’t spend 10 minutes with you just to let you know that they had run out of whatever you were ordering.

    2- What’s wrong with them practising their English?? I’m so happy every time I meet someone who wants to practise their Spanish. It shows interest for the language and therefore for the culture. No offense here please but, can you really hold a conversation in any of the European languages? May be English was really the only way of communicating with locals without having to say “Hold on a sec, I’ve seen that somewhere on my Phrase Book, just let me have a quick look”. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. Rebeca – I’ve lived in Spain 2 years. The first 18 months near Javea where I doubt I needed to speak Spanish on more than a dozen occasions. To my shame I have to say.

    Now I live in Jaen province. No-one speaks English – apart from the few other English people. And I don’t see much of them anyway.

    Prior to that I lived in France for 7+ years.

    If you’d read my ‘About’ on my blog, you’d have known that :) lol.

  9. Rebeca says:

    By the way, what’s the right balance then?? First you regret not having had enough chances to speak Spanish (when in Javea) and now that you live in Jaen it seems to me that you whish people would talk to you in English more often…

    D’accoooord, je vais y jetter un coup d’oeil sur ton blog…

  10. bahloul fouad says:

    hi everybody.iam moroccan and iwould like to practise my english with native speakers.please how can i do so.if there is a possibility contact me

  11. daw says:

    I want to speak English,please.

  12. Ryan says:

    If you want to practice speaking any foreign language like english checkout http://www.myLanguagePal.com . Hope this helps.

    ps. I think you should make an effort to speak the local language atleast hello,goodbye etc.

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