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AIBU not to want to give free English lessons?

(44 Posts)
NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 09:48:44

I live abroad, native English speaker and English teacher. My friends and acquaintances are non-native speakers of English, some people speak very little English at all but EVERYONE wants to speak English with me, though I speak THEIR languages fluently. This is to the point that I could be in the company of 4 French speakers but they want to speak ENGLISH because I´m there! I speak absolutely fluent French!

AIBU to NOT want to speak English in these circumstances? It is completely unnatural and I don´t know to what extent my friendship is sought and to what extent I´m being used as a free English teacher.

So AIBU to be pissed off with the situation? What can I do or say to get out of it?!

morningpaper Fri 05-Jun-09 09:50:54

They are just being polite

I don't see the problem, as long as they make themselves understood!

Close friends, then you can explain - aquaintances - meh! You could always look blankly at them, as though their English is CRAP

ruddynorah Fri 05-Jun-09 09:51:26

just speak in french then. hmm

maybe they think well why should we speak in french? it's not a lesson if you're just talking. are they asking you to explain tenses or expand their vocab?

Nyx Fri 05-Jun-09 09:53:21

What would happen if you just answered them in French? Perhaps they'd get the hint.

I think yabslightlyu, although I can see where you're coming from. I am impressed and jealous at your ability with languages!

ZZZen Fri 05-Jun-09 09:53:37

everyone gets this at some stage if you ask me, yes it is annoying I know. I think you can tell people you teach English privately for so and so much an hour and when they hear that, they may back off a bit. Otherwise, just speak French.

Depends too how much you want to make friends. Sometimes it is a nice way in, isn't it? Then you just accept it for the circle of friendship, people often have ulterior motives when they embark on new friendships, this isn't the worst. Ask for things in return now and again and see how one-sided it is

Generally though, I just go along with it and try and see it as a compliment to your culture/language that people are interested in using / learning English. I don't really mind speaking Engish to foreigners, it costs you nothing after all. I do get annoyed if I feel they are taking the p* by getting you to correct all their work assignments/emails/letters in English and it all feels one-way.

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 09:55:30

ZZ, pleased u understand where I´m coming from..

No, they are not just being polite, remember my French is absolutely fluent, their English is NOT. Ruddynorah, why wouldn´t they speak French? It´s the absolutely normal thing for them to do! Ansd yes, they do ask for explanations of grammar points.

morningpaper Fri 05-Jun-09 09:57:29

Could you say "I'm sorry, I'm from Manchester, we speak a slightly different dialect there so I don't understand you"

Or hand out business cards for english lessons "I can see your English needs a bit of polishing..."

Or look blankly "What the fuck is grammar?"

midnightexpress Fri 05-Jun-09 09:58:21

Why does it matter to you so much? It's only speaking. Does it matter what language it's in?

I think YAB slightly U, although I can understand that it might be a bit annoying.

ruddynorah Fri 05-Jun-09 10:00:37

just thinking of my dad you see. he speaks a lot of languages, has lived all over, has no problem just speaking really. if he wasn't or couldn't be arsed he's just speak french, his first language. no big deal. he actually set himself up to do interpreting and basic relocation papaerwork stuff..£40 an hour i think.. so if his 'friends' needed his help, £40 an hour thanks.

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 10:01:46

Ha Ha MP! Problem is everyone knows I´m an English teacher.. so can´t do the blank look..

I have been direct in the past, said I would rather speak the language everyone else speaks, it was ignored, everyone said oh, but we so want to improve our English! And continued..

I guess my overall impression is of being taken advantage of.. And I have to remain reasonably polite with people I see everyday on the school run.

TrillianAstra Fri 05-Jun-09 10:02:27

If your French was at the same level as their English (and you wanted to learn to speak it better) I would say it is unfair of them to insist on speaking English when you want to learn French.

But since your French is fluent why not help them out, if they are your friends? I can see how it might be a bit annoying, how about you have a little session of doing English and really trying to help and correct and explain at the beginning when you meet them, and then say, 'let's all relax now and speak French until next time'.

OrangeFish Fri 05-Jun-09 10:04:10

I can't see why you are getting annoyed, I think they are just being polite.

Next time you are with them just answer back in French, if their English is not good enough, as soon as the conversation gets interesting they would find it more enjoyable to talk in their own language.

midnightexpress Fri 05-Jun-09 10:04:43

Well, yes, they are taking advantage of you, but only by talking to you. It's not like you're coirrecting their essays or anythiong is it? It's not really such a big deal. If you were learning Japanese, say, and a Japanese person moved in and you got friendly, wouldn't you do the same? I think I probably would.

Gorionine Fri 05-Jun-09 10:06:49

I am a french speaking swiss in the uk. I find it easier to speak to people in english than in French. At home I do mix a lot of French and English but when I lock the door to go out, my mind switches onto English mode (unless I am meeting my nice French friend from school.)

Could it be that just as me you find it more "natural" to speake to them in French than in English? If so, YANBU.

If you just do it to make sure they are not getting a free english lesson YABU. I have only been asked once, for a friends child myself but have told all my neighbours who do French in high school that I was more than happy to help with homework... (nobody has yet taken the offer though!)

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 10:13:27

They are not being polite, but explicitly say they want to improve their English.

When people in a group speak different languages, it does affect the group relationship and dynamics, and the group can not communicate effectively in English so of course build up a closer relationship with eachother outside of our meet-ups. The point is I feel used as an unpaid teacher, people are not interested in getting to know me personally necessarily.

Gorionline, imagine everyone you met insisted you spoke French to them. How would this affect your integration into society?

Speaking fRench is much more natural for me than English.

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 10:16:42

Just to give away a little more, French is not the only language in the mix : ( My dd is schooled in a third language, which I also speak fluently. Her schoolfriends parents also insist on speaking English to me and pressure me and their children to learn English from me. I think this makes my dd stand out as foreign and worry a little about her integration as she gets older.

ErnestTheBavarian Fri 05-Jun-09 10:17:45

Just carry on talking to them in French if that's what you prefer, regardless of what language they address you in. It can be a nnoying, but wouldn't stress about it.

OrangeFish Fri 05-Jun-09 10:22:21

If you are feeling they are taking advantage of you, just don't meet with them. Life is too short.

There is a woman that has been inviting me for coffees at her house in exchange of painting lesson... I fell for it the first time, now I simply don't accept her invitations but will do when she accepts to pay the going rate wink

Gorionine Fri 05-Jun-09 10:30:15

That is what I was asking NoTart, if it is more natural to you to speak french just tell them so, I am sure they won't mind.

One of my friends in my early days here, used to ask me if she could speak to me in French while I would speak to her in English. this way she could correct my english and I could correct her french. It did not last long as her french was very limited, the conversations got quite boring and we naturally got back to English. Maybe you shouold try that, when they see that they cannot get on with their work because it takes them 2 hours to ask you something in French they will give up?

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 10:30:36

ok, i think the message here is to be much more assertive with people. My main problem is that I am approached en masse.. I don´t get the individual invitations for coffee so much as a group lesson invitation. Individuals I can deal with..

NoTart Fri 05-Jun-09 10:34:43

Thanks Gorionline.. I do have a language exchange with one or 2 people and that works very well. But there are some women who don´t speak a word of English who INSIST on trying and yes it is very very slow and tedious.

I think this is a particulr problem with English. 15 years ago the French refused to speak French on principle, now there is no stopping them and the whole world from trying to improve their English. There is desperation there..

Gorionine Fri 05-Jun-09 10:42:09

Tell them you love their language so much you forgot your own!wink

mistlethrush Fri 05-Jun-09 10:59:15

A distant relative of mine was trilingual - and this was achieved in the house by different rooms being different languages.

I don't know whether this might assist - perhaps you could choose anywhere out of the house as French, the main room as your other language, and the kitchen as English - at least in terms of when other people approach the family. This would need some cooperation from the rest of the family, but if they too are getting fed up of always being addressed in English, it might also solve that.

You could suggest that this is something new that you're trying to improve the mix/whatever other reason you can think of - and that you would prefer not to break the rule, so will be talking in French outside the house unles....


But I would defintely be replying to them in French, even if they are speaking to you in English. I mean, its only polite isn't it (grin) if they are speaking to you in English - you can reply in their first language!!!

lucyellensmumisgreat Fri 05-Jun-09 11:08:31

YABU i think, i do understand but the best way to learn another language is to speak it with a native speaker - so why not extend this to your friends. Maybe not all the time though

branflake81 Fri 05-Jun-09 11:14:44


I used to have the same problem when I lived abroad.

It used to wind me up no end.

And then they all complain that English people don't bother to learn foreign languages.

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