Anyone found their efforts to learn local language hampered by a lot of people wanting to speak to them in English?

(26 Posts)
letsnotreachforthemoon Thu 03-Dec-15 10:58:58

I appreciate that english is a world language and is spoken by many people. However I live in europe (germany) and want to improve my german. i am not fluent but B2/C1 level if that means anything. How do you approach people who speak to you in english when you speak the local language? Some of the people i am thinking of certainly speak better english than my german, however, my german will not improve if i speak english to them I do not wish to be rude but it makes conversations more stilted and awkward and I would be interested to know how others approach this.
Many thanks

OP’s posts: |
Costacoffeeplease Thu 03-Dec-15 11:08:35

Yes it happens all the time - I'm in Portugal - it's bloody annoying. Some people will reply in Portuguese if I ask them to, some never will. With one friend I have conversations in either one language or the other, and sometimes both - we switch whenever the subject gets too difficult for either of us smile

redexpat Thu 03-Dec-15 11:15:03

Denmark. I got a job in an afterschool club where the children were too young to speak english, but old enough to speak good enough danish.

At the moment I confuse a lot of people by speaking english to dc, so they adsume i cant speak danish, and then i answer them in danish. They look a bit confused, and then they say oh are you teaching them to be bilingual and become v interested.

Ancienchateau Thu 03-Dec-15 11:49:03

I have some bilingual friends and am more than happy to speak English only with them. If someone speaks English to me and I want to speak French, I just reply in French and they usually get the point. It's different in France though. They want you to speak French. I know in Germany nearly everyone (seems to) speak English and wants to practice. Even my bilingual DH just speaks English when he is there mostly.

kelda Thu 03-Dec-15 11:51:08

Yes it does happen a lot, you really have to persevere and insist on speaking German. Good for you for learning the language.

PeachFuzzzz Thu 03-Dec-15 11:58:58

Yes. I have been known to pretend not vo speak English. And then there are the people who want to be friends just so they can practice English - free lessons! It took time to find people to speak Japanese with. These days though I speak better Japanese than their English, and woe betide the people who try to chat to dd. She talks so quickly that unless they are very proficient they soon give up.

Hang in there op! Persevere until you can find people who will talk to you in German.

Letsnotaskforthemoon Fri 04-Dec-15 09:06:12

Thanks for messages (name changed as got my bette davis quote wrong!)

Good to see not the only one in the same boat with the same feelings of frustration!


Archfarchnad Fri 04-Dec-15 09:11:30

It does happen a lot in Germany. I didn't mind it so much for me when I was learning, but I get really annoyed when I suspect that middle-class parents are pushing their DC to be friends with mine purely because they think they can get free conversation practice. And it never works anyway with bilingual kids, because they're automatically going to talk whatever the other child understands easiest, which is going to be German, and then the other parent gets annoyed ('ich dachte, iht wollt doch Englisch miteinander reden...').

Letsnotaskforthemoon Fri 04-Dec-15 09:17:50

Thank you Arch. Yes I have the very distinct feeling I would have more friends amongst the mothers at school if I would speak english to them. The children are in a bilingual school and some of the german mothers complain that their children don't speak english outside the classroom. Vritually all of the children in the school are german so naturally playtime is in german.

I find it a bit of a trial but it should spur me on to improve my

MummaGiles Fri 04-Dec-15 09:22:00

I found it very difficult when I was in Portugal for the sole purpose of learning the language as part of my degree.

Archfarchnad Fri 04-Dec-15 09:22:52

You know lets, what really got me learning German when I first came over twenty years ago was the fact that I was forced into total immersion - I lived in what used to be East Berlin, where few people spoke English anyway, and had no access to English media, no family with me, so I watched German TV (crap) and listened to German radio. That helped enormously. It's actually more difficult these days because of the internet so get off Mumsnet grin.

Letsnotaskforthemoon Fri 04-Dec-15 09:29:48

Yes, auch bin ich sehr faul. smile

mrsmortis Fri 04-Dec-15 14:48:14

I think it also depends on your level of fluency. I'm more or less fluent (when speaking at least, don't ask me to write) and people speak German with me. But my DH is only B2/C1 like OP and people tend to hear him struggling and swap to English automatically, which doesn't help him learn.

tomatodizzy Sun 06-Dec-15 14:37:13

I find luckily most of the people here in rural Brasil that can speak enough English to hold a conversation, are too shy to do so. Some are not, but this is only a handful of people that either have bags of confidence or lived in the UK/USA and I don't mind if they want to chat to me in English from time to time. The only exception is when there are other people around. In the company of others I make it a point to reply in Portuguese. Most of them are similar to me and we chat in company in both languages depending on the company. Even with my husband I will speak Portuguese in company. You can try replying in German and see if they get the hint.

With language learning I find there are two types of people, those who think they know less than they do and feel self conscious speaking and those who are confident and go for it regardless. Mistakes are normal, speak and just keep speaking. I have a 13 year old that takes the piss out of my Portuguese and I always just say, what do you expect, I'm old smile, which usually shuts him up. It used to bother me, but now I don't care, no one's perfect and learning a new language in adulthood IS difficult.

catkind Sun 06-Dec-15 14:59:39

Just keep answering in German? Or if it's people you see regularly, could you explain you need to practice your German? I found colleagues very helpful in this respect. Also did some classes at the local Volkshochschule which was with a bunch of other people who also wanted to practice their German, so that worked quite well. And often the only common language was German there.
Or could you do a swap, find someone who wants to practice English, meet up once or twice a week and use a different language each time?
I did find it got better - when my accent was better people often thought I was dutch, which they didn't speak.

Letsnotaskforthemoon Sun 06-Dec-15 15:58:55

Thank you for all of the replies. i am going to the Volkshochschule and do enjoy that. i just need to get better I suppose. i do not think my accent is that bad but for some reason many people think i am american. I just need to pull my finger out and get better... Or speak german with a dutch, french, italian or spanish accent. smile

Ilikedmyoldusernamebetter Wed 09-Dec-15 15:35:10

I'm late to the party but also in Germany, and really only B1+ but no bugger ever speaks English to me, not ever grin My German is mostly self taught (by which I mean picked up as I go along) and I've only studied haphazardly, so although my written German is terrible I do have a good vocabulary in comparison to my "official" level and tend to understand everything in every day spoken (but not official written) German now... but even when I first moved here and could barely string a few words together everyone spoke German to me - people always felt they were making a big effort for me by trying to use Hochdeutsch instead of Bayrisch grin

The secret to having everyone speak German to you is to live in the countryside - and not the picturesque countryside near the alps where all the very rich ex pats want to live to enable them to go skiing every weekend, but the working, farming, rolling hills and forest type countryside where no foreigners live except the odd 3rd generation Italian and a few families with one Polish and one German parent...

People ask me where I'm from and say they like my accent as soon as I open my mouth, and if they are nice and able to they use Hochdeutch - but people only speak English to me in Munich (or at the classes I teach) or if they are 5 years old and want to count to ten and recite colours for me, or 12 years old and want to ask me how they are and tell me they are fine grin

BertieBotts Wed 09-Dec-15 15:54:27

Most Germans seem unable to tell a British accent from an American one IME.

mrsmortis Thu 10-Dec-15 09:32:37

Its funny what you say about speaking with a Dutch accent. I knew that my German was OK when people started asking me if I was Dutch (or Italian when I was in Switzerland)

Crunchyontheoutside Mon 21-Dec-15 01:33:41

That used to happen to me when I lived in Germany (in Berlin, but not when I lived in rural east Germany!). I just used to politely reply in German and explain that I really needed to practise my German.

wannanewone Fri 01-Jan-16 20:20:32

I used to get that too, but i just replied in German. Shoddy German at first, but slowly getting better.
There is a lady at a local shop who insisted on speaking English to me, even though my German was better than her English. I got so annoyed I had to stop going there.
Have you tried finding a tandem? That really helped me, and I made some friends too.

tb Tue 05-Jan-16 14:06:12

Where I live no-one speaks English other than the odd "Byebye or yes". Mind you, that's in very rural France. Some are only second generation French speakers.

The previous maire only learned French when he went to school - at home he spoke Occitan.

toffeeboffin Tue 05-Jan-16 14:17:25

Ha, yes OP, I get this.

I live in Quebec and it is super difficult to practice my French as most people speak English and/or want to practice or, even more curiously, people want to hear my accent!

With DH's family, we speak French, as many of his family don't speak English which is great.

A lot of the time though you have to gage whether their French/English is better than my English/ French and then take it form there.

This is also why a lot of Europeans whose first language isn't English learn other languages so quickly - they don't have English to fall back upon.

When I took my French course, all the other students wanted to practice their English with me during break time. It was particularly then that I realized how hard it is and how much patience you need when talking with people who are learning a second or even third language.

toffeeboffin Tue 05-Jan-16 14:20:20

'and those who are confident and go for it regardless'

This is me.

I make loads of errors in French but to be honest, I'm past giving a shit. At least I try!

Smiling and positive body language goes a long way, too.

Qwebec Tue 05-Jan-16 14:48:52

IME people want to speak english because it us seen as the polite thing to do in order to make someone feel welcome. I know people who hate speaking english and feel embarrassed by their capacities who still try because they figure the person knows only a few words and it would be rude not to make the effort to accomodate the english speaker.

Just politly say you want to learn the language (slip in a compliment about it/the land). People tend to be pound of there country and will happy to accomodate you.

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