a rather annoying experience that happened to me today. I work in a supermarket and have had a lot of opportunity to speak Spanish with tourists (all though it seems as soon as you say “hablo un poco de español” they assume you’re fluent and come back with a full speed barrage of incomprehensible spanish) I even try out the few phrases I can say in Norwegian and Swedish with those from Norway and Sweden. In the few months i’ve worked there i’d never had a visit from anyone from Denmark … until today! “Oh! du kommer fra Denmark! du er det første danske mennesker jeg har set her” I said, with enthusiasm, but everything I said to them was replied to with an English responce. How frustrating, I finally found someone on the planet who speaks Danish and yet they kept speaking to me in English! I didn’t want to tell them to speak Danish, as I am technically serving them and doing my job. Just a frustrating, yet maybe slightly ironic experience i thought id share!
From what I gather regarding Scandinavians, your experience’s not an isolated example at all.
Maybe you should learn Portuguese, you’ll find a lot less speakers who know English.
ha, yeah! all though it’s just been Danes that have replied in English. Whenever I utter my two phrases in norwegian and swedish, people always try to start a conversation, all though unfortunately I don’t speak enough of either to continue the conversation. Spanish speakers usually don’t have as good an english speaking ability and so always speak spanish with me! Still no like with Danish though Somebody reaaally doesn’t want me to learn Danish it seems
Say this to them next time “havde du noget imod bare at sige en lille smule paa dansk til mig. Bare et par ord. Saa ville jeg blive rigtig glad”
I think that is a very polite way of saying it and no one will be offended. They are just doing it as they are used to the foreigners in their country perhaps not speaking it that well. They want to make it easier for you.
I have never felt that we as learners should expect that native speakers of a language that we are learning should respond to us in that language. I may want to practice, or show off what I know, or use the most convenient language for communication, but the native speaker may, if he or she knows English, have the same desire. They are not our teachers, and we can’t control them.
The only thing to do is to keep learning and hope that the next person either does not speak English or is intrigued by the fact that we speak their language.
@Marianne ha, thanks! I can give that a shot , if I ever find more Danish people
@Steve I don’t expect them to be my teachers, especially as I am the one serving them as a sales assistant. I was just abit surprised. Literally everyone in Denmark I encountered on a three month trip there spoke English perfectly, and sometimes I got the impression they didn’t actually enjoy speaking English, So i’m sure especially the tourists who come to great britain don’t require much practice at all. Most people I try to strike up conversations with in Spanish or norwegian or swedish, as you say, are intrigued at how I know some of their language, their faces light up and they suddenly become a lot more talkative. This is why I was surprised in this one case that it was a rather negative experience, and co-incidentally with the language I find hard enough to find people to talk to in
Corin, I think you have not really had a large enough sample to draw any conclusions. I am quite confident that you will find people who want to speak to you in Danish, even as you continue to improve your skills in the language. They key is to continue enjoying the language.
I think Steve is right - one shouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming that all Danes tick the same way. The fact is, there is a certain group of people in most countries of northern Europe today who are (for want of a better expression) “English-nuts”. These people will insist on speaking English with you almost no matter what you do or say. They would do so even if you were actually living in Denmark, and they were the ones serving YOU in a shop, even if it were clear to them that your Danish were as good (or better) than their English!
The good news: these folks are a fairly small minority. (But they are out there!)
Ah, yes. Anglophiles. They are everywhere. But they are not everyone.
I try to avoid them because I’m tired of hearing about how English people take tea at four o clock, etc
Hmm…I’m not sure whether they are “Anglophiles” in the true sense of the word?
You could say that I like German culture and literature, but I wouldn’t impose my German on a German person visiting here in the UK who was obviously keen to speak English with me. (I would consider it extremely rude on my part to do so.)
Haha, right, so maybe your “English nuts” is better.
Yes, I agree it would be rude to impose your German on a German tourist who visited the UK and was keen to speak english.
When I was learning Russian I remember being so excited to meet Russian speakers in London but I would not have imposed on them to speak Russian if they traveled so far to practice their English.
BTW Summergold, I see that you’re posting from Israel. Is it true that there are now lots of Russian speakers to be found there?
I heard somewhere that Russian has now taken over from German as the main foreign language in Israel, after Hebrew and (–eek! :-D–) English?
Hi, yes there are a lot of Russian speakers here because of the huge number of immigrants from the former USSR, I think a million in all. So one hears a lot of Russian on the streets and there are plenty of shops with Russian storefronts etc.
Since many (of course not all) the immigrants are not very religious there is even a Russian delicatessen in tel aviv called Kingdom of Pork (also popular with Chinese and other Asian foreign workers).
I have almost never heard German or even Yiddish, though there is a Yiddish revival going on.
One also hears plenty of Arabic not just from Arab Israelis but also Jews who ame from Arab countries.
In parts of tel aviv it’s possible to hear Persian speakers too, we have an area with restaurants etc run by Jews from Iran.
I live in Germany but often have foreigners visiting our company (in Germany and abroad) and despite me speaking to them in English they insist I speak to them in German so they can practice (I presume). I always found that odd. It is as if they do not hear me speaking to them in English.Actually it irritates me a bit.
This is something about language which intrigues me. You never know who will be the next one. Maybe I will be the next one to irritate myself(studying more) every time I want to learn a new language. Because so many people sometimes “irritates” me when they try just get their practice with some language with me. Especially when I know the person and know he/she don´t study and just want show off or get practice.
I somewhat agree with Marianne. Since languages are used for communicating, it makes most sense to use the language that both parties speak the best. There are situations, for example an immigrant trying hard to speak English, or a customer who wants to practice English, where I feel an obligation or a willingness to speak English, but all things being equal, if I speak the other person’s language better, that is the language I will tend to want to use.
Except of course when I want to impose my Russian or Czech or whatever on someone who speaks English much better than I speak their language. There I am at their mercy. I am grateful when they condescend to speak to me in the language I am learning, but fully understand if they don’t.
The thing is, Steve, this is a situation which can sometimes cut both ways.
Sure, you can’t force a foreigner to speak his or her native language with you (be it French, German, Spanish, or whatever) even if you have a very good level in that language. But exactly the same thing applies to you, doesn’t it?
Why should the person be able to force you to speak YOUR native language, if you don’t want to?
I really don’t understand your question Jay. Nobody can force anyone to speak anything. It makes more sense to speak the language that both speak the best. However, you are not forced to speak your native language, nor can you force the other person to speak theirs . If the communication is real, you will find a common language. If it is just about practicing language skills, the native speaker may just say he or she has better things to do.
I’ve always been uneasy with the “you’re a native speaker so help me practice your language” mentality. I struggle to see it as a battle between whose language we are using, and instead just enjoy conversation with someone regardless of the language we’re speaking. In the end, nobody wants to feel used, and if I sense someone is just using me to practice their English then I lose interest in communicating with them or having relationship with them. If you’re just looking for a language partner, then there should be some sort of bartering involved, whether it be a language exchange or your money for their time. If it’s a genuine relationship with someone then I believe you’ll enjoy spending time with that person and getting to know them better, whether the communication takes place in your own language or theirs.
The context here was work and obviously efficiency should be paramount. Therefore a common language that both parties can use to convey the message efficiently is ideal. I get irritated if people try to test out their (poor) language skills on me especially in something that is not my native language and which I am not obliged to speak However I, like Steve, am grateful in such situations that allow it for example that my Russian colleagues “bother” speaking to me in Russian. But they do not have to do that and I would not initiate it either. Work comes first.