I couldn’t find a thread on this so I’m creating a new one. The very controversial Benny Lewis actually has an entry in his blog, which I have read relatively little, that talks about what to do when you are in country and natives try to suck the language out of your native skull. wuhahahaha.
One one hand, I agree with him. You shouldn’t be expected to give free language lessons in your native language to people that want to practice when you are abroad. If you are in France, local French people shouldn’t use you to practice in your native language, whether it is English, Spanish, Arabic, or whatever.
However, the sword cuts both ways. If I am in America, for example, I don’t think that it is fair to use a Mexican immigrant for Spanish practice unless they are ok with it or I am providing something for them in return. That may be money…or heck maybe friendship.
I don’t see why native speakers of French (say) trying to speak English with you when you meet them in France to practice their English is any different than you trying to speak French with them when you meet them in France to practice your French. If you shouldn’t be expected to give free English lessons, why should they be expected to give free French lessons?
I was going more towards the lines of, “you speak the language of the majority or the official language when in the country.” So if you are in France, it is expected that you speak French and that natives speak French to you.
But if you are in America, unless in cities with majority Latino populations, you speak English. So if a Mexican goes up to you in the US, you speak English.
But yes, nobody is obligated to give lessons for free! But I think it is customary to speak the official, majority language of the country. So if I am in Mexico and talk to a store person, it would be expected for him to respond to me in Spanish assuming my Spanish is satisfactory for communication.
Regardless, I think Benny is wrong in the sense that you can’t just expect natives in France to just speak French to you…and in Great Britain you ALSO get to speak French to French natives there. That’s definitely not fair.
I think the French are the most well known for switching to English. I think they are a bit of a special case…
Lets be clear: I can understand why they do much of the time. A lot of us Anglophones suck at French. English accents are really quite ugly, but…
What I can’t understand is when they do so to my grandmother who has spoken French, and lived in France since 1964. If she had a Chinese, German, or whatever other accent I’m sure they would stick to French.
Its pitiful watching 20 year old kids break out their A2 level English on her to either show off, or practice. I really don’t know. I feel a bit offended for her. But she, on the otherhand is really nice to them and tells them that their English is very good.
If we are simply talking about using somebody for the sake of practicing a language, then I don’t see what the difference is. For example, if you join a football team only to practice your French with the natives, then you would be using them in the same way as they would be using you if they spoke English to you for the sake of learning English.
Of course, if you are in France and you speak some French, then I think it is rude to not try to use it as best you can.
My own experience living in Austria is that it is rare that people try to practice their English with me, though it does happen. In such situations, I have never thought that they were being rude and I just speak English with them.
I think that is the person has an ok level (B1+) and communication is not hampered, that the French person in France should speak French to the learner. But if the learner is a beginner (A1, A2), then I don’t think it is enjoyable nor fair for the French person to be giving free lessons unless they wish to.
The Benny Lewis article struck me as playing a double standard and saying that it is ok for him to use them for their language but not the reverse.
I think the tone of the article is more arrogant than the subject matter is wrong. For example, Benny says this in reccomending what to say when someone is trying to speak English to you:
“I say that I’ll gladly speak all the English they want, but my rate for private English lessons starts at €50/hour and I require payment in advance. I ask them if they’d like an estimate in the local currency”
The person met on the street may have seemed rude, but they may have also been well intentioned. In my opinion, the best thing to do when someone speaks to you in English is just to smile and continue on in the target language. That is only if you are confident that you can get your point across. If you can’t then it is you who is the rude one.
I think when traveling smiling may be a more useful “phrase” than any you can find in a phrasebook. Benny’s reccomended aggressiveness is just off putting.
In the many times that I have been in France, I have never noticed any difference between the French and other Europeans in willingness to speak English. I don’t know where this comes from.
I would expect anybody to speak whatever language they can if we need to communicate and it is the only language that we share. If somebody comes up to me in the streets of Edinburgh and the only language that we share is German, then it would be very rude of me to refuse to speak it with them just because we are in my territory and I must get my way.
I would definetly agree. I think we would would agree that we should give them a chance to speak some English, first, right?
If a Frenchman came up to me randomly in Raleigh, North Carolina and asked me for some directions, and looked like he was having trouble getting his point across in English, I’d reply in French, because I know I can.
If I did not know much French, I’d reply in English. If he can not understand the English, I’d use hand signals, or pull up directions on google maps on my smartphone.
If his English was good, I’d answer in English despite my knowledge of French. I might say “hey by the way, I speak French” then go on to speak in French if he’s open to it.
Well, English is the international language so some people assume everybody speaks it. Then they say we’re rude.
Anyway, I don’t think most people switch to English whenever they meet a foreigner. Some like to show-off but in general we prefer sticking to French. We’re also very shy when it comes to speaking English because of our accent/pronunciation. It’s something we like making fun of but don’t worry, the “English accent” is generally considered cute.
Plus, 50 euros (About 65 dollars) an hour is a LOT for a darn English teacher. If one was paid that 40 hours a week for 48 weeks a year, that would be 124,800 dollars/year! Judging by the italki rates, language teachers are making about 15/hour for the higher end and finding it hard to fill their spots.
Personally, I think that if the two people are intermediate (B1+) and above speakers, that there should be something given in return (money, free “lessons” because they want to help, friendship).
A diglot friend told me once in college that when two people come together that speak multiple languages, they have to respect what the other one wants to speak and come to an agreement. I agree, but maybe others don’t.
I’m shy when speaking in Spanish. I speak it fairly well but I never use it in the US unless it is part of a language exchange, with a Spanish-speaking friend that I’ve known for a long time, or a Spanish conversation group. It just seems weird to me to speak Spanish in the US. Plus, a lot of times they are working and I don’t want to bug them. Like when Moses (well-intentioned to be sure) was speaking in his level up missions with Mexicans at the local fast food place, he was talking to them at work. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that because they are working and if a customer comes you have to stop. Just inefficient for me, but maybe he feels differently,
But while abroad, I speak 99% in Spanish. Sounds weird, I know.