Recently, I went on a vacation. On the way home I took a flight back, and had the chance to practice some of my languages; one of which being Polish. While any opportunity to practice a language is a good opportunity, this one was quite discouraging. Prior to practicing Polish with the gentleman, he was the pesky, annoying person you don’t like on the plane. Anyways, while practicing, all he was worried about was correcting me, on simple pronunciation mistakes (I don’t mind being corrected, but he was very rude about it, and wasn’t responding to me, just correcting me). He went on the mumble some words and I got about half of what he said, but I just ignored him after he said it.
Has anyone else had a negative experience with practicing a language they’re studying?
Germans sometimes correct eachother, actually^^
“Ich habe Öpfel gekauft” (I bought öpples)
“Das heisst Äpfel!” (it´s “apples”)
Some people do that do be helpful, some just enjoy feeling “superior”, I guess…
I don´t think that I ever had “negative experiences with a language”. I´d rather call them “negative experiences with people”.
I hope that makes sense. ^^
I find it very discouraging in Vienna when people start using English with me automatically when they hear my accent. Sometimes it makes little sense. I might order some stuff in a bakery and the person will obviously understand what I said because they will give me the correct stuff, but they still start using English. This happens to me several times a week. One time in a hotel in Innsbruck, the desk person spoke with me in German until I told him my name, and then he switched to English.
I used to get discouraged really often, but as time has gone by in my studies, my skin has gotten really thick. I would say that I do still feel pretty bad when the person I am talking to starts speaking to me in English.
Since I got to France 4 and a half weeks ago, I have been replied to in English 3 times:
The first time I was asking a teenage-looking kid for directions; I think he was just excited to practice his English. His English was imcomprehensible, so I got the directions from someone else.
The second time I was at a café in Place Stanislas, Nancy. I told a waiter I was waiting to meet with some British girls, so I needed a larger table. I think he spoke English back to me just because I specified the girls were british. I responed by saying I’m from Holland and that my English is rusty
Third time was in an English bookstore in Paris. She responed in English because she was British, and it would have been silly if we spoke to one another in French!
I think once a native realizes that you speak their language better than they speak yours, they won’t give you any problem. Its amazing how willing people are sometimes to talk! I’ve even had french people tell me that I speak “pas mal” or even well after I told them my reason for visiting.
@djvlbass: “…as time as gone by in my studies, my skin has gotten really thick. I would say that I do still feel pretty bad when the person I am talking to starts speaking to me in English…”
If you’re like me, your allergic reaction to English come-backs will get worse with time, not better. After you’ve been living over there a good while, and your level of French (in your case) has reached a very comfortable level, that is when it will be hard not to feel as if people are insulting you if they reply in English - even though this will almost certainly not be the case 99.9% of the time.
Probably the best advice would be to ask someone who comes back at you in English whether they really VERY MUCH prefer to speak English? This will likely get the reply that they are just trying to help you (which will probably also be true in most cases). But at that point you could just warmly thank them, but say that you are living long-term in France (in your case) and that you really need to practice the language. If people still make a point of speaking English after this, then they are definitely being rude, and you could be a little frosty in return. Give 'em the Steve K silvery fox treatment, if necessary!
Generally (not “judgingly”) I find it useful to take all feedback as encouragement. Remember that you have the power to choose how to respond to the input the world gives you (cf. Frankl). We must remember that ordinary people speaking our target language are just that - ordinary people. You will find all kinds in every language. Take the feedback as positive as possible and dont’t be discouraged by the fact that you didn’t get too much out of it. That is also a lesson to take away from it. Most people are just trying to be nice and helpful (precent company included).
Some Czechs can be pretty rude, especially the ones in central Prague. Very often when i speak Czech they will answer me in English. It 's ironic really as my Czech is very often better than their English. I just continue speaking Czech to them and they either revert to Czech or we havea bizarre conversation in Czenglish. As my accent and Czech improves, less and less repy to me in English, which is very motivating.
When i hear English people being rude to foriegners about their evel of English, i just think they’re ignorant.
@Iri- considering it was my first time speaking the language, and about a month since I had sat down to study the language, I didn’t want to hear only corrections. It wasn’t like I was mispronouncing all of the words, just a couple. However that being said, I do enjoy being corrected as it helps me, but there is a way to do it not to offend the learner. I don’t embarrass people who are not native speakers, I don’t think its right.
Thanks all for the responses.
Well, I think that gentleman you were talking with was rude. However, I believe that people switching to English while you’re in their country are not always intentionally insulting. Perhaps, they are doing so to make you feel more comfortable. For example, if you are in a busy line at a café, the cashier may be more inclined to switch to English. However, in a more relaxed setting, the person may have more patience to practice with you. In any case, there are good and bad people in every culture. We just have to develop a thick skin and continue to improve our language skills (and especially our pronunciation).
@ makhi - Do you live in Vienna? What is your ‘feature’?
It has happened to me at least a thousand times. I just took it as motivation to work harder. However, it stopped after I got to a higher level and people realized that their English couldn’t compete with my French. I don’t see how it would be any different in your case.