Nations Reluctantly speak English
I have noticed, and heard as well, when traveling in Europe some people there are reluctant to speak English. The evidence to me is from small incidents which seems to happen now and then. For example, when you start a conversation or ask someone in Germany for instance or France, some of them will give it a pause for a moment then take a breath before indulging into talk. The more you chat with them, the more you know how good their English is. Maybe I did not notice this in Holland, but how about in Sweden or Austria or Spain and the rest of the European continent, are there people who are unwilling to speak English even though they know the language? How about in Latin America, Africa, Middle East?
A question could be raised: which country their people are most reluctant to speak English, and why?
i don't know your answer and i think no one can give a definitely accurate one.
but after reading your article ,i just find it impoosible the question you raised.
HOW will they reluctant to speak if they have LEARNT it?
i mean learn it MUST take much more effort.isn't it?
forced to learn? then why they are not being forced anymore when they mastered it
" A question could be raised: which country their people are most reluctant to speak English, and why? "
English is not the the native language of those countries, and a lot of Europeans don't speak it, or at least not so well to have a current converstation. In Europe there are a lot of other languages that are use internationally other than English. English is mather langugae only in UK an ireland. Expect that everyone in Europe speak English is often seen as a very arrogant Anglo-saxon attitude, as if the people were considering that English was a superior culture that everyone should have. If you come directly speaking in English in countries where the language is an international language too such as Spanish, German or French, without asking the minimal politness sentence "do you speak English ?" - It would be not surprising that the people will be reluctant to speak English with you, because you acted as if you think you are in your own country, wich could be seen as a will of cultural domination by many Europeans.
Did you asked yourself how most anglophones would react if a foreigner who speak an important international language such as German, French or Spanish start a conversation with you in your own country in their own language expecting you to use it with them as if it was a normal thing that all Anglophones should speak French, Spanish or German..
To answer your question, the countries whose language has a small amount of speakers at international scale tend to use more english as an international language to speak with foreigners. Countries with an important international language tend to use it with foreigners and expect foreigners to use it with them.
You have also to understand that in a lot of European countries English is not seen as a politically and culturally neutral language as many anglophones think. English is not always seen as the "international language" but as a language associated with the country were it originated : England (knowing the French/English and riviality during 1000 years can expalin why expecting that French people speak it is seen as an Anglo-saxon Imperialistic attitude by many). Today English is also linked with the US cultural and economic domination; expecting people to speak English as if you were in an English-speaking nation may be seen as a cultural imperialistic attitude.
To avoid this, just asking "do you speak English" change everything, since you don't show yourself as expecting that English should be spoken by locals as if you were in your country. It shows that you are aware that the language there is not English, but that the local people could be glad to help you in English if you respect them and if they know a bit of this language.
It may not be that they are reluctant; it may just be that it takes a little concentration to switch languages at first -- mentally switching those gears -- and as the conversation goes on, it comes more naturally to them (to the extent of their abilities). I've been like that when I had to speak in another language -- the first few sentences come out pretty rusty, and I stumble a little, but then it gets easier as I go on.
This would especially be the case if it had been a while since the person had had to speak any English -- it might take them a little bit to get going.
I know it works in reverse as well -- as people get tired, they lose their ability to concentrate on a foreign language, and after awhile they just become to mentally fatigued to speak it. I've seen that happen to my stepsiblings late at night.
I have had the opposite experience in Germany where they can't seem to wait to speak English. I have felt more than slightly irritated when I have asked someone something in German only for them to respond in English. I assume they detect my accent and realise that I am from the UK. It irritates me because I have made an effort to speak their language, and if they answer in English, it's almost as if they are saying that I needn't bother trying to speak German, because their English is bound to be far better anyway. Maybe this is not the case, maybe they are just very keen to practise their English, but still it does come across as somewhat arrogant. I suppose the other possibility is that they do not detect that I am British at all, but just that I am foreign, and therefore assume that English, as the international language, is the best means of communication. I find this hard to imagine though. It's bad enough native English speakers assuming the whole world speaks English, so I doubt the Germans would assume it as well
Uriel : « It may not be that they are reluctant; it may just be that it takes a little concentration to switch languages at first -- mentally switching those gears -- and as the conversation goes on, it comes more naturally to them (to the extent of their abilities). »
Exactement ! La plupart des gens n'ont pas l'habitude de parler une langue étrangère.
My experience in Germany was essentially the same as that of Aquatar. The Germans seemed desperate to practice their English on me, even though I wanted to speak German as that was the purpose of my visit.
But as others have said, there probably is a difference between places where people speak 'small languages' compared to places where people speak 'big languages'. If you're, say, Dutch, Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, you've probably accepted that if you want to communicate with the outside world, you're going to have to learn other language(s). If anything, you're probably quite pleased that there is one language which is seen to dominate, and that it's a language which is fairly similar to your native language at that.
Unfortunately, there just aren't the same advantages (at least perceived) to learning other languages as there are to learning English. Despite all the Germans I've come across who could speak English, I've come across very very few who could speak French, let alone Spanish, Italian or anything else. Equally, when our group of about 25 French exchange students came over, only two of them were learning German, even though they could all speak English.
Sprichst du Deutsch, Fab? Du hast mir erzahlt, dass du in Deutschland warst. Wenn dein Deutsch war nicht sehr gut, was hast du gemacht? Hast du aber genug Deutsch gelernt, mit Leuten ein bisschen zu sprechen, order hast du mit ihnen nur Englisch gesprochen, weil sie normalerweise kein Französisch sprechen können?
Aucht, du hast gesagt, dass du in den Niederländen und in Schweden warst. Ich hoffe, dass du Niederländisch und Schwedish sprechen kannst, weil ich glaube, dass es einfach nicht gut genug ist, wenn du hast mit Leuten da nur Englisch gesprochen, obwohl ihr Englisch vermutlich viel besser als dein Niederländisch order dein Schwedisch ist.
I think the reason is English orthography (spelling) and pronunciation are not cognate like French or German.
That's the difficult part of English language.
So, English orthography must be reformed and new spelling system must be created in order to make both spelling and pronunciation be more cognate like German or French
" Sprichst du Deutsch, Fab? "
I suppose it means "speak you German ?" (do you speak German)
No Benjamin, I don't speak german. I can speak English (badly), Spanish, a bit of Italian and Catalan. And despite having some Portuguese family I don't speak the language, but I can understand most of it.
" My experience in Germany was essentially the same as that of Aquatar. The Germans seemed desperate to practice their English on me, even though I wanted to speak German as that was the purpose of my visit. "
This is a tendency that more and more people tend unfortunally to have, (that should please those who want to make english the only international language), is to use systematically english with people who are identified as foreign. Sometimes if I walk in the touristic places in my own city I found sellers who speak to me in English! I think this should be disaponted for tourists who want to have an immersion in French culture. It was what disapointed me when I went in Rome, is that I heard more english spoken than Italian, and in youth hotel all the staff was speaking only English. I almost couldn't practice my Italian...
The other thing was that there were a lot of non-germanophone and and non-anglophone tourists in Germany who were using English to communicate with the Germans. Some Italian tourists at the hotel in Nürnberg, for example.
I might go to the Netherlands in October, but I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do about the language yet. Afrikaans would be faster to learn than Standard Dutch, so maybe I'll learn that instead, lol. ;)
the previous "guest" was me
« It may not be that they are reluctant; it may just be that it takes a little concentration to switch languages at first -- mentally switching those gears -- and as the conversation goes on, it comes more naturally to them (to the extent of their abilities). »
Agree completely. A while ago, I was on a residential street in a suburb of Manchester, and a young woman came up to me and asked me for directions in French - she didn't speak any English. I found it impossible to make the 'mental switch' into speaking French, spontaneously. I was annoyed with myself afterwards, because I'm perfectly capable of giving directions in French, but it was so unexpected, and my head was full of an argument I'd just had with my boyfriend, so I just said 'um, uh, no sorry, I can't help'. It was years since I'd spoken any French, and I just couldn't find the words.
<<The other thing was that there were a lot of non-germanophone and and non-anglophone tourists in Germany who were using English to communicate with the Germans.>>
Yes - I often hear that here in Germany. Just a few days ago, I saw a car with a Belgian licence plate stop to ask a young man directions at the end of my street, and the whole conversation took place in English. And I heard a group of Italians in a department store last week, talking to the German sales assistant in English.
" I was annoyed with myself afterwards, because I'm perfectly capable of giving directions in French, but it was so unexpected, and my head was full of an argument I'd just had with my boyfriend, so I just said 'um, uh, no sorry, I can't help'. It was years since I'd spoken any French, and I just couldn't find the words "
This situation often happened to myself too with English.
**Expect that everyone in Europe speak English is often seen as a very arrogant Anglo-saxon attitude**
Isn’t that a reason to make people reluctant to speak English?
I’m not saying that everyone I talked to in Europe was unwilling, on the contrary, I was very pleased of the way people were very helpful to us - Europe in general, and Germany in particular.
Actually, I am starting a german language courses soon. To many german sounds harsh on the ears, or as if any speaker is Hitler giving military commands. Well, I find it attractive maybe because of the times when I listen to it in my work field. They speak it clear and defined, no draw with sense of “direct to the point”. To me, this is a good combination between proficiency efficiency and the language which I don’t find in French or Spanish for example.
**as people get tired, they lose their ability to concentrate on a foreign language, and after awhile they just become to mentally fatigued to speak it**
you are absolutely right. It happens to me when I have to stay continuously focused on people talking in foreign language. it needs great mental attention to do, it is just sooo tiring!