Author Topic: Speaking English to other people in public?  (Read 2768 times)

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alis

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Speaking English to other people in public?
« on: April 20, 2013, 03:04:48 PM »
I live somewhere that French is the official language (Quebec - NOT the major city of Montreal) and is used by the entire population. However, most people speak functional English although it is never heard in public.

I am anglophone, English is my first language, and I have a very strong accent because I have only lived here two years. When I speak to people (in my admittedly poor French), a lot of people speak back to me in English. If I can understand them in French, would it be rude of me to ask them to speak in French to me? I need to learn but it's hard to because I don't get much practice (I am a stay at home mom of 2). But I also think people get excited and want to practice their English with me, because it's rare to hear???


alis

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2013, 03:05:30 PM »
Also, is it rude to speak to my children in English when in public? My oldest (3) does not understand French and the baby is just a baby.

NyaChan

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2013, 03:21:18 PM »
Of course it isn't rude to speak to your children in English.  If you prefer that people continue to speak with you in French, you can politely state as much (in French would probably help).  "Thank you, but I would love the opportunity to practice my French as much as possible" or "Thank you, but I can understand French."  If they refuse, I wouldn't push it further though because while some are switching out of a desire to help you, others may be switching because they don't want to have to worry about figuring out what you are saying or you not understanding them.

rashea

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2013, 03:26:47 PM »
You might suggest with people that you will see often that you speak to them in French and they speak to you in English so you both get to practice.

Speaking to your own children in any language seems fine to me.
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sweetonsno

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2013, 04:31:19 PM »
I don't think it's rude for them to switch to English (if your accent is heavy enough to make it difficult for them to understand you, it might be easier for them to just switch). I also don't think it's rude for you to want to practice your French.

I like rashea's idea of asking the people you see regularly to help you out by switching back and forth. You could also make a point of greeting them in French and using your French for the basics (how much is it, where is the XYZ, etc.) and then switching to English for anything difficult. If you ask them for help with your French ("Comment ša s'appelle?" or "Que veux dire XYZ en anglais?), they'll also get the sense that you are trying to learn. Chances are that they'll be happy to help you out.

TootsNYC

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2013, 05:31:57 PM »
I think even with people you don't encounter often, when they switch to English, it's perfectly fine for you to STAY in French, perhaps saying, "I would like to practice my French, please be patient with me." before continuing with "where are the beets, please?" or whatever the rest of your interaction is about.

EllenS

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2013, 06:04:06 PM »
The only time speaking your family's first language among yourselves is rude, is if there is someone else included in the conversation group who does not understand it.  In public, anyone who takes notice of what you are saying is eavesdropping - which is itself rude.  It is also okay if you are conducting a conversation in French with someone, and need to correct or make an "aside" comment to your children in English, since it is obviously unrelated to the adult conversation.  I would even extend this to, for example, deciding what to order in a restaurant - though in that case I would excuse myself to the waiter/waitress before conducting the English conversation.

For simple one-time transactions like asking directions or shopping, I would think asking to speak French only would be too much bother, and could come off a bit bossy.  For acquaintances or people you do business with regularly (a hairdresser comes to mind as an example), I think it would be friendly and fun to ask if you can both do "language practice" as suggested by rashea.

*inviteseller

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2013, 07:16:48 PM »
I think it is fine to tell people to go ahead and speak French, as it helps you to learn.  With your kids, it is fine to speak your native tongue, but may I suggest starting them to learn French now too, because the younger you start a child on a second language, the easier they pick it up.  It would be best for them, if you are planning on raising them there that they know French before they start school.

Knitterly

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2013, 07:27:23 PM »
It is absolutely not rude.  No more rude than the woman behind me at the store speaking french to her friend and her children and english to the lady at the checkout. 

We live in an officially bilingual nation.  You can speak one language to your children and another to another person, especially if you are choosing what you know to be the preferred language of the person you are speaking to.

gramma dishes

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2013, 08:56:26 PM »
I have no solution or even suggestions to address your question.

I do just want to say that I have such admiration for those many people here in Etiquette Hell that speak (with at least reasonable fluency) more than one language.  There was very little interest in foreign language when I was in school and I just never learned it.

Sad to say, what little French I know is "read only" because several of my contacts (on a photo site)  do make comments in French.  I've learned to recognize certain words and phrases and can almost always now 'translate' their comments without having to consult the translation site, but I would have NO idea how to pronounce those same words.

So I commend all of you who can do it and admit to feeling some considerable envy as well. 

Twik

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2013, 11:48:27 PM »
It is no more rude to speak to your children in English (which, even in Quebec, is an official language), than it is for the people in my apartment building to speak to their children in Hindi, or Mandarin, or Portuguese, or Polish, or whatever they choose. You are having a personal conversation, and are quite entitled to use any language you choose, even Elvish or Klingon if you wish.

However, you may run into people in Quebec who will try to tell you it's rude. That's the politics of the area.
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Cami

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2013, 07:52:02 AM »
When we were in Italy and I tried speaking Italian, every single person would immediately start speaking English to me. I would laugh because often their English was MUCH worse than my Italian.

It is no more rude to speak to your children in English (which, even in Quebec, is an official language), than it is for the people in my apartment building to speak to their children in Hindi, or Mandarin, or Portuguese, or Polish, or whatever they choose. You are having a personal conversation, and are quite entitled to use any language you choose, even Elvish or Klingon if you wish.

However, you may run into people in Quebec who will try to tell you it's rude. That's the politics of the area.
I agree that you may find people with that attitude in Quebec. That is why we've stopped visiting there.

bopper

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2013, 09:34:11 AM »
This was me in Germany. I took some German classes and would try to speak in German.  Often they responded in English. I got to the point where I decided that was my role in life there, to let people practice their English.  But I knew that I was only going to be there a couple of years.  If I was going to stay their longer, i would have some thing in German like "My German teacher says I must only speak in German" or "I am trying to practice my German. Can we speak in German?"

I would laugh because they would apologize for "how bad" their English was...and I would think to my self "Please! it is way better than my German!"

Bonus: These are the type of English speakers I identified in Germany:
http://ger-seygirl.blogspot.com/2011/05/field-guide-to-german-english-speakers.html

DavidH

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2013, 11:52:31 AM »
I assume they are switching to English in an attempt to be helpful, rather than meaning it as a commentary on your French.  I think it's fine to say something like than you for switching to English, but would you mind if we spoke in French, I'm trying to improve my speech and really would appreciate the practice.

As an aside, I can see how as a SAHM it is hard to have opportunities to practice French.  Have you considered either story groups or maybe something like Toastmasters where you could practice speaking or listening to French?

wyliefool

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Re: Speaking English to other people in public?
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 08:47:56 AM »
This was me in Germany. I took some German classes and would try to speak in German.  Often they responded in English. I got to the point where I decided that was my role in life there, to let people practice their English.  But I knew that I was only going to be there a couple of years.  If I was going to stay their longer, i would have some thing in German like "My German teacher says I must only speak in German" or "I am trying to practice my German. Can we speak in German?"

I would laugh because they would apologize for "how bad" their English was...and I would think to my self "Please! it is way better than my German!"

Bonus: These are the type of English speakers I identified in Germany:
http://ger-seygirl.blogspot.com/2011/05/field-guide-to-german-english-speakers.html

I think a lot of Europeans think 'I speak w/ an accent' means 'I don't speak good English' when in fact yes, they have a slight [German] accent but speak much better English than most Americans! I once overheard a conversation in a restaurant in Italy that began w/ the German fellow apologizing for his poor English, and then proceeded to encompass macroeconomics, world affairs, etc. etc. that had me wishing I'd been educated in GErmany.