Saying I Do Not Speak the Language is Problematic

If you are conversational in a language, then it is time to stop saying you do not speak the language.

Saying I Do not Speak the Language is Problematic

To be a world traveler, and not learn a language is problematic, to live abroad, buy a home and not speak a second language is almost a tragedy.

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To say,
“I do not speak French, etc.”
This is only valuable, when you truly cannot speak any French, this mean,
“I need someone to speak English.”

I told myself today,
“Andy stop it; never tell another person you do not speak French.”
Saying those words tells the person to stop talking to me.

I am from the USA, I speak English as my first language, and presently I am in Francophone West Africa. And, I often say,
“Je pas parle francais bon.”
“Je parle francais mal.”

This site is for language research.

What is my intention, I want to say,
“Please speak slowly, and use simple words, help me by looking right at me, and speaking loud.”

This is my intention, but the results are opposite.

I want the person to empathize with me, to understand the difficulties of study and learning a language quickly. And not naturally like an infant, but to have an ever increasing vocabulary and ability to understand French words spoken in difficult manners.

I speak Spanish great, and French good, all the French people here in Lome, Togo understand my broken French rapidly.

What percentages of the people have learned a second language on the planet?

Second Language Defined:
“Linguist Eric Lenneberg used second language to mean a language consciously acquired or used by its speaker after puberty.”

2 Percent of people on the planet conciously learn a second language after pubuerty.

This is not an easy statistic, but my estimate is roughly 2 percent learn a second language. I am also using the idea that 2 percent purchase a language dictionary, and actively learn new words.

Which is also may be the statistic for “Naturals” people who learn language with ease, little study required.

Truly less than 1 in 50 people empathize, and use simple words, and accommodate the weakness.

The other 49 say,
“I do not speak English.”
And stop talking to me in French.

If I do not tell them, they assume I speak French, and just blab away, I can say,
“Please repeat.”
But to say,
“Talk slowly just stymies their brain.”

It is better to nod my head, and not understand, then to create a mental block in their head.

Today, a Togolese girl I was talking to in French said,
“I do not speak English.”
I wanted to say,
“He stupid, all the words I just said were French.”
Her brain had become lazy, and she stops trying to speak French, but French is an auxiliary language for her, Ewe is her first, for her to speak French, she needs to concentrate

The bottom line of this research,
“Do not say you do not speak the language, it creates a mental block in the mind of the other person.”

It is better to not understand, than to create a person in your life who refuses to speak with you

On the funny side, if I do not say I am from the USA and that I speak English, they often ask,
“Are you from France?”

Trust me, no person born in France and highly fluent in French has ever asked that question. I laugh, knowing they do not speak French very well.

My French is finally at the same vocabulary level, I know the same, and more words than 95 percent of Togo people. They can still speak and understand better than me, because of the learned ability to deal with different accents, which is only with practice, and never by studying the language.

Andy Graham in Lome, Togo

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Comments 1


I lived in Europe, Italy and Germany for over 8 years. Married a German.
Lived in Japan 3 plus years and Chinas about 9 months.

I always tried to learn what many call menu/traveler language and carried my little books with me.

Some of us just do NOT have the right brain cells for learning some things in life regardless of how
much we try. I learned to understand some of what was spoken to me but my pronunciation never
quite made it in reply.

It helps to have a very good memory which I never had or developed if thats the case.
I studied, I wrote, I read, I spoke, I repeated over and over but to no worthwhile avail.

Fortunately I did learn to be a friendly, courteous and knowledgable (customs, history, culture, etc)
person and also could always laugh at myself which has helped me get along almost everywhere I
have traveled.
Also fortunately almost anywhere you go in the world today English is spoken, even in remote areas
by at least someone, at least a little bit.
With my book(s) I always manage to get by.

I agree you should make the effort to learn some of the language but as far as actually becoming fluent
in todays world its very overrated.

Now I will not say the same for possibly in certain countries of Africa as the closest I have
come to there is flying over Egypt from Saudi Arabia.

I know France since DeGaulle that they often force you to speak at least a few words in French
then they start speaking excellent English. Its a grat game they love to play.

But, even other traveling nationalities, Japanese, Chinese, Germans, Hungarians, Russians, etc, etc, etc
all are often forced to speak some English when in other countries rather than the local language to get
along. It has become the universal language.

Even the airines have made it the pilots international language.

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