If you are reading this blog, you know English. Congrats! I really mean that. I feel lucky to have been born with English as my native tongue. No matter where you are in the world, English will usually suffice for getting by. For instance, my German friend here speaks English for work. Normal, of course. What seems funny is that he speaks English with Italians and Russians as their mutual language.
So, yes I feel fortunate to speak English. Learning another language is great, but for me it is not a necessity. However, if you live in a foreign country the best way to get acclimated is to converse with the natives. In Germany, there are a ton of English speakers. However, their English is rarely perfect. If someone is willing to speak English with you, it is important to keep in mind that English is not their first language to avoid misunderstanding and frustrating situations for them.
How to Talk to a Non-native English Speaker:
1) Enunciate. This is the most difficult for me as I was formerly the mumbling queen. Make sure each word comes out sounding loud and clear.
2) Speak slowly. My mind races 100 miles per hour and my words tend to come out that way. At home in Texas, some people still did not understand me. Here, I have to remind myself to steady my pace, particularly after a glass (or several) of wine.
3) Avoid expressions/idioms. You know, all those weird expressions that make no sense but we are so used to hearing. For instance, “You’re pulling my leg” for you’re joking. I say things like this and get blank stares. Remember, nonnative speakers hear words and translate them literally.
4) Avoid slang. You know, saying booze instead of alcohol or chill instead of calm down.
5) Use proper grammar. This is a struggle. English learners are trying to speak properly and you need to set the best example for imitation. Often, I am asked what the proper usage is and I have to think hard back to the seventh grade. Sometimes I get the answer and sometimes I go with whatever sounds better. So, I have been brushing up.
Basically, talking to a foreigner is like talking to an old person. Speaking with Germans who are learning English has helped my English speaking tremendously. It sends me back to the basics and puts me to the test daily. It helps me avoid my own language flaws, such as mumbling and being a complete valley girl saying “like” all the time out of context. I never saw this coming, but it’s true.