I have always found this question condescendingly offensive! Especially if the overseas calls are from the UK and the US and is the first question they ask before anything else is said. What if I were to ask them the same question? How do you think they would react? I mean come off your high horse mate! Do you believe that the rest of the world are uneducated and are ignorant of the fact that English is an International Language? Even if it is not the main official language of a country it is more often than not the second language.
Yes of course, there are a handful of people from countries that do not speak English either because they have not learnt or are just uncomfortable with it, but hey if they don’t understand English at all then how are they going to respond to that very question of yours? When I personally call a country which I suspect do not speak English, I just start off with a greeting, followed by the nature of my call and if they don’t speak English at all they will either say so in broken English or just continue to speak in their native tongue. Only then I might ask if anyone else speaks English, I never start off asking that question!
Here is a list of how I would really like to reply when asked the question, “Do you speak English?”
- Well not the way you do!
- Yes but not the Queen’s English
- What’s English?
- I’m awfully sorry but no one here understands or speaks English.
- Do you speak any other language? – *hears the list and replies* No I don’t speak those you just mentioned.
- *Hangs up the phone each time I hear that question*
- Which part of “Good morning, XXXX Company Juleslife speaking how can I help you?” was not in English?
- No but I can sound like I do
Actually the list is just too long….but you catch my drift no?
Below was extracted from a Travel Blog….
Travel Channel show host Samantha Brown doled out some travel advice in Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, and I thought this simple observation about language barriers was particularly astute: Americans’ tendency to ask “Do you speak English?” with little introduction when they’re overseas, puts distance between them and their hosts.
She told the Chronicle: “When you do that, you’re making someone feel like ‘I’m stupid. I don’t know English.’”
Her tip to avoid that? “All you say is ‘No Spanish. Do you speak English?’ You’ve created a connection. ‘I’m in your country and I don’t expect you to know my language.’”
Of course, the best solution is to learn how to say this in Spanish, or whatever the local language—learning a few simple phrases doesn’t take more than a few minutes and can be good fun, too.
But I’ve encountered plenty of fellow Americans in my travels who just don’t bother to take the time to do this. And for them, Brown’s advice should help.
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