Can I practice my English with you?

Have you ever been at a loss for a word, and it’s sitting at the tip of your tongue? You can even define the word, but it just won’t come out! Imagine doing that in another language. It would probably get frustrating to the person that you’re talking to if it happened in almost every sentence. If you knew that the next sentence will have the same obstacle as the previous one for this person, who is trying to speak your language, would you insert the right words for them, or let them stumble through their new language?

Let’s suppose you chose to fill in the words for them. But now reverse the situation. You are the one trying to learn the language and this person you’re talking to is just handing these words to you over and over again. I would be wondering if I’m frustrating them, or if I’m not doing a very good job at speaking the language. And if I’m in a foreign country I may become discouraged and a little insecure, because I’m surrounded by this language!

Now let’s take the other approach. You let this person stumble through their sentences, it may take 5 minutes longer than you wanted to get this information, but you’re patient. And now in reverse! You make it through your sentence and the person in front of you sits patiently and waits and then responds back to you. Success! You did it! You were able to communicate in your language! You may realize that you need some help in putting your ideas together and vocalizing them, but you were able to communicate to someone who is fluent.

Have you ever met someone in the U.S. who wasn’t fluent in English, but they were trying their best to speak it, and you just got frustrated and either walked away or dismissed them? All too often that is the case in the U.S., but in other countries natives are flattered when you want to speak their language. They listen and really want to help you along in learning.

So let’s work on not being arrogant Americans who expect others to learn our language! Let’s be Americans who want to work with others who are learning our language. English is one of the hardest languages to learn in the world (along with Chinese and Arabic), so we should be impressed that others are taking on the challenge!

Plus, one day we may be trying to speak their language, and they could get frustrated and walk away from us.

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