social_facebook_box_blue social_twitter_box_blue

Telephone:  44 (0)20 3573 0182

[email protected]

Language Courses in London
* Required

How to speak to somebody if you cannot speak their language

There may be times when you are unable to speak the language of the person who you are talking to.  Naturally, we suggest that you try and learn the language but maybe you did not have time or you already speak several languages and you doubt that you can fit another one in.  


If that is the case, then this the blog post that you have been waiting for.  We asked our excellent team of language teachers (and a few students) for their advice on how to communicate with people when you do not share a common language.  


Avoid using slang, idioms and phrasal verbs

When we train new teachers, the first lesson or two that we observe them teaching often includes natural language such as expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs.  To a native speaker, using such expressions as opposed to complex vocabulary might be seen as trying to make things easier, but to the listener it will just be confusing.  


If you show a copy of a broadsheet newspaper such as The Times to a student of English and then a tabloid newspaper like The Daily Mirror, the student will understand the broadsheet in a far better way.  When you talk to somebody, become an oral version of The Times rather than The Daily Mirror.


Avoid tag questions

Tag questions such as "are they?" or "don't you?" in English are difficult for English as a Second Language students to use coherently, so it is best that you avoid them if you can and simply ask direct questions.  Many nationalities answer differently from how a native British person would answer:  "You aren't a man, are you?" would get different answers from males of different nationalities.


Listen intently

When we teach communication skills in a second language to our students, we emphasise that listening is a vital component of any conversation, none more so than when you are speaking to somebody who does not speak the same language as you.  Listen out for words that sound similar to English words and pay attention to the body language of the person.  If they appear perplexed then it is time to change your speaking style.


Speak slowly

Another issue that we find with this situation is native speakers speaking too quickly.  This YouTube video sums it up perfectly.  Keep in mind that you should pace your speech slightly, but try and keep to the rhythm of natural English.



Let us know if you have any further advice on how to communicate with people who do not share your language and we will add the best ones to this page.  The obvious answer is to learn a second language with Unique Language Training.  You can telephone us at 020 3566 0145, e-mail us or fill in the form on this page.  












Communicate in a foreign language

One-to-One Language Training Courses

Spanish Language Courses Foreign Language Courses Italian Language Courses

Articles on language and communication

Quotes on language learning The Unique Approach Learning a new language Being Bilingual