How to stop people speaking to you in English

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English is an international language. Unfortunately, that means that some of the Poles that you meet may choose to speak to you in it instead of Polish. That is, unless you implement this one cruel, but effective trick!

Stop people speaking English

I cannot take credit for this tip, as it comes from one of my conversation exchange partners, Alina. She told me the story of an Irish lady who arrived in Poland, desperate to practise her Polish. On arrival, everyone spoke to her in English. Determined to practise, she said one thing which immediately made every Pole that she spoke to speak to her in Polish instead:

“Nie mówię po angielsku – jestem z Węgier.”

“I don’t speak English – I am from Hungary.” Genius! Although it was a complete and utter lie, it was a believable story. If people asked why she’d flown in from an English-speaking country, she could say she’d been visiting family. When people asked her about her name, she told them it came from her grandfather’s side, but she wasn’t brought up with the language. While some Poles will proudly boast of how difficult their language is and how they can master foreign languages with ease, few speak Hungarian. With English off the table, every Pole she came across had no choice but to speak Polish, believing that they had no other option.

Admittedly, this won’t work for everybody…

I’ll be the first person to say that many people won’t believe that I am from Hungary! I don’t know much about the country, but I don’t think they have a notable number of black people. However, if you’re willing to lie to get some more Polish practice, then there are a number of countries you can choose from.

Countries with a small English speaking population include China, The Gambia, Colombia, Brazil, Bhutan, India, Morocco, Turkey, Kenya and Kazakhstan. Depending on what you look like, you could probably pick one of those, learn a few facts about the country, master a few phrases of the local lingo and boom – your alter ego is created.

This trick obviously won’t work with anyone who has a) already met you, or b) knows you can already speak English. If you show someone your British passport as ID whilst simultaneously insist you can’t speak a word of English, your cover story won’t stack up.

You also probably couldn’t do this unless you already have a decent level of Polish, since you wouldn’t be able use English if conversation broke down. You don’t speak English, remember?

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Do I really have to lie just to get some practice?

No, you don’t. You just need to ask. Not asking has landed me in some very strange situations. I have had whole conversations where I have spoken Polish, while the other person spoke English. I could have avoided the confusion and the subsequent headache by simply saying I wanted to practise.

So, if you’re speaking to someone in Polish, don’t be afraid to say “Możemy rozmawiać po polsku? Próbuję poprawić swój polski.” “Can we talk in Polish? I’m trying to improve my Polish.” Most Poles will be more than willing to accommodate you. If they’re not, there are more than 38 million other Poles that you can practise with instead.

[alert-warning]TL;DR: To get extra practise, you can either tell people you don’t speak English or just tell them you’d like to practise your Polish. The latter sounds simple, but when given the easy option to speak a language you already know, you’d be amazed how lazy you can be![/alert-warning]

How do you get more Polish practice?

[alert-announce]I occasionally talk to myself in Polish or listen to English conversations and think how I would say the same thing in Polish. With the internet at our fingertips, we no longer need native speakers in order to practise. We can watch videos on YouTube and listen to Polish radio to practise our comprehension. Working on our side of the conversation doesn’t require anyone else as we can talk to ourselves. If we would prefer to speak to a real person, we can always do so via Skype. How do you get more Polish practice? Let me know in the comments below.[/alert-announce]
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