I have a mixed group of friends from different countries (JP, CH, US.) I found it difficult to keep the conversation when inviting them to my house (I live in the U.S.) Certain people do not like me to speak English with them and they will not respond. Other people do not like me to speak my native language for obvious reason. I try to hang out with them in different sessions but can't avoid some occasions.

What is the proper way to handle this situation if you are an English speaker and non-English speaker? How to switch multiple languages in one conversation casually?

  • How old are you? How old are them? Are they friends with each other Mar 5, 2018 at 15:47
  • @LinuxBlanket we are graduate students, roughly between 24 - 34. We are classmates in school. I just want to know how people feel about this situation.
    – YogaPanda
    Mar 5, 2018 at 15:52
  • 2
    @YogaPanda 'how people feel about this situation' isn't really a good question for this stack. It's supposed to be about Interpersonal Skills, not for sharing opinions and feelings :/ What have you already tried besides separation? What problems does that lead to?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 5, 2018 at 15:53
  • what language is spoken in class? If it is English, why do some classmates dislike it if you speak English with them as well?
    – kscherrer
    Mar 5, 2018 at 16:14
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    Is CH Swiss or China? Mar 6, 2018 at 12:11

2 Answers 2


How to switch conversation from language to language in peers?

In seperate conversations, with seperate groups of people I agree with @PaulaHasstenteufel's answer. However, OP said he has no problems speaking in seperate sessions, in his situation it seems as though this is one single group conversation, so my answer is: Don't, pick one base language that best suits the group as a whole and in all conversations directed to the whole group, stick to it.

They are all guests in your house, and I guess that you invited them with the intention of these friends from mixed cultures interacting with each other. If they are aware of this and have accepted your invitation, then it would be considered rude to speak to this group in a language that benefits only a select few people while considerably handicapping everyone else. Also, switching back and forth between languages within a single conversation too much is confusing and difficult for such a mixture to follow.

Admittedly, no matter which language you choose it will upset some people, making contributing to the group conversation more difficult for them. Unfortunately, as you have found this is not one of those times that you will be able to please everyone. Instead it is up to you the host, to choose the language that will result in the smallest amount of collective difficulty for the group as a whole.

If your Chinese friends refuse to interact when (in this context) you speak to them in Japanese, they are the ones being rude. You should hold your ground, using the reasons you arrived at the decision to choose Japanese as the base language for the group conversation in an effort to explain.

We are all eating dinner speaking together, Joe does not know a lick of Chinese and we all know how horrendous Aito and Daichi are at English. So Japanese is our only real choice in order to include everyone.

When you split off into seperate conversations, people will re-assess the best group language to use and this is more than fine, just keep in mind how seperate the conversations are... if Daichi took one sip of beer and suddenly everyone is speaking in english, it serves as a barrier for him to re-join the conversation.

  • 1
    Thanks @Jesse ! The answer is down-to-earth and speak from real-life experience. Although it makes me realized that it's better not to include people from mixed cultures unless they are multi-languages speakers (and feel comfortable to do so)
    – YogaPanda
    Mar 6, 2018 at 14:36
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    @YogaPanda Including people from mixed cultures who are not comfortable speaking other languages would certainly be a notable difficulty in these group events. However, with extra effort and enthusiasm from everyone involved I still think it could have a lot of value!
    – Jesse
    Mar 20, 2018 at 4:01

I would suggest that in the unavoidable and not ideal occasions where all those people are present, you assume a more passive position as the interlocutor, addressing each person after they have already said something, with the same language they used.

That makes it easier for you to switch languages while keeping the flow of conversation and also demonstrates respect and consideration for all parts involved.

If the group dissipates and you're left with people who can share the same language, then you can be more active on the topics.

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