Occasionally, the people who I meet on the Internet ask me to hang out. But my English speaking is far more terrible than my written English, and some people look quite disappointed to hear my poor speaking English skills once we meet.

I always inform them in advance that my English speaking is much worse, but people don't believe it, or take it with a grain of salt and predict my oral English proficiency based on my written English. Or they see my warning as a strong modesty.

I didn't take any formal English test, but my written English is likely B2 (closer to C1 than B1) while my oral one is likely A2 on CEFR.

Is there any better way to inform them of my poor English speaking in advance? Partly due to this problem I'm reluctant to meet someone who I've met on the Internet. I would not like to disappoint them...

These people also don't have English as their mother-tongue (Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Western and Eastern European, etc...) but speak far better English.

  • Why do you need to inform them that your speaking English is poor? They might get disappointed whether you inform them or not. Sep 15, 2017 at 20:13
  • If someone gets upset at your pronunciation, it's more likely their failure at IPS (for setting a standard of acceptability). I generally try to avoid an accent when I speak English, but most native English speakers I've met (including my girlfriend and her family) have expressed a desire to "have a cool accent". I think ESL speakers are more intolerant of their own accent than the average native English speaker. Also, just as an example, Marbozir is a much beloved youtuber with a thick East-European accent. Not everyone hates it :)
    – Flater
    Nov 21, 2017 at 9:27
  • you don't state your locality; are you totally sure that its not your national accent when speaking English (ie certain sounds coming out wrong) rather than an actual problem with your spoken English? Are people struggling to understand your use of the sounds, rather than your words? ie - you're (for example) chinese and say, struggling with W sounds, and you're talking to a vietnamese person who is expecting to hear W differently? If so some tone and pronounciation advice might help you more. Nov 22, 2017 at 8:45

3 Answers 3


As I've faced similar challenges in the past, I'll talk from my experience.

There's no magic solution for avoiding the situation. English isn't your primary language, and people should respect that.

Thus, if you want to "disclosure" that to your online friends that your English isn't perfect, a reasonable solution could be politely telling them about.

John Doe: - Hey, could we met in person?

You: - Yes, of course we can! But you'll have to be patient with my speaking communication, as English isn't my primary language. Is that ok for you?

Most friendly people won't mind about it (at least I wouldn't). The only thing I can't assure is that you and the other person will be able to effectively communicate; and that can be a little bit frustrating for some people. But it's natural when you met people from different countries/cultures.

  • Another thing you can mention is that you don't get to practice your spoken English. Assuming you're in an area where it's not common or expected for people to speak English.
    – Yousend
    Oct 2, 2017 at 14:53

and like you, most people I talk to on the internet tend to think that my spoken english is on the same level as my written english. Wich is not true.

So, when people asks to meets in person, I'm quite reluctant.

A good way I've found, to introduce them to my spoken english is to, when someone asks if we should meet in real life,asks them if we could speak over skype (or any other software like it).

This might look like it's the same situation, but believe me, it's not, and that for several reasons :

Close to no Background noise

In a vocal conversation, background noise make understanting each other much harder. When both parties talk the same languages fluantly, it's not a problem, but when at least one of them does'nt talk fluantly, the background noise can hinder comprehension quite a bit.

Ability to write down to clarify a sentence

If the other person did not understand what you said, you can easily write your sentence to clarify what you means. Of course this is something you can do in person too, but writing on your phone, or on a notepad during a conversation is not usually well received.

Little to no effort required

If you decide to meet in person, both of you needs to decide of a place to meet up, probably something to do as well, and, if you planned something it might cost both of you money.

I believe that those factors matters a lot, if you plan something with somebody, and, on the spot, you realise that you can't communicate with that person efficiently, it can be frustrating.

On the other hand, if you talk over skype (or, again, any other relevant software), it doesn't cost any money, is almost effortless, and does'nt ask you to plan things in advance. If you realise you can't understand each other, it probably won't be as disappointing as if it happened in person.

A little piece of advice

Even if your spoken english is not all that good at the moment, I would encourage you to still try and hold conversations with other english-speaking peoples. After all "practice makes perfect" and the more you'll talk with other people (especially if they have a better level in english than you) the more you're going to learn.


Your written English is usually going to be better as you have more time to think, phrase, reflect. I suspect the more proficient speakers you mention learned in a different way to you, perhaps by immersion rather than school. Your question is syntactically fine.

I had the same problem with German, my written German was far better. In written communication, regional accents don't matter so much and you can take your time absorbing their meaning. I really struggled with oral communication as I worked in an area with a very heavy regional dialect with many loan words and I had to listen carefully and respond slowly as I had to think a lot harder about choosing the right local words. It got better though, and quicker than I thought it would. I doubt you'll have this problem for long and written English is in, my humble opinion, much harder than spoken. Spelling doesnt matter in speaking and that's a really hard part of English.

I suggest you try and talk to more native speakers, not second language speakers who could well be propagating their mistakes to you. When you talk to a native speaker say "I'm still working on it, please correct me if I make a syntactic mistake, I want to improve, I will not be offended". We Brits don't like to highlight people's errors in our language, so you need to invite us to do so.

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