I have this one friend who constantly speaks in English. I tried to speak to him in his language; sometimes he replies in that language and sometimes in English. I am an intermediate-level speaker in his language and would like to have more practice in using it.

How can I get him to speak with me in his language without frustrating him?

  • 2
    What have you already tried? Have you started every conversation in the language you wish to speak with your friend? Is English your native language? Where are you from, and where and with whom are you speaking? What is the other person's native language? What gives you the impression that you are frustrating him?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 24, 2017 at 18:18
  • I'm not voting duplicate: This is about practicing a language during a conversation. The other one is about having each person speak their own language. Although answers might be very similar, I'm thinking that we should take this difference into account when writing an answer. Practicing with somebody might be much more tiring for the 'other' party involved.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 24, 2017 at 18:30
  • I've vtc'ed for now as too broad. If Piotr could return to this question and provide the answers to the questions I have, that would be nice. It can in my opinion definitely be salvaged ;)
    – Tinkeringbell
    Oct 24, 2017 at 19:14

5 Answers 5


While the other answers focus on the situation where the other person wants to practice speaking English, I want to add another perspective:

If the person you talk to is (almost) fluent in English, conversing with you in German might be far more tiring for him than English, e.g. because it takes you longer to form setences, he has trouble understanding your accent or he often has to repeat himself to make sure you understand him.

So maybe watch the conversations you have with him to see if this is the case. The amount of inconvenience while talking German with you obviously depends on your level in the language (and his level in English), but here are some suggestions:

  1. Ask him to talk in German while you talk in English.
  2. Only ask him to use German during the lunch break and not while discussing work.
  3. Agree on more infrequent occasions to talk German (e.g. German Tuesday).

Just keep in mind that while it is likely he is happy to help you learn, he might get frustrated if he has to do it all the time.

And more directly to the point how to get him to speak in his native language with you: Be direct and explicit. He apparently prefers (for whatever reason) to talk English, so it's probably best to ask him to speak German and explain why you would like him to do it.



Tell them that you wish to practice German and can you please continue in German.

In a later conversation, allow the other person to speak in English if they wish to practice their English.


Hmm. This doesn't seem very ... interview-tag to me. I imagine this'll be showing up on another forum soon.

So I'll be brief. Take turns. Make a bargain that at certain times/gatherings you'll speak English, and certain ones you'll speak German. The other guy is probably in the same boat you are -- he wants to practice English!

You might also go check out German movies with him; that's a good way to get practice, plus the discussion afterward might veer toward the German.


I'll try to answer by giving the perspective of someone who is likely in a similar situation as your friend.

If the other person is living in an English speaking country, and they are proficient in the language, then accept that it may be unrealistic for you to expect him to speak his native language.

I live in a country and use exclusively the language of that country rather than my native language and have been doing so for over three years. When forced to speak my native language, I actually have a difficult time as I am not used to speaking it, and it is sorta frustrating. I am fine with speaking it to people who can't speak the language of the country I am living in, but when someone proficient in the language tried to demand I speak my native language it kinda bothers me. If they want to speak my native language to me, that is their perogitive, but I will allow myself the liberty to reply in the language of my choice.

I would also like to add that I am happy to help someone learn by answering questions about the language itself, but there are other ways to get speaking practice than forcing me to speak the language.

EDIT: Since this was migrated from the workplace, I presume it is a work relationship. It would be especially upsetting to have to speak the native language in a work environment when the other person isn't more proficient in the native language than the language usually spoken at the company. It is presumably not in that person's job description to have to use that language, espicially not to teach others the language.


Overall I must imagine there is a feeling of isolation when communicating in a second language and this may be implicative of a highly detached and internal view for the individual.

I think the comments already present are more than sufficient, but the confliction of sincerity suggests you hope for a deeper more impactful response, not as much to liberate any tensions the individual may posses speaking in a foreign language, but to establish a connection and make them feel more welcome, and open.

An unusually powerful technique is implied suggestion, as when you have this confliction an offer doesn’t hold as much value, and force may seem aggressive. While I haven’t encountered this situation I believe just smiling, while speaking their language, even if the individual had primarily spoken English in the conversation, shows a genuine interest in their culture, and creates a warm, inviting gesture for the individual to be more free. This may show your intent, along with your caring personality.