People Who Speak a Second Language Sound Less Intelligent

An individual sparked a firestorm of debate on social media when they shared their perspective on Reddit. Their post garnered an astounding 102,000 ‘upvotes’ and 3,600 comments in response – proving that it struck a chord with many people.

The Shower Thought

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Their opinion was as follows:

When people brokenly speak a second language, they sound less intelligent but are actually more knowledgeable than most for being able to speak a second language at all.

Do you agree or disagree with this “shower thought”? Redditors took to the comments to share their opinions on the matter. We compiled a list of the top responses.

They Told Me To Just Speak in English

woman eating in france

“I brokenly spoke French in Paris,” one user said, “the waitress told me just to speak English. I did not feel intelligent.”

The other commenters believed that the waitress’s intentions were not bad.

“In France, it is common courtesy to try to speak French at first; she probably thought you were being polite and wanted to end your troubles with French.”

Another commenter noted that even though they speak fluent German, the Germans still tell them they can speak in English because their accent is clearly foreign. While it may hurt the feelings or confidence of the individual, they mean well.

Broken English is Still Understood Among Other Non-Native Speakers

multicultural meeting

“I once saw a Mexican speak broken English to an Armenian who spoke broken English. They understood each other perfectly,” one user recounted.

“Sometimes in an international meeting, the one who doesn’t understand English is the English one, and the other is perfectly fine with the broken English!” said another.

While native English speakers use slang, expressions and idioms and have their own regional accents that may be difficult to understand, non-native English speakers may speak more plainly, which is more comprehensible for some.

It Reveals Something Beautiful About Their Own Language

people meeting

Non-native English speakers often speak brokenly, which can reveal interesting information about their native language.

For instance, an Austrian speaks in a way that reflects the sentence structure of German. This can be seen when they use English phrases such as “Do you find this maybe to be true?” or “that was a good idea from Zach coming.”

Tagalog speakers say “open the light” and “close the light” instead of “turn on” and “turn off,” and Spanish speakers mix up the verbs “make” and “do.

Such instances provide insight into the speaker’s original language and can be fascinating for those who listen.

They Feel Embarrassed When They Get Things Wrong

multicultural communication

Many people experience embarrassment when attempting to speak a foreign language.

A Reddit user shared an example of this, noting that the Chinese colleagues they worked with often apologized for mispronouncing words in English.

In response, the user tried to make them feel better by expressing that their English was much better than their own Chinese skills.

Other Languages Can Be Extremely Difficult to Learn

zoom meeting

“Met a Russian guy who has been learning Chinese 3 hours a week for like ten years, said he still can’t speak Chinese,” one person said.

Another person suggested that the only answer to this is total immersion, not three hours a week. “Learning a language in such a casual manner is a poor way to go about it if you are trying to achieve fluency,” said one.

Be Consistent and You Will Gain Fluency

ending of a talk show

“I was taught English 5-7 hours a week growing up in school, from grade 1 until I graduated high school,” one person who spoke Arabic said. “My English only got better when I started watching untranslated American TV shows after high school, and now, seven years later, I’m almost fluent, still working on grammar, though.

The key to becoming fluent in a foreign language is consistent practice. Dedication and persistence are necessary to gain fluency, whether that’s through formal classes or total immersion.

It may take longer for some than others, but with enough effort, anyone can learn the language they want.

I’m Not Even Good at Speaking My Native Language

people communicating

One speaker reflects that they haven’t even “mastered” their own mother tongue, realizing that they could never speak a foreign language as well as a non-native speaker speaks theirs.

“Congratulations, you’re more self-aware than idiots. The problem is, the idiots aren’t self-aware,” one person responded.

When People Laugh at Foreign People Speaking Broken English

women laughing at someone

“That’s the reason I hate when people hate on or laugh at foreign people speaking broken English,” one person said. “Meanwhile, the person laughing can only speak English and isn’t the best at the language either.”

Many people find it disrespectful and wrong when someone laughs at a non-native English speaker for speaking brokenly.

People who have dedicated time, effort, and resources to learning another language deserve respect, even if they are still developing their skills.

When People Speak a Broken Second Language, They Sound Less Intelligent But Are Actually More Knowledgeable Than Most: Yes or No?

happy laughing woman

Evidently, the original “shower thought” struck a chord with countless individuals. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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This post called When People Speak a Broken Second Language They Sound Less Intelligent was syndicated and produced by TPR Teaching. Our article has been inspired by Reddit and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of TPR Teaching.

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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