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How long does/should it take for a person to learn English?

I have been living in my neighborhood for 13 years, and there is a fast food restaurant down the street that we go to occassionally. There is a lady that works there and has been working there for as long as I've lived there and I don't know how much longer. She STILL speaks HORRIBLY broken English. I honestly can't understand more than half of what she says and I'm usually pretty good at understanding thick foreign accents. I'm sure she still speaks her native language at home, and there is nothing wrong with that, but you would think after 13+years of living in a country and working that closely with the public that you would at least have reached a comprehendable level of fluency in that language, no?


Asked by Anonymous at 12:54 PM on Mar. 24, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

This question is closed.
Answers (24)
  • Well I think it's a freaking right!  I don't eat Chinese food because I can't understand a word that anyone is saying in any Chinese restaurant where I live either.  And the same thing applies.  If I were moving to another country, I would damn sure learn how to say SOMETHING in their language. "Broken" English I can understand a little.  Talking fast with a heavy accent, um no. 


    Answer by MrsHouston47302 at 1:36 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • Some people pick up languages easily, others have more difficulty. I'm afraid I know people who only speak English and speak it horribly!!

    Kids are more likely to pick it up easily than adults, but some adults are quick. I live in Los Angeles, so we have a lot of people who speak English as a 2nd language, and I guess I'm kind of used to it.

    Answer by ohwrite at 12:58 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • Not necessarily. English is a difficult language to learn as an adult. For every rule, there are several exceptions. If she is not making a concerted effort to immerse herself in the language, she will continue to struggle with it. Add a challenging accent on top of that, and it's not difficult to imagine that you would have a hard time understanding her.

    Answer by May-20 at 12:57 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • I have no idea.  I know that I'm sick of having to call customer service people and getting transferred over and over again because I can't understand a word anyone is freaking saying.  Ranting on your page, sorry, had to call customer service this morning, not happy, lol.


    Answer by MrsHouston47302 at 12:57 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • My aunt is Greek and has lived here in the US for 45 years and STILL speaks broken English so I don't know

    Answer by butterflyblue19 at 1:00 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • And before you go bashing ME for my opinion, I speak and write at least 4 other languages NONE of which do I do in a "broken" accent.

    Answer by vbruno at 1:05 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • How long would it take you to speak a foreign language perfectly?

    Answer by CraftingMama at 12:59 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • Not everyone has the same capacity to learn any given subject, and English is a difficult language to master. On the flip side, my daughter has been able to fully master 2 other languages within a couple of years (she is a young adult). My husband is a very bright and successful man and I know that he would have difficulty mastering a new language at this point. No one wants to make a fool of themself, and learning to communicate in a foreign language makes many feel less than articulate.


    Answer by Sisteract at 1:06 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • I said HORRIBLY in reference to how well her English is understood

     BY YOU, which is a judgement-

    13 whole years and she STILL speaks HORRIBLY broken English. Like Dr Donna said above, it works for her- she's still employed. You probably should find another place to frequent if this long time employee makes it difficult for YOU to complete a purchase. Not much else you can do.


    Answer by Sisteract at 1:28 PM on Mar. 24, 2011

  • Clearly you think it's a problem, OP. You didn't come on here singing the praises of how this woman is clearly getting by, how you're proud that she's making an attempt, or adding something to your local economy. No, you came on here to get validation for your perspective that you shouldn't be inconvenienced by this woman's thick accent. If your real question is, "How long would it take to learn?", you already know that answer - clearly more than 13 years, in the case of this woman.

    Where does it say we've got a right to be able to order food in our native language in the Constitution? I don't think it's really a protected right.


    Answer by Dr.Donna at 1:29 PM on Mar. 24, 2011