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Practicing Foreign Languages in Restaurants Could Be Misunderstood

DEAR ABBY: When ordering food at different ethnic restaurants here in the U.S., should people always speak in English, even if they are learning the language of the country the food is from? For instance, if you go to a Mexican restaurant and hear waiters speaking Spanish, and you are learning Spanish but are by no means fluent, is it polite to try and order in Spanish, or is it considered rude?

My worry is that they will assume I think they don't know English and that I'm being condescending, especially if they respond with something I don't understand in the same language that I was just trying to speak. Should a person always ask, "Can I practice my French (or any language you're trying to practice)?" or should one save it for international travel, private language lessons or another time? What do you think is proper in this situation? -- LOST IN TRANSLATION

DEAR LOST: I printed something on this subject three years ago (Sept. 5, 2016). It is worth going back into my archive and reviewing.

To avoid any misunderstandings or hurt feelings, assume the server speaks English. If you wish to practice your second language, tell the person you are trying to sharpen your language skills, ask if the person would mind your doing that and ask to be corrected if you make a mistake.

Read more in: Etiquette & Ethics

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