Foreign perils of the English language put into table

While school kids across the country struggle to learn French, Spanish, German and many other foreign languages, it is widely admitted that English is the hardest tongue to master. However, learning the language is just one facet, with many foreigners often left confused by what we really mean.

The British trait for being polite, rather than upfront and honest, is a particular issue and now a table deciphering what is meant from what is said is proving hugely popular online.

The table which has been entered onto newsfeeds across the web also appeared on an Oxfam blog, with Duncan Green, strategic adviser for the charity, marketing the table as:

“a handy guide for our fellow Europeans and others trying to fathom weaselly Brit-speak.”

First thought to be produced by a Dutch firm helping its workers understand us Brits in day-to-day conversation, the table explores some popularly misunderstood myths.

One phrase, for example, is ‘you must come for dinner’. Typically, people from abroad feel this is an actual invitation, with details to be confirmed later. However, it is nothing more than a polite comment, and is unlikely to result in a dinner appointment.

Far less polite is the common sentence starter ‘with the greatest respect …’. Meaning quite the opposite, most foreigners were not alerted to this veiled insult until the table appeared.

The table has, wherever it is posted, attracted many comments. People seem to think it is, ”very interesting” – though that could also mean they think it is “clearly nonsense”, if the table is to be believed.

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