Not knowing quite enough yet to speak completely in German, I sometimes need to ask someone on the phone to switch to English (as they normally answer in German).

My last attempt:

Können wir bitte Englisch sprechen?

Didn't feel quite right based on the person's response. After a second or so, they awkwardly said "yes" and continued in English, but I can't help but feel there's a better way to ask this question.


Entschuldigung, ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch

What would be the most colloquial/polite way to ask someone to switch from German and speak English with me?


There is no "better" way to ask this. Combining your both sentences would already be perfect.

Entschuldigung/Entschuldigen Sie, ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch. Könn(t)en wir bitte (in) Englisch sprechen?

There are certainly alternatives as in English you can ask for speaking in German in several ways, too.

For example:

Macht es Ihnen/Dir etwas aus, wenn wir in Englisch weitersprechen? (Do you mind if we continue speaking in English?)
Wäre es ein Problem für Sie, wenn wir ins Englische wechseln? (Would it be a problem for you if we switch to English?)
Ist es möglich, dass wir uns auf Englisch unterhalten? (Is it possible that we talk in English?)

None of them, however, is better or worse than what you came up with.

  • 2
    I would use "wenig" instead of "ein bisschen"; sounds less awkward. Also, in the second example it should be Konjunktiv, that is "ins Englische wechselten" ("would switch").
    – Raphael
    Apr 11 '14 at 15:39
  • @Raphael "wenig" and "ein bisschen" are equally fine. I don't see any reason to use one over the other. Regarding subjunctive: technically speaking you're right. However, this is not the way people speak; thus, I stay with my version.
    – Em1
    Apr 11 '14 at 16:26
  • I don't know that people say "ins Englische wechseln" either; I'd expect "auf Englisch wechseln". "wenig" vs "bisschen" may be regional. "nicht gut/viel/genug" is another often used phrase: "Es tut mir leid, ich spreche nicht (so) gut Deutsch. Können wir auf Englisch wechseln?" would be my favorite. That said, all your proposals are fine. I guess I'm talking nuances that are wasted on the average German, anyway, and may depend on the region you are in.
    – Raphael
    Apr 11 '14 at 16:33
  • 3
    To me, "auf Englisch wechseln" sounds strange. Maybe it's regional as well.
    – celtschk
    Apr 13 '14 at 18:19
  • 2
    The phrase “auf Englisch wechseln” seems just wrong to me.
    – Carsten S
    Apr 13 '14 at 18:53

The most polite expression to ask this would be:

Entschuldigen Sie, würde es Ihnen etwas ausmachen eventuell auf Englisch weiter zu sprechen? Mein Deutsch ist (noch) nicht sehr gut.


"Können wir bitte Englisch sprechen" (combined with an eye-roll) is a wording you would also use if you were annoyed about speaking German.

Könnten wir vielleicht Englisch sprechen?

makes it sound a lot more polite, maybe followed by

Ich spreche noch nicht so gut Deutsch.

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