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  5. "Ich spreche nur Englisch."

"Ich spreche nur Englisch."

Translation:I only speak English.

December 13, 2015

64 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

This is a funny sentence. Classic Duo.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raisinnoir

Yeah. "Ich spreche nur Deutsch" would make more sense.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OsoGegenHest

Not really. It depends what counts as speaking a language. If understanding basic questions like this and responding correctly means you speak a language, then I speak at least fourteen. But I wouldn't say I really speak that many. I'm unsure whether to even include German, which is my eighth in terms of proficiency.

I think people generally take you as meaning you can have a proper conversation in a language if you say you can speak it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jyetie

When I think of what is means to speak a language, I think you would need to be able to at least hold a conversation over, say, a coffee date with a native speaker at a somewhat normal pace. Be able to book a flight and make hotel reservations and read children's books. Stuff like that. Not exactly fluent, but at least able to get by without switching back to English.

Btw, congrats on the 200+ day streak.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Maddie544179

I agree, whenever someone asks what languages i speak i say english and some/basic German, French, and Hebrew as i think you need to be fairly proficient to qualify as speaking a language


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cluney2

An interesting idea. I agree in part however you could say I speak German if I took out A little. I might not say today (although I would have once) That I don't speak German. However I would not say I speak German fluently. I would say I speak a little German or I'm learning German


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JackRinne49

Fun fact: some people can't take a joke...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ColetteJoh6

IKR, they took that way too seriously. Plus if you truly ONLY spoke English, you would probably say so in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/waztaz

Writing this sentence wouldn't make it contradictory though.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

The translation? No, but the point is you would never translate this sentence in practice, as someone who only speaks English would not be saying this to you in German (unless someone had set up an elaborate gag for you).


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ravenjayne86

But, you could easily learn to say "I speak only English" in a language if you had to make a quick trip somewhere and didn't have time to learn everything.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BioShocker86

I witnessed a funny argument at a train station in Germany where someone yelled across the tracks "Do you speak English?" and they replied "I only speak German (in English)" to which they replied "Are you sure? You said that pretty damn well".


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wayne____

If the person had spoken English well, he would have replied with "I speak only German," but his English was as bad as Duo's, which means he could have been a native English speaker who went to school in recent decades and never learned grammar.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

Haha, fair enough. This should be the first thing Duo teaches then for all those backpacking through Germany.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DarkChocolat

What is the difference between sprache and spreche?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

Sprache = Speech (language).
Spreche = Speak (talk).

Ich spreche die deutsche Sprache
I speak the German language


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HCDaria

(To elaborate on MaurDL's comment...)

"Sprache" is a noun ("speech") and "spreche" is a conjugated form of the verb "sprechen" ("to speak"). :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TripCode

Maybe I'm weird, but I'm a stickler for where "only" goes in a sentence. There is, in fact, a difference between "I speak only English" and "I only speak English". The first one implies that the only language one knows is English; the second implies that you know English, but only how to speak it (not how to write it, read it, comprehend the spoken word, etc.) The problem is, I don't know enough German to know what meaning is intended here.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Bob_Dean

Just for the sake of splitting hairs, "I only speak English" could mean that there is nothing else in life you ever do - you don't walk, eat, sleep, etc !!! "I speak only English" simply means that you don't speak any other language.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TripCode

Agreed, that is another possible interpretation. To me, it is like saying, "I only love you" versus, "I love only you." The latter implies that you have no feelings of love for anyone else; the former kind of comes off as, "I only love you, I don't like you/trust you/hate you, etc." or possibly "I only love you, I don't go to work, eat breakfast, sleep, etc." I guess I may be being overly pedantic.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NeoTubNinja

I came here curious if anybody cared about the placement of "only". While it would make all the difference in normal conversation, we have no way to know the intention of this sentence. Some translations make more sense than others, but in the end they both work as a translation because the default assumption for both is the only language the speaker can speak is English. (I say this is the default assumption only because through life experiences, I know this is probably the intent.)

This rabbit hole might get a bit deep, but "I only speak English." has ambiguity problems without even moving "only". As Bob_Dean said, it could range from you only existing for one thing, speaking English, to the only language you speak is English. Sadly without intonation of spoken English, you don't usually get a full glimpse of the emphasis of words if they are taken out of context.

Maybe somebody asked "What languages do you speak?" and the reply was "I only speak English." Or maybe they were given a book and asked "Can you read this and translate it for me?" to which the reply was "I only speak English." Although written the same (ignoring my italics), they have 2 different meanings.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/The.Other.Caleb

And then you have "Only I speak English", implying that no one else in the world does.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NeoTubNinja

Very true. It's amazing how many things you can mean given the same set of words.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

I would say definitively so, still though, language would be a far less useful and beautiful thing if these subtle nuances didn't exist.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wayne____

No, the "only" would apply to what you do with English. I could say that I only speak it, but can't write it. You are correct about what the intended sentence should have been.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NeoTubNinja

No, the "only" would apply to what you do with English. I could say that I only speak it, but can't write it. You are correct about what the intended sentence should have been.

The good thing about English is that context and intonation go a long way in expressing what you mean.

Consider the italicized text as a rising intonation in the sentence as a person utters it:

  • I only speak English. (Emphasis on 'speak' indicates you don't read/write it, but speak it. It's possible you speak other languages.)

  • "I only speak English." (Emphasis on 'only' probably indicates you don't speak other languages, but could mean you don't read/write in English either. Some ambiguity here, but experience has taught me here that the former is usually what people mean.)

  • "I speak only English." (This is like the sentence above, except 'only' is tied to English and not 'speak' or 'speak English'. This takes out the ambiguity of reading/writing in English, but doesn't indicate you don't read/write other languages. You're just indicating the only language you speak is English.)

But I digress ... the main point here is that nothing in this sentence is grammatically incorrect, despite what you've been claiming (see below).

It's not just you. It's anybody who had English grammar classes and paid attention, but for some reason, grammar is no longer taught in many places. Despite that, a program that teaches languages shouldn't make constant mistakes in English.

and

If the person had spoken English well, he would have replied with "I speak only German," but his English was as bad as Duo's, which means he could have been a native English speaker who went to school in recent decades and never learned grammar.

There is nothing wrong with this sentence and you can't assume it means one thing or another without context. Stop assuming this means something and translate it. That's what you do here. Translate. Want context? Go do a few stories. They are great.

If there IS a grammar rule I'm somehow forgetting, show it to me. Don't come in here with your "facts" telling us we're stupid. Show us. Let us learn. In an age where 'they're', 'their' and 'there' or are seemingly synonymous, I can't just take one-off internet comments as fact. I need some proof. The onus is on the person making the claim.

But ... I don't think there is a grammar rule because it's grammatically correct. There might be an etiquette guideline or something that only fancy people were taught, but the amount of actual grammatically incorrect English on here though is negligible (dare I say non-existent?). I know I haven't personally seen it, and I'm a self-proclaimed grammar Nazi who has been through a few of the language trees. That doesn't mean there aren't sentences that could use some work, but hey most of us aren't paying for it so let's stop tearing it down and start helping people learn.

Wir sind stark zusammen.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wayne____

https://m.wikihow.com/Use-the-Word-%22Only%22-Correctly

That's one of thousands of examples explaining it.

If you haven't seen examples of bad grammar here, you should read up on copulative (linking) verbs to understand that Duo frequently used "me" instead of I, which confuses users. Or you could try a different language. Each had its own issues.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zarainia

The problem is that people don't actually speak like that (where I live, anyways). "I speak only English" sounds unnatural and overly formal to me.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

Interesting semantics. Not one I can answer, unfortunately.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RhiannonMcBride

There are four places 'only' can go in the English sentence, all with different shades of meaning, plus a few others that can be added with word stresses. Only I speak English (but nobody else does). I only speak English (but no other languages). I only speak English (but not read or write it). I speak only English and I speak English only are roughly equivalent (English is the only language I can speak, but this doesn't rule out my reading/writing another. There are probably other interpretations, but those are what jump out at me.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wayne____

Yes, and I could probably find 1000 sources that agree. If I challenge people who claim that Duolingo is correct on this, they wouldn't be able to find a single source that agrees with it.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Wayne____

It's not just you. It's anybody who had English grammar classes and paid attention, but for some reason, grammar is no longer taught in many places. Despite that, a program that teaches languages shouldn't make constant mistakes in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EleyseGottman

I think the translation needs to accept the correct English, but the German word order means "I only speak German". It's like saying "nothing but" - "I speak nothing but German".. The problem with the idea of translation is we think words have a direct parallel in our own languages, and they often don't.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TripCode

Well, not just that, but the word order in German is different, so even if "nur" translated directly to "only" in English, it may go in a different spot in a German sentence. If that were the case, I wouldn't have a strong enough grasp of word placement and sentence structure in German to know where the "only" would go in English.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/theavic

I would love for someone to shed light on this


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mac266

I wrote, "I only speak English" and it was counted wrong. On this discussion page, it lists that as the correct answer; however, on the question page it says, "I only know English" is the correct answer. What gives?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rjjacob

It is colloquial English, but also means "I alone, among all my friends here, speak English." "I speak only English" is unambiguous.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SkilletDSi

Reminds me of family guy, when Brian and store are I'm a back of a truck with migrant workers (Mexicans?) And one of them answers Brian in perfect English, and follows it up with, "I only know that sentence, and this one explaining it." Brian's asks if he's kidding, and he responds, "Que?"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CoreySiebert

I feel like Duolingo is mocking me when this phrase comes up - it is usually after I get a translation or two wrong.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/1856Roscoa

does the word "nur" always go before the none to which it's referring to?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/rs.saunders

Shouldn't "I am speaking only English" also be correct? If not how come?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TraitorsHa

THEN HOW... BUT....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ArdentNimitz

is their a way to easily remember how to say: Englisch?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HafidzHaki

What about ich spreche einfach Englisch???


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MrAlChambers

Am I the only one who hears 'no' instead of 'nur?' That R is awfully silent, to my ear.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Yaron_Harel

why the system gives the option "I am speaking" but It's not correct in the answer?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/juhagan

Why cannot it not also translate to "I am speaking only English"? I thought present tense is translated as "is..., am..." For example, I am speaking, I speak, he is speaking.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/adibenka

Can we use Spreche as talk in german?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LavethWolf

From what I know :

Sprechen = Speak, Sagen = Say, Reden = Talk


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/adibenka

Vielen Danke mein Freund!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Twaggy

More on the point comment here, why is Nur meaning just and only? Those two words are not exactly the same meaning....


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NeoTubNinja

There are tons of German words (and English) that have a few different translations/meanings. Bei for example can mean with, for or in, none of which are exactly the same, or even close in this instance.

You will notice that in the Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster, Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries that when just is used as an adverb, it can mean only like it does in this sentence.

Sometimes just will be translated as einfach like when used in "Sag einfach 'ja'."

Sometimes only will be translated as einzig like when used in "Die einzig mögliche Lösung."

TL;DR Most words are not immutable and I would argue even more so when translating between languages.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kstrtmn

Why is, " I am speaking only English." marked wrong?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NeoTubNinja

Based on some of the other comments here that I've reread, I'm thinking it might be because the intended meaning of the sentence is more akin to only speaking one language and not somebody in the present only speaking English. If it were nur an English sentence, it would work logically. However, since it's in German, it would be a false statement. That being said, it works grammatically and given your sentence, you would translate it to "Ich spreche nur Englisch."


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheCrimsonCross

'ich spreche nur deutsch would not make sence cause that means I speak more german in german


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MaurDL

It makes perfect sense. It is not uncommon at all for someone to ask "Do you speak any other languages?" in every language.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheCrimsonCross

I do believe were both right because that is in the wrong order and it should've been in a way that the student would have understood

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