|Sorry, I can't speak English|
|click image to open video page|
In France, an English woman in trouble is looking for someone who speaks English, but she's not lucky.
- Excuse me! Excuse me! Sorry, uhm, do you speak English?
- No, I don’t. Sorry
- Oh! My car’s broken down and I wonder if you could tell me where to find a garage.
- You, well, you know, that’s wasted on me. I don’t, I don’t understand what you’re saying.
- You don’t speak in English at all?
- Not a word. No. It’s one of those things where I wish I'd paid more attention in school, but, uhm. Excuse me! excuse me! Sorry, do you speak any English?
- English? No. What’s the problem?
- I don’t know, I can’t understand her.
- Hi. My car’s broken down and I need to find a garage.
- No, I’m so sorry, I didn't understand that at all.
- Alright. Well, thanks. Ah...
- Tell you what, if you go down that way, about half a mile there’s a village. There might be somebody there that speaks English.
[now, they make similar comments in perfect German]
- So, I’m sorry we couldn't be more help.
- Yeah, sorry about that. Hey, you never know, next time you are over maybe we'll've learned a bit of English for you.
[now in German]
- Thanks anyway
- I CAN speak English
- So can I
I WONDER IF YOU COULD= a much more polite way of saying: "can you?". We use this construction when asking someone to do something for us.
GARAGE= /gərɑ:ʒ/ A place to repair cars. Pay attention to the pronunciation of this word. It can also be pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, but then the pronunciation changes completely.
THAT'S WASTED ON ME= That's a waste of time, talking to me.
NOT A WORD= I can’t speak a word of English= I don’t speak any English at all
WE’LL’VE= a double contraction (= we will have). Not usually written like this but often used in conversation. Pronounced /wɪləv/.
I CAN speak English= The affirmative "can" has no stress and is pronounced with a Schwa and the negative "can’t" is pronounced with the vowel in CAR (the final T is usually dropped). But in the north of England and in America, the negative "can’t" is pronounced with the vowel in CAT (with or without the final T ).
But notice the pronunciation of the affirmative CAN here. It’s not pronounced with a Schwa, as you may expect, because he is emphasizing the word. When we want to emphasize "can", we put a stress on it and use the vowel in CAT (a Schwa can never be stressed).
But "can" with the vowel in CAT is also the pronunciation of "can’t" in northern England and America (often without -T) so, isn’t this confusing? How do we know if in this conversation he means "can" or "can’t":
Well, first, his accent is from the south of England, very standard, so if he said "can’t" he’d use the vowel in CAR for it. But even if he were from America, we can still notice that he’s emphasizing the word because he’s stressing it strongly. In America the emphasis on "can" would be with the vowel in CAT and the emphasis on "can’t" would be with the vowel in CAT too, but the difference is that the final T is always pronounced. So if we’re emphasizing in the north or in America, we don’t pay attention to the vowel (because it’s the same one), but we listen for the final T to know if it’s affirmative or negative.
Let’s make a summary of all this (if you don’t understand the names of the vowels go to the section of phonetics in this website):
BrE: can /kn/ , can’t /kɑ:n/
AmE: can /kn/ , can’t ( /kæn/ )
BrE: can /kæn/, can’t /kɑ:nt/ (the -T is pronounced)
AmE: can /kæn/, can’t /kænt/ (the -T is pronounced)
SO CAN I= me too