I'm learning Russian but find myself in a position where I can't express myself quite often. I can't find the proper phrase for my question, any ideas?

  • 2
    I would simply switch to English.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 13:10
  • @Vitaly without providing reason would be eccentric if not arrogant. I'd went exactly like the questions goes. State reason, state that your switch is not on a whim, but because you have no other options. And appreciate that another party may fail to hear English, just like you fails to speak Russian. Something like "К сожалению, это сложная тема, я не могу её выразить по-русски. Могу, я перейти на английский?"
    – Arioch
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 14:19
  • 2
    I'd say, politeness would be more in what you say than in how you say. Explain your circumstances as they are. Being poorly versed in Russian you can expect some slack in poor wording, so don't bother. In reasonable society you have to explain your situation and reasoning. In unreasonable society hidden landmines may be everywhere and there would just be no safe magic spell to chant, whatever you say may be some local no-no. Thus, in both cases, make the best attempt to explain yourself, to explain the issue, and do not overthink that your Russian is weak and less than brilliant
    – Arioch
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 14:24
  • 1
    I'm a beginner learner in some languages myself. When I try to practice those languages, it's obvious to everyone that my command of the language is poor, pronunciation is way off, I spend seconds trying to form the next phrase. There is nothing eccentric, or arrogant in such situation in switching to your native language, or a language that is easier for you. It is different from a situation when someone speaks language fluently, but then switches to another language.
    – Vitaly
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 14:55
  • @Vitaly in a familiar company where everyone knows your problems and you know everyone's skills - it is. But with strangers it is not. Because their skills in understanding you native language might appear as bad or worse, than you skills to speak theirs. So your sudden switch of the language here would not make the overall situation better, it would just pass the bucket from your hands to theirs. You would not more be in a clumsy position, instead you forced clumsiness upon them. That is why I think unless you sure your addressee is fluent you just claim your intention to switch beforehand
    – Arioch
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


I was very inclined to vote for closing your question but I guess in this case it's better for a community to decide.

First, you are asking about a variety of possible phrases, this make this already quite suspicious and bring this question to the edge of being off-topic. On the other hand, well, I can imagine somebody will ask about how to say that you are in love with someone - still lot of options, but can be answered.

Second, if you want to talk with someone in English - just switch to English and apologize for not being able to continue in Russian. Imagine that person does not know English as well. Any phrase like "извините, я только учу русский, давайте продолжим общаться на английском" (yes, you can use that phrase) can make things complicated for no reason.

Imagine following dialogs:

  • Somebody: Ну и в общем, там выходит, что так не получится...
  • You: Извини, я плохо понимаю, давай дальше по-английски.
  • Somebody: Ой, а я не знаю английского. Но можем попробовать по-грузински.
  • You: what?

See, you've wasted some time and didn't made thing easier neither for you nor for your companion.


It happens often when a native speaker can't find words to express their thoughts quite fast and accurate because Russian language is extremely complex and it requires a lot of words to describe a simple thing. We often stumble and start thinking before we said something. Often it is not grammatically correct or even not accurate what we say. I often don't understand what people are saying too. The best polite question would be "Могу я разговаривать на английском с вами?".

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