How to Say “Can You Speak English?” in Japanese (+Examples)


How to Say Can You Speak English in Japanese

In today’s survival phrase lesson, we will take a look at different ways how to say “Can you speak English?” in Japanese. If you can start your conversation with a Japanese phrase like this it will help a lot not to scare away the Japanese person you would like to talk to.

To ask someone in Japanese if they can speak English you use the phrase “Eigo o hanaesmasu ka?” (英語を話せますか). “Eigo” is the Japanese word for “English” and “…o hanasemasu ka?” means “Can (you) speak …?”. To sound even politer you can add “Sumimasen” (すみません) at the beginning of the sentence.

Below you will find a couple of other ways how you can ask if someone speaks English and the possible responses you might get. I have also added the translations of a few related phrases like for example “Do you speak…?” or “I can’t speak…” and a vocabulary list with other useful words for this situation.

How to Say “Can You Speak English?” in Japanese

Asking and Answering Can you Speak English or Japanese - Survival Japanese

Now that you know the most basic phrase to ask if someone speaks English is “Eigo o hanaesmasu ka?” (英語を話せますか) in Japanese, let’s look at some other ways how you can ask this. All of the phrases below generally mean the same. They are just other natural ways how you can frame the same question.

“Can you speak English?” in Japanese

  • Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
    Can you speak English?
    英語が話せますか?
    えいご が はなせます か?
  • Eigo ga wakarimasu ka?
    Do you understand English?
    英語が分かりますか?
    えいご が わかります か?
  • Eigo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu ka?
    Can you speak English?
    英語を話すことが出来ますか?
    えいご を はなすことができます か?

In order to start the conversation more politely I would always add the word “Sumimasen” (すみません) at the beginning. It means “Excuse me” and is usually used when you start talking to someone you don’t know or when you need to ask for a favor, etc. It can be added to all of the sentences mentioned above.

Ask more politely by adding “Sumimasen”

  • Sumimasen, eigo o hanasemasu ka?
    Excuse me, can you speak English?
    すみません、英語を話せますか?
    すみません、えいご を はなせます か?
  • Sumimasen, eigo ga wakarimasu ka?
    Excuse me, can you understand English?
    すみません、英語が分かりますかか?
    すみません、えいご が わかります か?

If you have had Japanese lessons before or if you are taking lessons right now you might be wondering why the “Anata wa” (あなたは, you) is missing. Well, two reasons. It is not really polite to use “anata” especially when talking to a stranger and in Japanese the subject is usually omitted when it is clear. So while “Anata wa eigo o hanasemasu ka?” (あなたは英語を話せますか) is grammatically correct it is just not natural.

The most common responses you will get are probably “I don’t speak English” or “Yes“. However, just in case the person answers in Japanese you might want to know that “Hanasemasu” or “Hai/Ee hansemasu” means they can speak English. While “Hanasemasen” or “Iie, hanasemasen“, on the other hand, means they don’t speak English. You might also hear “Sukoshi hanasemasu” which means that they can speak English a little, but we will learn more about that in the next section.

Related Phrases & Useful Words

Instead of focusing on just one phrase, I thought it might be useful if we can combine it with related survival phrases. So here are a couple of other phrases that might come up in the same situation. The first one of the examples is usually an easier one for beginners, while the other ones are a bit longer and could be a bit more complicated.

Do You Speak (English/Japanese/…)?

This is very easy to remember because it is essentially the same phrase. “Eigo o hanashimasu ka?” (英語を話しますか) is the actual direct translation, but nobody says this. So just stick to the phrase we have learned a minute ago with hanasemasu (話せます).

If somebody wants to know if you speak Japanese they will ask “Nihongo o hanasemasu ka?” (日本語を話せますか). So any time you want to ask about another language just replace “Eigo” with the Japanese word for the other language.

Eigo o hanasemasu ka?
Kanji: (英語)を話せますか?
Kana: (えいご)を はなせます か?
Meaning: Do you speak (English)?

Nihongo o hanasemasu ka?
Kanji: (日本語)を話せますか?
Kana: (にほんご)を はなせます か?
Meaning: Do you speak (Japanese)?

Yes, I (Can) Speak (English/Japanese ….)

“Hai, hanasemasu” (はい、話せます) or the less natural phrase “Hai, eigo o hanasemasu” (はい、英語を話せます) mean “Yes, I speak English” or “Yes, I can speak English”. As with “you” it is clear that you are talking about “English” or the beforementioned language so there is no need to repeat that.

A very similar phrase is “… koto ga dekimasu” (…ことが出来ます) which means “can do ….” or “able to do…”. So when you say “Nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu” it also means “I can speak Japanese”.

Hai, hanasemasu.
Kanji:
はい、話せます。
Kana: はい、はなせます。
Meaning: Yes, I speak (English/Japanese/…).

Hai, (nihongo o) hanasemasu.
Kanji:
はい、(日本語を)話せます。
Kana: はい、(にほんご を)はなせます。
Meaning: Yes, I speak (Japanese).

Hai, (eigo o) hanasu koto ga dekimasu.
Kanji:
はい、(英語を)話すことができます。
Kana: はい、(えいご を)はなす こと が できます。
Meaning: Yes, I can speak (English).

No, I Don’t/Can’t Speak (Japanese/English/…)

To say that you don’t or can’t speak English you just have to change the verb hanasemasu (話せます) into its negative form which is hanasemasen (話せません). You do this by simply replacing “masu” (ます) with “masen” (ません).

In the same way, you can change other verbs like for example dekimasu (出来ます, able to do) or wakarimasu (分かります, understand) into their negative form. Let’s try it!

Iie, hanashimasen.
Kanji:
いいえ、話せません。
Kana: いいえ、はなせません。
Meaning: No, I don’t speak (language).

Iie, (nihongo ga) wakarimasen.
Kanji:
いいえ、(日本語が)分かりません。
Kana: いいえ、(にほんご が)わかりません。
Meaning: No, I don’t understand (Japanese).

Iie, (eigo o) hanasu koto ga dekimasen.
Kanji:
いいえ、(英語を)話すことが出来ません。
Kana: いいえ、(えいご を)はなす こと が できません。
Meaning: No, I can’t speak (English).

I Can Speak a Little (Japanese/English/…)

You can say this by using “Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasemasu” (少しだけ日本語を話せます). Sukoshi (少し) means “a little” or “a bit” and dake (だけ) means “only” or “just” so when combined Sukoshi dake it emphasizes “just a little” or “only a bit”.

Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasemasu.
Kanji:
少しだけ日本語を話せます。
Kana: すこし だけ にほんご を はなせます。
Meaning: I can speak a little Japanese.

Sukoshi dake nihongo o hanasu koto ga dekimasu.
Kanji:
少しだけ英語を話すことが出来ます。
Kana: すこし だけ えいご を はなす こと が できます。
Meaning: I can speak only a bit of Japanese.

I’m sorry, I Only Speak (English/Japanese/…)?

To respond a little bit politer in case you can’t speak or understand a language you can use the phrase “Sumimasen, eigo shika hanasemasen” (すみません、英語しか話せません) which means “I’m sorry, I (can) only speak English”. Shika (しか) means “only” or “nothing but” and it is always used together with a negative form like for example “masen”. There are also some other even politer phrases to say “I’m sorry”, but let’s stick with Sumimasen for now.

Sumimasen, eigo shika hanasemasen.
Kanji:
すみません、英語しか話せません。
Kana: すみません、えいご しか はなせません。
Meaning: I’m sorry, I only speak English.

Sumimasen, nihongo shika wakarimasen.
Kanji:
すみません、日本語しか分かりません。
Kana: すみません、にほんご しか わかりません。
Meaning: I’m sorry, I only understand English.

I’m sorry, Can You Say This in (English/Japanese/…)?

If you want someone to repeat what they just said in English you can say “Sumimasen, eigo de itte moraemasu ka?” (すみません、英語で言ってもらえますか). Itte (言って) is the te-form of the verb iu (言う, to say) and Moraemasu (もらえます) comes from the polite verb Morau (もらう, to receive, to get someone to do something) and means “can you (do …) for me”. So, in this case, it means “can you say … for me”. Eigo de (英語で) translates as “in English”.

You can also combine it with the phrase Mou ikkai (もう一回, one more time). So “Sorry, can you say this one more time in English?” is “Sumimasen, mou ikkai eigo de itte moraemasu ka?” (すみません、もう一回英語で言ってもらえますか) in Japanese.

Sumimasen, eigo de itte moraemasu ka?
Kanji:
すみません、(英語)で言ってもらえますか?
Kana: すみません、(えいご) で いって もらえます か?
Meaning: I’m sorry, can you say this in English?

Sumimasen, mou ikkai eigo de itte moraemasu ka?
Kanji:
すみません、もう一回(英語)で言ってもらえますか?
Kana: すみません、もう いっかい(えいご) で いって もらえます か?
Meaning: I’m sorry, can you say this one more time in English?

Useful Words & Vocabulary List

to speak話す
はなす
hanasu
can speak話せます
はなせます
hanaseru
can’t speak話せません
はなせません
hanasemasen
to understand分かる
わかる
wakaru
understand
can understand
分かります
わかります
wakarimasu
don’t understand
can’t understand
分かりません
わかりません
wakarimasen
to be able to do出来る
できる
dekiru
able to do出来ます
できます
dekimasu
not able to do出来ません
できません
dekimasen
to talk喋る
しゃべる
shaberu
can talk喋られます
しゃべられます
shaberaremasu
can’t talk喋られません
しゃべられません
shaberaremasen
to say言う
いう
iu
English (language)英語
えいご
eigo
Japanese (language)日本語
にほんご
nihon-go
Spanish (language)スペイン語
スペインご
supein-go
Portuguese (language)ポルトガル語
ポルトガルご
porutogaru-go
German (language)ドイツ語
ドイツ語
doitsu-go
Italian (language)イタリア語
イタリアご
itaria-go
Dutch (language)オランダ語
オランダご
oranda-go
Russian (language)ロシア語
ロシアご
roshia-go
Chinese (language)中国語
ちゅうごくご
chuugoku-go
Korean (language)韓国語
かんこくご
kankoku-go
Hindi (language)ヒンディー語
ヒンディーご
hindii-go
Arabic (language)アラビア語
アラビアご
arabia-go
Bengali (language)ベンガル語
ベンガルご
bengaru-go
Lahnda (language)ラフンダー語
ラフンダーご
rafundaa-go
“Can You Speak English” – Vocabulary List

Alex (RockinJapanese)

おはよう. I'm Alex. I have started studying Japanese when I was still a high school student and I have been living and working in Japan since 2015. I'm still learning new Japanese phrases and words every day and I thought that publishing them online will be useful for you, too. Hopefully, my study notes and free Japanese lessons will help you to reach the Japanese level you want to have! If you have any questions feel free to contact me anytime! Alex

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