Communication with a Limited Knowledge of a Foreign Language

I do not like to be spoken to by strangers in their bad Japanese or English. When I encounter these non-native speakers, I cannot help becoming suspicious of them and their intentions. I am ready to speak in one of these languages only with those who know them well enough (I have more tolerance to broken Hebrew, Yiddish and Esperanto). I may belong to a minority in this respect. Many other people seem to like to be spoken to in their respective native language even by non-native speakers who have only a smattering knowledge of it.

I have experienced this with a number of Russian speakers here, especially if they do not know enough Hebrew and English. The moment they find that I understand and speak some Russian, their face starts to shine and they become friendly. When I experienced this again this week, I have also realized that the fact that some non-native speaker has even a limited knowledge of some foreign language signals to its native speakers tacitly that he or she has some interest in their native language and culture and even likes them. This must be the case even with Esperanto, whose speakers have no culture in common except for the fact that they consider this language as a better solution to the problem of international communication than English. On the other hand, broken English as spoken to strangers in those social contexts that require no intelligence does not signal any common culture.

I have studied all the languages I have studied, including German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, etc. but excluding Japanese, English, Hebrew, Yiddish and Esperanto, mainly for academic purposes, that is, as tools for reading research materials and/or primary sources. I feel neither need nor desire to invest a lot of time and energy to improve my knowledge of, let's say, German or French, to a level at which I can make intellectual conversations in it.

Russian is different from all the other languages I have studied for academic purposes. Having been living in Israel, which is one of the largest enclaves of Russian speakers outside Russia, I have had enough occasions to use my Russian, which has not made much progress since I learded it years ago. But after I saw again this week that even my limited knowledge of Russian could open the heart of some of its native speakers, whose culture I like very much and with whom I feel very comfortable, I have decided that I have to brush up my Russian so that it may reach at least the level of my Yiddish and Esperanto.