Beginner English #21 | Can - Talking about Ability

Talking Language

Sarah and Todd talk about what languages they speak and how good they are at speaking them.

Sarah: So tell me, what languages do you speak?

Todd: Well, I speak two languages. I speak Thai and I speak Japanese. But my Japanese is not so good and my Thai is just okay.

Now, I live in Japan so I study Japanese and I use Japanese everyday. I can speak Japanese at the supermarket. I can use Japanese at a hotel or with a taxi driver, but I cannot have a long conversation.

Yeah. And you, what languages do you speak?

Sarah: Well, I speak English, of course. And I speak Spanish and Japanese.

Todd: Wow. Spanish.

Sarah: Yeah. I lived in Ecuador, and so I spoke Spanish everyday, a lot. I used to think I was fluent. Maybe I forgot some Spanish now.

Todd: Oh, so you can read, speak, write everything?

Sarah: Yeah. In Ecuador, I did everything. I signed my cellphone contract. I could read that in Spanish. I was – all of my friends I spoke Spanish with, and I spoke Spanish all the time. But my Japanese is like yours. I can speak only enough to go to the grocery or ask when the bus leaves or buy a train ticket.

Todd: Yeah. It's difficult. It's hard to have a good conversation in Japanese. But I can read Japanese. I studied Kanji.

Sarah: Oh really?

Todd: So my reading is okay, but my speaking is just really bad. I have bad pronunciation. So because my Japanese pronunciation is not very good, Japanese people don't like to speak Japanese with me, I think.

Sarah: My Spanish pronunciation is really bad because I always spoke with other foreigners who are also studying Spanish. So there would be a Korean person, me, a Norwegian person, and we were all speaking Spanish together. So we all had bad pronunciation.

Todd: Yeah.

Sarah: What about Thai?

Todd: Yeah. I can speak Thai. My Thai is different. My Thai pronunciation is okay. So I can have conversations in Thai. I lived in Thailand when I was young, so – or I was 22 to 26. So I studied it and I like Thai. But reading in Thai is difficult for me.

So I can read Japanese better than I can read Thai but I can speak Thai better, and my Thai listening is better also.

Sarah: Ah. Do you have any Thai friends?

Todd: I do have some Thai friends. And now, I study Thai on Facebook. So everyday, I check my friends' messages on Facebook. And then I use Google translate to learn new words. So it's very good. Yeah.

Sarah: Do you think you'll live in Thailand again, someday?

Todd: Maybe. I will visit Thailand again. I don't think I will live in Thailand again. But I like to go to Thailand because Thai is fun to speak and Thailand has great food and great weather, good beaches. So it's nice.

Sarah: Oh great.

Todd: What about you? Do you want to live in Ecuador, again?

Sarah: Not Ecuador. I love Ecuador but I want to live in another Spanish-speaking country. I'd like to live in Argentina, maybe or Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of America but they speak Spanish there.

Todd: Yeah. I hear Puerto Rico is really nice.

Sarah: Yeah. I went there for one week and it was just amazing. It has beaches and mountains, and the people are really fun. And it's a really exciting place to visit.

Grammar Patterns for 'Can' - Showing Ability

Questions - Can

  1. What languages can you speak?
  2. I need help. Who can I talk to?
  3. When can you get here?
  4. Where can I wash my clothes?

Affirmative - Can

  1. I can read Thai, but I cannot write well.
  2. She can speak English like a native.
  3. Bob can help you, and so can Mary.
  4. The teacher can check your writing.

Negative - Cannot

  1. I can not speak German at all.
  2. She can't come to class tomorrow.
  3. We can't read this.
  4. Most people cannot write computer code.

Yes / No Questions - Can

  1. Can you speak French?
  2. Can your parents drive a car?
  3. Can you read this?
  4. Can Bob fix my computer?

Short Response - Can you ___ ?

  1. Yes, I can. / Yes, no problem. / Yeah, for sure.
  2. Yes, but not very well.
  3. I guess you can say that.
  4. No, not really.
  5. No, I can't.
  6. No, not at all. / I wish.
Answer these questions about the interview.

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