As a Hungarian, I often hear this English sentence amidst Hungarian options in automated telephone services. To me, this seems absurd as I feel it does not address those who wish to communicate in English but a much broader set made up by those, including me, who have some level of competence in English.

To me, ‘For an English-speaking operator, please press 9’ feels much more natural and precise. Dear native speakers, is the sentence meaningful to you and if not, what would you use in such a situation? Thank you in advance.

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    Dear native speakers, is the sentence meaningful to you Yes - perfectly. Context is everything.
    – user81561
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 12:12
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    When you press 9 you may not get a person at all. In the U.S. I hear more often For English press..; for Spanish ...
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 12:16
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    Is it helpful to ask what the sentence means to a competent native speaker? It's addressed at both competent speakers and those who are not, but are still expected to respond correctly. // I'd interpret this as 'If you are confident that you will understand further instructions given in English, and wish to continue in English, please press "9".' Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 12:57
  • @DjinTonic - In Canada, it's most often, "For service in English, press two. Pour le service en français appuyez sur le trois." This leaves open the idea that the entire "service" might be automated. Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 14:53
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    It is not clear what 'details of clarity' could possibly be needed to improve this question. It is quite clear as it is. If those who voted to close it did so because they think that it is too trivial, or too pedantic, that should have been said explicitly.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 17:23

1 Answer 1


This is the wording of some automated telephone systems in the United States as well.

In English, the question "Do you speak English?" is actually ambiguous between the question of whether you habitually speak English or whether you are able to speak English, and it's clear from context that they mean the first option.

If they wanted the second option, they could phrase the option as:

If you can speak English, please press 9.

Of course, if you habitually speak German, rather than English or Hungarian, this wording doesn't seem quite appropriate, so you are indeed correct that something like "for English, please press 9" would have been better wording.

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    What I hear (in the US) often is "Para Español ..." which is I guess "For Spanish..." That way, even if you understand Spanish, it is allowing you to continue in English.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 12:02
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    Is it really clear that they mean the first option? The question is about what language one wishes to use in this particular transaction, not about what one does otherwise. It would be unreasonable to choose English if one doesn't speak it well enough for the purpose, and so the question is, by implication, about whether one can do so, but it is not quite the second of your options either: one may be able to speak English well enough, and still prefer to be attended to in, say, French, if possible.
    – jsw29
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 17:20
  • Agree with @jsw29 and GEdgar. Not sure what automated systems you are calling, but I typically hear something like "for English..." to make it clear that you'll get an English-speaking operator/system if you select that option. It's your own decision whether you want that or not, and whether you habitually speak English or are merely able to do so is, as far as I can tell, beside the OP's point.
    – cruthers
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 19:59

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