I'm searching for slang or informal words that describe person who is bad at language, especially English. Is there anything like this in British English or American? I think about people who had moved to - for example - UK, have lived there for years, but their language skills are still low and full of grammar mistakes. I would be really thankful if you could answer.

  • 1
    There are lots of (IMHO, quite strong and can be considered offensive) words, not for the person, but for his or her language itself. The most obvious one is Engrish. Then there is Chinglish, Hinglish, Spanglish, and such. Oh, well, I think I may speak Tinglish at times. – Damkerng T. Jun 24 '15 at 17:52
  • A slang word for someone who is at bad language would be ironic. – Kaz Jul 1 '15 at 4:49

There is the rather sarcastic…

He speaks accent with a trace of English

.. a wordplay joke on

He speaks English with a trace of an accent

which would be complimentary.


Sadly, in English we lack anything as colourful as "parler français comme une vache espagnole" (to speak French like a Spanish cow) although a similar phrase "He speaks English like a native" can be used either with obvious sarcasm or with a delayed or implied "...of Outer Mongolia" or other faraway place.

The other one you may hear is that someone is 'mangling' the language - from the OED:

To make (words) almost unrecognizable by mispronunciation; to spoil, corrupt, misrepresent, or do violence to (a text or extract, or the meaning or essence of something); to distort (music) in a similar fashion.


It used to be common for someone to refer to a person who speaks a little bit of English as someone who used or spoke "pidgin or broken English". I have also heard referred to newcomers who are obviously not from the country they are in as F.O.B, "fresh off the boat"

  • 1
    Pidgin English is a bit different; it's the language mixture that develops when a group of people uses little bits of English along with bits of their native language in a highly simplified form, usually for trade. (And pidgins and creoles are not limited to English, either.) – Nathan Tuggy Jun 24 '15 at 3:13
  • 1
    That is the correct definition from a dictionary but real world use by Americans is a little different. – Mel Jun 24 '15 at 3:36
  • 1
    As an American, I'm not convinced of that. Real world use by some Americans, sure, I can accept that. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 24 '15 at 3:39
  • 1
    So, your comment is not that what I have stated is not valid but is only valid for a portion of the population. Slang is usually used by a portion of the population, and if understood, may mean different things to different people. – Mel Jun 24 '15 at 3:43
  • 3
    I'm basically just saying that you need to properly scope where this is valid, since otherwise it's confusing. Often, slang is in use not merely in a particular narrow geography, but across a wide slice of the population in multiple areas: that is, it's often differentiated by social class or the like. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 24 '15 at 3:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.