For months he translated for the rest of the family.
She WAS speaking English - trouble was, not everyone could understand.
It's often the case with heavily accented foreigners - they're speaking a form of English, but are getting frustrated at not being understood.
Have you ever looked at books of the paintings of Old Masters - Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Leonardo? Some great pictures - subtlety of execution, great use of colour, light, technique.
Something for everyone! But have you ever seen the real thing - been to the National Gallery, the Rijksmuseum, and the Louvre? The real thing is just SO much better, isn't it? Ever seen pictures of the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and the Pyramids? Magnificent, awesome, fantastic - BIG? But have you ever seen the real thing - no comparison, or so I am assured by those that have visited these places! You can learn English on-line: there are thousands of resources out there.
You can learn to decline verbs, you can see phonetically how to pronounce the words, and you can listen to down-loaded lessons.
You can pick up vocabulary, and there are templates for all sorts of letters, mails and faxes.
But, you know what? There is no substitute for the real thing - speaking it and listening to it in its natural environment (the mouth of a native speaker!).
So when you're tempted to learn English (or any other language) on-line, or by tape: don't neglect the necessity to practice as you progress!