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私は日本語を話しません

私は日本語が話しません

I've seen both versions on the Internet. Maybe only one is the correct version? Maybe both?

  • Did you mean to type 話ません or 話ません? (You wrote 話ません in the title but 話ません in body) – Chocolate May 4 '18 at 8:24
  • @Chocolate Oh, right. Fixed. – alex May 4 '18 at 8:46
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日本語が話しません is ungrammatical. It sounds very unnatural. The following is the summary of what is OK and what is not:

  • 私は日本語話しません: OK
  • 私は日本語話しません: OK
  • 私は日本語話しません: Wrong!
  • 私は日本語話せません: OK
  • 私は日本語話せません: OK
  • 私は日本語話せません: OK

話す is a transitive verb (like English "speak"), so basically its object must be marked with を. But there are several exceptions you have to consider.

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私は日本語を話しません means "I don't speak Japanese". 日本語が話しません is unnatural because this が is the subject marker, so it means "Japanese language doesn't speak". However 日本語は話しません make sense.

This usage of は is the contrastive-marker function. The difference of が and は is already explained in this. What's the difference between wa (は) and ga (が)?

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