SOLMOE, South Korea — Pope Francis usually refuses to speak anything other than Italian or his native Spanish in public, apparently uncomfortable with his abilities even when reading from a prepared text.

But he has gamely ventured into uncharted linguistic territory during his South Korea visit, delivering a handful of speeches in English and even speaking off the cuff Friday in English to thousands of young Asian faithful.

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The crowd seemed to appreciate the gesture.

“A beloved friend of mine told me you must never speak to young people with paper,” Francis said in his Spanish-accented English as he held up his prepared remarks. “You must speak, address to young people spontaneously, by the heart.”

The crowd cheered him on, and he continued. “But I have a great difficulty. I have poor English.”

“Nooooo!” the kids cried. “Yes! Yes!” he argued. “If you desire, I can to say other things spontaneously. Are you tired?” he asked.

“Nooooo!” the kids shouted. “May I go on?” he asked. “Yesssss!” they shouted.

But by then, Francis had exhausted his English. “Yes. But I do it in Italian.”

Perhaps Francis is just getting more comfortable as his year-plus papacy wears on. Just last week he dusted off his German when he met with 50,000 German-speaking altar servers in St. Peter’s Square.