It’s happened to all of us. You were so excited to practice Spanish with a native speaker, and you were so confident in yourself! Then, the other person started talking, and you had no idea what words came out of their mouth. You feel frustrated, and a little embarrassed. In this article, we’ll help you answer the question, “What do I do if I don’t understand?” so you can keep the conversation going.
Especially if the other person doesn’t speak English and can’t explain it to you, you’ll want to know how to ask someone to repeat what they just said. ¿Cómo? is a common phrase similar to Huh? in English. It’s short, sweet and to the point to show that you don’t understand what they just said. You could also say, ¿Perdón? which is similar to Excuse me? or Pardon? With a confused look, these convey the message perfectly that you didn’t understand.
Ask them to say it slower
If you have an idea of what they said but just need for them to slow it down for you, you could try saying Más despacio, por favor. It’s a polite way to say Slower, please. You could also say Más lento instead of Más despacio if lento is easier to remember since it’s shorter.
Phrases to ask for a repetition
If you’re a beginner, a good phrase to know is Repita, por favor if it’s someone you’re familiar with. If you want to show a little more respect, or you’re in a culture that would use usted in this situation, opt for Repite, por favor. However, if you’re a more advanced learner, you could try the phrase, ¿Podrías repetirlo, por favor? to ask if they could please repeat it.
Simply state you don’t understand
If you’ve tried everything above and you just want to say I don’t understand, you can use the phrases No entiendo or no comprendo. This way, the other person knows that you didn’t catch anything they just said. Most likely, they’ll either say it slower, or try a new way of phrasing it.
Every conversation is a learning experience. Sometimes you speak with someone that has an accent or dialect you’re not used to, and it’s harder to understand. Keep practicing, be patient, and try your best. Soon, you’ll feel confident in any situation.