How to Control a Conversation with a Native English Speaker?/¿Cómo controlar una conversación con un nativo de inglés?

  • Immediately ask the person to speak slowly.

The idea of doing this before you start a conversation is to warn the person you are talking to that while you can speak and understand English, you may not understand their version/accent of English.  Also, when you say that ‘you speak English’ a native speaker will interpret this to mean that you speak their version – this may not be the case.  This warns them in advance.

  • When taking note of a name or important information, repeat each piece of information as the person speaks.

This is an especially effective tool.  By repeating each important piece of information or each number or letter as they spell or give you a telephone number you automatically slow the speaker down.

  • Do not say you have understood if you have not. Ask the person to repeat until you have understood.

Remember that the other person needs to make himself understood and it is in their interest to make sure that you have understood.  If you ask a person to explain more than twice they will usually slow down.

  • If the person does not slow down begin speaking your own language!

This may not seem as rude as it sounds.  A sentence or two of another language spoken quickly will remind the person that they are fortunate because THEY do not need to speak your language to communicate (which they probably can’t). Used carefully, this tactic of humbling the other speaker can be very effective.


About No More Spanglish

I have been an English teacher for over eight years in Madrid. Most of that time has been spent teaching, correcting and translating in the Media sector. My mission, and that of this blog, is to improve your level of English by eliminating one common/repeated error at a time. For further details - check me out on LinkedIn or email me directly at

Posted on 06/02/2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Believe or not, I avoid using my language, unless it’s necessary, and I’ve been doing this since my late childhood, even though
    I live in a non-English speaking country.
    Now things are easier, but it used to be
    very frustrating trying to chat in English,
    when most individuals were not able to understand even the basics, now we’ve
    tons of online resources.
    Everybody should try their best when it comes to English. As a matter of fact, it
    is the language of Science, culture, and

    IMHO, I don’t think that start speaking
    your own language would be the best
    way to address communication issues,
    I’d rather tell the person to slow down.

    • The idea is to remind the native English speaker, regularly during the conversation, that a)English is not your native language and b)that they have an obligation to make themselves easily understood (by speaking slowly and clearly, for example). A few words or sentences spoken (perhaps to a Spanish speaking colleague during the meeting or whatever the setting is) in you native language servers as another form of reminding people of a) and b).

      Thanks for commenting Pablo.

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