Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

native speakers repeat English

One of the easiest ways to react when you don’t understand a native speaker is to ask them to repeat.

However, what happens if you do ask them to repeat and the native speaker just moves on in the conversation and does not repeat.

What should you do if your request gets brushed off?

Here is an example of this:

M: So Lindsay, I am going on a hike this coming weekend.
L: Sorry, what did you say?
M: Oh, nevermind.

What happened here?

Sometimes people get impatient and don’t want to repeat themselves.

Have you ever had this happen?

Let’s start with a listener question:

Hi Lindsay, Michelle and Jessica, how are you doing? I hope you are doing very well.

Firstly I would like to say I’m having great times listening to you in the 1 hour from home to work and 1 hour to work from home every week day in the crazy São Paulo, Brazil traffic. Sometimes I feel like we are close friends how familiar your voices are.  Furthermore, it has been an enriching experience and I can see my English getting better every day. The motto “we believe in Connection NOT Perfection” is very important to me and has been very useful in my daily life.

So, my question is that:

How to deal with the situation when I don’t understand something somebody says and I say “I’m sorry” and the person says “that’s ok” and does not repeat it? It seems to me they are impatient and it is frustating to me.

Thank you very much!

Fred from Sao Paulo, Brazil


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Great question Fred!

This situation must be frustrating and humiliating but there are a few things that you can do to maintain the connection.


If someone gets impatient:

Remember, if someone is impatient, you have to decide whether or not it is worth it to get frustrated.

Maybe that person is in a rush or is just unfriendly or isn’t sure how to get their point across.

Don’t be offended.

If the person truly isn’t sure how to explain what they are trying to say, you can give them some ideas to see if you are understanding correctly.

If they seem unfriendly or are in a rush, it may not be worth your time and certainly not worth your frustration.

That said, here are some phrases you can use:


1) Could you please repeat that? I should be able to catch it this time.

A: I wanna go to Central Park.
B: Where?
A: Central Park?
B: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.
A: Nevermind.
B: Could you please repeat that? I should be able to catch it this time.
A: Central Park.
B: Oh, I love Central Park. You should definitely go!


2)I’m working on my English, please repeat it—I’d love to understand!

A: The train is on your left.
B: I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.
A: It’s ok..
B: I’m working on my English, please repeat it. I’d love to understand!


3) Sorry, I just didn’t catch that one word…did you say ____________?

A: I’m completely obsessed with that movie.
B: What? I’m sorry I didn’t understand.
A: Don’t worry about it.
B: Sorry, I just didn’t catch that one word. Did you say obsessed?
A: Yes!
B: Ok, got it!


4) I’m pretty sure you said ____________. Did I get that right?

A: I never thought I’d be so comfortable on the trains in NY.
B: Sorry, what did you say?
A: Oh, it’s nothing.
B: I’m pretty sure you said you never thought you’d be so uncomfortable on the trains in NY. Did I get that right?
A: No I said comfortable.
B: Oh I see now. Yes, I’m comfortable too.



Know when to care and try not to get frustrated!

Always strive for connection rather than perfection.

Try your best to get back into the conversation but if you can’t do it then don’t sweat it.

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