Understanding what a native speaker is saying to you doesn't have to be that dire. Here are 4 things to remember when you're feeling nervous about whether you can understand someone or not.
Imagine you're talking with a native speaker when all of a sudden you start to sweat. You were doing fine a second ago but now you don't understand a single thing they're saying.
It happens to all of us, even those of us who consider ourselves to be fluent.
One time I was trying to describe what had just happened to me in a taxi to a police officer in Tijuana. The whole time I was perfectly fine answering his questions.
But for a second I blanked out when he asked me something.
I was trying too hard to follow him instead of following some simple suggestions I've shared with you below.
1. Just breathe
Try to calm yourself and relax into the conversation as much as possible. This will help you absorb more instead of being too busy worrying or translating to
catch what they're saying.
Honestly, it's not the end of the world. Even if it is, keep reading.
2. Figure out the context clues
Ask yourself things like, "What were you just talking about? What kind of follow up questions would someone normally ask about this topic?"
If you can try to get some clues, this will help enormously in understanding what they're saying.
3. Read their non-verbal communication
Are they gesturing in anger? Then they're not too happy about whatever they're talking about.
Are they smiling a lot or laughing? Then it's probably a funny story to them.
Are they standing with their arms crossed and a worried look on their face? Then maybe what they're talking about is serious to them.
4. Don't be afraid to ask questions
It's ok if you don't get everything they're saying. Just know how to ask them to either repeat themselves, speak slower, or explain it to you in a different way.
Ask yourself things like, "What were you just talking about? What kind of follow-up questions would someone normally ask about this topic?"
But what if you happen to be right? Then pat yourself on the back for trying.
Message me to go to the next level with a native speaker who will make you feel wonderful about learning Spanish, Italian, or English.
Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru. She's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.
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