Talking about understanding English Speakers

I´ve been talking about understanding English speakers recently. Sometimes the same questions and topics come up in different sessions during the week. This week,  Xisco and Lluis spoke about their experiences with understanding English speakers, especially when the person isn´t easy to understand.

Maybe the first questions is:

Why is it (especially sometimes) harder to understand native English speakers than fluent, but non-native English speakers?

Later we can ask:

What can you do?
How can you continue with better comprehension in an English conversation?


I created 3 short videos that look at why understanding English speakers isn´t the easiest thing. I mean, let´s consider those English speakers – maybe you have spoken with some of them -who don´t take into consideration the fact that the person he´s speaking with was born and raised in a completely different language and culture.

And if you really need to understand, for professional or personal reasons, how can you create a conversation where both people are searching for the best way to be understood?

This first video is about Xisco´s experience. He´s been attending patients for years, but this one was impossible. Why?


If you´ve thought about what you could do – in a real situation for youself – then you can move on to this next video.


It´s about how you could preface a conversation with an observation – really, an obvious observation. We need to remind this English speaker of our differences – about having an international (not local) conversation – and about our similarities, because we both speak the same language.

It can be short and sweet, like:

“Just remember, I´m originally from Mallorca, OK?  Thanks. So, Let´s go!”

And the 3rd video is Lluis´  observations and ways of dealing with understanding English speakers.



Be humble.
Don´t pretend to understand.
Stay as relaxed as you can.

And if you get nervous,  find a way to calm down.
If you are nervous, understanding English speakers is really harder.

We are all Finding Ways – our own individual ways – to understand native speakers in our non-native languages.

A sense of humor works for me, as well as slowing down the conversation.


How do you do that?
It´s easy. Just slow down intentionally, and see how others respond.


What else can you do?


That´s enough for now.



FULL TEXT for the 3 videos:

Understanding English Speakers

Let´s go here – and talk about comprehension – in your OTHER language – not your mother language – and especially about understanding NATIVE speakers in this language.
So recently, a British guy came into Xisco´s office and communication broke down. Why? I ask.
And he says, «Maybe, because he was nervous,  or because his way of communicating is just not so good,  speaking fast,  a strong accent,  using words and phrases he´s never heard,   like in a movie.
So let´s go there. Where?
Think about it for yourself.
What can you do, next time?
How can you continue, next time?
And know, there are ways to fix this break in communication.
What would be your ways?

More about understanding Native English Speakers

There´s more, there´s more about understanding native English speakers.
Like for Xisco, his British English patient who could´t slow down and speak clearly enough.
More about your answers to the question from before. What would be your ways to fix this break in comprehension?
Talking about next time, Xisco says,
«I can be ready to say,
«I´m originally from here, born in Mallorca, so my English has some limits. «
This is his way.
One way I´ve found is – just to slow down – to speak a little more slowly and intentionally.   And often others, speaking this OTHER language natively, naturally slow down too.
So let´s continue!

Talking about Understanding English speakers again

We´re back here – talking about comprehension again – in situations where you are speaking with a native English speaker who´s not easy to understand – for some reason – hard to understand – and you really need and want to understand.
So what else can you do?
Yesterday, Lluis said, «The worst thing is to get nervous and to pretend to understand. It´s better to be humble. I would start with,
«I don’t speak English so well»
and show him later
and hope he understands what I mean –
because what I´m asking for is not just for him to repeat words or speak more slowly. I´m asking for his intention to be understood. And then we can have a good conversation.