As you practice speaking, listening, and having real-time Spanish conversations, don’t fret if you start feeling lost. Get back on track with these tips from tutor Simion G.…
Have you ever been chatting with someone in your non-native language, when suddenly you find yourself struggling to keep up? It happens to us all, from beginner language learners to fluent speakers and everyone in between.
Even I, as a Spanish tutor, still have moments when I completely lose track of what is being discussed.
But if (and when) it happens to you, don’t feel embarrassed. Take a deep breath, regroup, and get yourself back on track. Not sure how to do that? Here are my tips…
1) Acknowledge your Position
Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself you’re feeling lost. Sure, it can be frustrating, especially if you’ve been studying Spanish for a long time. But don’t allow this to destroy your confidence. As a matter of fact, realizing you’re lost will get you one step closer to learning something new!
2) Inform your Conversation Partner
Next, make sure you let the other person know! It’s better for the other person to know you’re struggling rather than think you understand. Don’t be embarrassed! Here are some phrases you can use during your Spanish conversation practice:
If you think you know, but the conversation is moving too fast:
“Perdón, no entiendo. ¿Podrías repitir?” (Excuse me/Sorry, I don’t understand. Could you repeat?)
If you’re certain you don’t know the word or phrase:
“Lo siento, no sé la palabra/la frase. ¿Qué significa?” (I’m sorry, I don’t know the word/phrase. What does it mean?)
If everything is scrambled eggs and you just want it over-easy:
“No comprendo nada. Estoy perdido.” (I don’t understand anything. I’m lost.)
“¿Puedes ayudarme a entender?” (Can you help me understand?)
3) Recall the Tense
Are you hearing words that sound familiar, but aren’t quite what you remember? Chances are the tense of the conversation has shifted.
Conjugation indicates the differences between what happened in the past, what’s happening today, what will happen in the future, and what could hypothetically or possibly occur. It can also indicate who the verb refers to (he/she/we/etc.).
The only way to combat this is to study the different tenses and conjugations in Spanish, so I recommend finding a well-structured conjugation chart to have on hand. Or, create your own! Writing the charts out with pen and paper was the best method for me when I was first learning Spanish. The process of making the chart yourself will engrave it in your mind, forever making you a conjugation wizard.
4) Don’t Panic. Focus.
If you’ve followed the previous steps and still feel lost, don’t sweat it. Take a deep breath (or three) and relax. When trying to convey a word or phrase that you can’t remember (or don’t know), or making sense of what someone has said to you, the solution is simple: resort to the basics. You may want to memorize a few conversational Spanish phrases that can help you understand or describe what you mean, even if you can’t remember the exact words.
When describing what you know:
“Significa la materia verde encima de la tierra.” (= “Césped”)
(It means the green stuff above the soil = Grass)
When figuring out what someone else has said:
“¿Es significa al amigo mejor de los humanos, un animal domesticado?” (= “Los Perros”)
(Does it mean human’s best friend, a domesticated animal? = Dogs)
Other Spanish phrases:
“¿Estás hablando sobre…?” (Are you speaking about…)
Es en relación a… (It’s in relation to…)
5) Speak with Confidence
You know the saying, right? “Assumptions, they need to be made.” Well, sort of.
This should never be the first option when trying to pull yourself back to the light of a conversation, but there are situations when it’s beneficial. This route can actually provide a subconscious alternative to learning.
Assume what you’re about to say is right and say it with confidence, even if you know you may be wrong. There’s a high chance of someone providing a correction, or just make a mental note and look into it in the near future. Either way, this will provide an experience that’s more likely to stick in your head.
I suggest practicing these tips whenever you have the opportunity to do so. Practice them not only in face-to-face conversation, but also while watching a movie, listening to music, or reading a book.
As my 7th grade science teacher and cross country coach would say when I forgot my homework or cramped up in a race, “Proper planning prevents pitiful performances.” It sounds harsh, but it’s a saying that’s maintained truth throughout my life. Learn these tips before you get stuck, and you’ll know just what to do!
Want more Spanish conversation practice? Check out our free Spanish classes to chat with a tutor and other learners in our live, online classroom!