If Native English Speakers Don't Understand Your English Do These 7 Things to Become Intelligible

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If Native English Speakers don’t understand your English, what do you do? Sometimes people might not understand each other in communication. It happens, but it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about! I teach you ways to overcome this communication barrier so that people can understand your English.

If People Don’t Understand You in English…

What happens when you’re speaking but people don’t seem to understand? Maybe it has to do with your phrasing, maybe the grammar is confusing, maybe pronunciation is getting in the way. Whatever the case, our goal as communicators is to get our message across. We all need to be understood.

Today I’m sharing a few helpful tips to use when you want to clearly communicate.

(1) Repeat

Try repeating what you said. This would be the easiest fix so to speak because maybe the reason they didn’t understand was because they simply couldn’t hear you! 

(2) Ask comprehension check questions:

  • Does that make sense?
  • Do you see what I’m getting at?
  • Do you catch my drift?
  • Are you following?
  • Should I rephrase that?

(3) Rephrase

If it’s not making sense to the listener try to say the same thing using  different words. This is what I mean by rephrasing the message. Say it as simply as possible. 

(4) Avoid Expressions

Idioms and expressions are beautiful aspects of language and I’m certainly a big fan because they can carry so much meaning if all communicators understand the idiom, but sometimes they can be a communication barrier in cross-cultural settings. Every language and culture has their own set of idioms and are not easily translated. Sometimes it’s close to impossible to translate the meaning! Many of the meanings derived from expressions and idioms are figurative, meaning that they are not literal. For example, if you translate it word-for-word it would not make sense. This is because expressions are not literal, they evoke metaphors and imagery that are context-based and when translated into another language do not make sense. So if you’re trying to get a point across, unless the listener has the same linguistics and cultural background to understand the idiom, it’s best to steer clear of these beautiful language and culture gems when you’re trying to communicate clearly with someone from another culture. But that of course should not prevent you from sharing or explaining the expression if you desire to do that. 

(5) Speak Clearly and loudly

Try to speak as clearly as possible. Use a medium pace, not too slow or fast. Take deep slow breaths through your nose to engage your diaphragm and use this power house to generate power to speak loudly.

(6) Use Nonverbal Communication

You can convey feeling and emotion using your facial expressions. You can demonstrate meaning through your hand gestures. You may even feel so inclined to act something out! Don’t be shy!

(7) Take the Long Winding Road

Sometimes, we might have to explain something which takes up more words and more talking. But that’s ok. This is especially true if you’re searching for a word but you don’t know the word. It’s ok to explain the meaning instead. It might be a circuitous route but that’s ok because your goal here is to be understood. And like I said, sometimes we can use a few words to do that and at other times we need to use more words.


So these are the seven ways you can communicate when the listener doesn’t seem to understand. Communication barriers are a natural part of communication. But when we’re aware of communication barriers, we can find ways to deal with them. Once you get enough practice you might even be able to prevent the communication barriers from getting in the way of your message! Be sure to practice these communication techniques so that you’re speaking as clearly and confidently as possible.


Alright Advanced English learners, thanks for joining me for this lesson! I'll see you in the next one where we'll continue advancing your English together!