Just keep talking

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So English is not your first language? Not to worry. Having a conversation does not mean that you have to produce perfectly formed sentences all the time. Make use of the phrases below to keep the conversation going even if you do not know the exact word for something, or do not understand the meaning of everything the other person says:

Here are a few examples:

Asking someone to speak more slowly

* Can you speak more slowly, please?
* Could you slow down a bit?
* Sorry, that was too fast for me. 

Checking that you understood correctly

* Have I understood you correctly – did you say …?
* Do you mean ‘frozen’, as in very cold?

 Asking what something means

* Sorry, can you tell me what XX means?
* What is XX, exactly?

 Asking how you spell something

* Could you spell that for me, please?
* How do you spell that name?

 When you don’t know how to say something

* Think about those words that are often used in dictionary definitions: a type of …, a kind of …, a device for …, a person who … They will help you explain what you mean even when you don’t know the exact word.

 Saying it another way

* We saw a kind of animal with a long nose. (elephant)
* It’s something you make with eggs. (omelette)

*Source: Oxford South African Pocket Dictionary, 4th edition 2015 (ISBN 978 0 19 904503 7)


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