DON’T Say NO HABLO ESPAÑOL, say THESE 15 Alternatives Instead!

DON’T Say NO HABLO ESPAÑOL, say THESE 15 Alternatives Instead!

You’re just starting out with Spanish or don’t understand Spanish well yet, and Spanish speakers keep speaking Spanish with you? 

You could say “No hablo español”. (“I don’t speak Spanish.”). That’s totally fine and everybody will understand. 

With just a liiiittle bit of practice, though, you could learn some extra super useful phrases in Spanish that can help to keep your conversation partner engaged. Wouldn’t that be nice? 

I’m Spring Spanish teacher Maura, and in this video, I’ll help you add some variety to your Spanish with these 15 essential Spanish chunks to say, that you don’t speak Spanish or only little Spanish!

1. Chunks to say you do speak some Spanish

All right, so, In this section we’ll focus on chunks you can use if you want to convey the feeling that you do know some Spanish, though with its limitations.

ACTOR 1
Hola, buenos días. ¿Cómo estás? Soy tu vecina de al lado, solo quería pasar a saludarte y darte la bienvenida al edificio. Y, claro, decirte que estoy a la disposición si necesitas algo porque… 
(Hello, good morning. How are you? I'm your next door neighbor, I just wanted to stop by to say hello and welcome you to the building. And, of course, tell you that I am at your disposal if you need anything because…)

ACTOR 2
Lo siento. Hablo poco español.
(I am sorry. I speak little Spanish.)

As you can see, I’m not denying my ability to speak Spanish, I’m just adjusting it to my level. Otros chunks que puedes usar y que tienen la misma vibra, serían: (Other chunks you could use which have the same vibe, would be:)

  • Mi español es muy básico. (My Spanish is very basic.)
  • Mi español es de principiante. (My Spanish is beginner's Spanish.)
  • Mi nivel de español es bajo. (My level of Spanish is low.)

Chunk Alert!

Estoy a la disposición (I’m at your disposal) is one of those things native Spanish speakers say all the time to be kind, open, and welcoming, especially to strangers. 

Es posible que escuches esto cuando entres a una tienda, por ejemplo. (You might hear this when you go into a store, for example.) It’s a nice, almost formal way to say: “I’m here for you” in the most natural, insider way possible. Use it anytime you want someone you don’t know very well to know that they can count on you for something specific. 

If you are a curious cat like me and want to get more chunks like this one, just click on the link in the description to get access to our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit

2. Chunks to say what your Spanish isn't

Now, as I said before, we can also approach this situation from a feeling of not having the full ability to speak Spanish. It won’t totally negate what you can understand, but it’ll focus more on what you can’t do or what your Spanish isn’t. Según tú, claro. (According to you, of course.) So, back to our role play, this is what you could’ve said instead:

ACTOR 1
Hola, buenos días. ¿Cómo estás? Soy tu vecina de al lado, solo quería pasar a saludarte y darte la bienvenida al edificio. Y, claro, a ponerme a la disposición si necesitas algo porque… 
(Hello, good morning. How are you? I'm your next door neighbor, I just wanted to stop by to say hello and welcome you to the building. And, of course, to put myself at your disposal if you need anything because…)

ACTOR 2
Lo siento. Mi español no es muy bueno.
(I am sorry. My Spanish isn’t very good.)

Before I forget, watch until the end if you want to know which requests you can add to these chunks, to specify how you would need your conversation partners to talk in order for you to have a shot at understanding them. 

Other chunks you can add that follow the same idea as mi español no es muy bueno (my Spanish isn’t very good), would be:

  • Mi español no es fluido. (My Spanish is not fluent.)
  • Mi español no es nativo. (My Spanish is not native.)
  • Aún no hablo español. (I don’t speak Spanish yet.)
  • No hablo mucho español. (I don't speak much Spanish.)

I love “Aún no hablo español” (“I don’t speak Spanish yet”), because though it only adds one word, aún (yet), it puts emphasis on this being a matter of time and keeps your brain in a very positive mind frame. 

The last one also only adds one word, mucho (very), to the original chunk No hablo español (I don’t speak Spanish). But, it is important that you notice how this intensity words: mucho (very) and poco (little) are very useful to adjust what you're saying even more. 

3. Requests

Good. Here we’ll go through those requests that are very useful in these situations and that, honestly, todos los que aprenden un nuevo idioma deberían saber. (everyone learning a new language should know.) Using the same example as before, notice my reply this time. 

ACTOR 1
Hola, buenos días. ¿Cómo estás? Soy tu vecina de al lado, solo quería pasar a saludarte y darte la bienvenida al edificio. Y, claro, a ponerme a la disposición si necesitas algo porque… 
(Hello, good morning. How are you? I'm your next door neighbor, I just wanted to stop by to say hello and welcome you to the building. And, of course, to put myself at your disposal if you need anything because…)

ACTOR 2
Lo siento. Estoy aprendiendo español. ¿Podrías hablar más despacio?
(I'm sorry. I'm learning Spanish. Can you speak slower?)

This is actually something many of you have requested of me in the comments. Prometo que he estado trabajando en ello. (I promise I’ve been working on it.) But, if you still feel my Spanish is too fast, let me know in the comments by using this chunk you just learned. 

On the other hand, saying estoy aprendiendo español (I’m learning Spanish) is a good way to engage the empathetic response in the other person. I know I’ve tried this myself when learning a new language, and I’ve found most people actually react positively to it.

The request to speak slower is certainly a necessary one, even to more advanced learners. Make sure to add por favor (please) to it and to the following alternatives: 

  • ¿Podrías decirlo en otras palabras? (Could you put it in other words?)
  • ¿Podrías decirlo en términos más simples? (Could you put it in simpler terms?)

These two are very useful if you know that the reason you’re getting lost is the amount or the complexity of the words being used.

  • ¿Podrías escribirlo? (Could you write it down?)

Sometimes people’s accents get in the way of meanings you do know, so if it makes sense within the context, asking people to write it down can be a real lifesaver.

  • ¿Podrías hablar más alto? (Could you speak louder?)

Lastly, it is so normal to need higher volumes in general when learning a new language, so don't hesitate to ask if you feel this is the problem. Warning, that might get people yelling a bit, not negatively, but, be prepared to just laugh it out if it happens. 

4. Summary

Es hora de hacer un repaso, ¿vale? (It’s time to review, shall we?)

Things you can say if you want to focus on what your Spanish is:

  • Hablo poco español. (I speak little Spanish.)
  • Mi español es muy básico. (My Spanish is very basic.)
  • Mi español es de principiante. (My Spanish is beginner's Spanish.)
  • Mi nivel de español es bajo. (My level of Spanish is low.)

Things you can say if you want to focus on what your Spanish is not:

  • Mi español no es muy bueno. (My Spanish isn’t very good.)
  • Mi español no es fluido. (My Spanish is not fluent.)
  • Mi español no es nativo. (My Spanish is not native.)
  • Aún no hablo español. (I don’t speak Spanish yet.)
  • No hablo mucho español. (I don't speak much Spanish.)

Last chunk and requests:

  • Estoy aprendiendo español.  (I'm learning Spanish.)
  • ¿Podrías hablar más despacio? (Can you speak slower?)
  • ¿Podrías decirlo en otras palabras? (Could you put it in other words?)
  • ¿Podrías decirlo en términos más simples? (Could you put it in simpler terms?)
  • ¿Podrías escribirlo? (Could you write it down?)
  • ¿Podrías hablar más alto? (Could you speak louder?)

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