Learning Italian: Making sure you’ve understood!

When learning a language, our understanding of what’s being said normally comes before our ability to be able to speak the language and become confident enough to contribute to the conversation. That said, there will be times when you might have a problem understanding what’s been said or may not know the right words to express what you want to say in Italian. It’s important that you know how to ask for clarification when this happens, to help you develop your language skills. Below are some useful phrases to help you.

If you want to say I don’t understand, you can simply say non capisco or non ho capito (I didn’t understand). You can combine this with some of the vocabulary we’ve covered in previous posts to flesh it out a little.

Scusi, non capisco.
Sorry, I don’t understand.

Mi scusi, non ho capito quello che ha detto.
Sorry, I didn’t understand what you said.

There will also be times when the person speaking to you is simply speaking too fast for you to be able to understand them, in which case it’s a good idea to ask them to repeat what they’ve said (puoi ripetere? or, more formally Le dispiacerebbe ripetere? which literally means would you mind repeating that?). You could also ask them to speak more slowly.

Le dispiacerebbe parlare più lentamente?
Would you mind speaking more slowly?

Of course, as in English, you can also say what?, which in Italian is cosa?, che cosa? or come?


Scusi, cosa ha detto?
Sorry, what did you say?

Scusa, come hai detto?
Sorry, what did you say?

Mi scusi, cosa vuol dire ‘vietato’?
Sorry, what does ‘vietato’ mean?

When you don’t know or can’t remember how to say something in Italian, you might want to ask come si dice…? (how do you say…?) or come si chiama? (what’s this called?).

Come si dice ‘driving licence’ in italiano?
How do you say ‘driving licence’ in Italian?

Come si chiama in italiano?
What’s this called in Italian?

Don’t forget to come back for the next blog post to help you continue with the conversation!

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