Russian Language Blog

5 Russian Phrases To Get Past Comprehension Barriers Posted by on Aug 14, 2019 in Russian for beginners, Vocabulary, when in Russia

Some approaches to learning a language, such as the communicative method, encourage teachers and students to only use the target language in the classroom. What do you do if you don’t understand what was just said or lack the vocabulary to ask the other person to repeat or explain? This post will equip you with five helpful phrases you can use in these situations. For the benefit of beginner students I will provide transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

two people talking

Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

1. Повтори́те

[pəftɐˈrʲitʲe] — Please, repeat (request)

Повтори́ть means to repeat. This is a perfective verb, used for one-time specific actions. This is similar to perfect tenses in other languages, except Russian has a whole separate word for this as opposed to just a tense. The corresponding imperfective verb is повторя́ть, used for talking about recurring or continuous actions. Повтори́те is the polite (formal) form that you would use with strangers or in a professional setting; the familiar form is повтори́.

2. Ещё раз

[(j)ɪˈɕːɵ ras] — Once again

This phrase serves the same purpose as повтори́те — to ask someone to repeat what they just said. Here, you don’t need to worry about verb forms because this phrase does not change no matter who you talk to. It is a bit more colloquial, though, so perhaps you shouldn’t use it on very formal occasions.

three young people talking

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

3. Поме́дленнее

[pɐˈmʲedlʲɪnʲ(ː)ɪje] — a little more slowly, please

Ме́дленно is the adverb “slowly.” Its comparative form is ме́дленней or ме́дленнее, and the addition of the prefix по- conveys the sense of “a little bit.” That makes поме́дленнее somewhat more polite than the straightforward ме́дленно. If you want, you can turn this into a complete sentence like “Говори́те поме́дленнее, пожа́луйста!” (Please speak more slowly).

4. Я не понима́ю

[ja nʲɪ‿pənʲɪˈmajʊ] — I don’t understand

This phrase uses the imperfective verb понима́ть and can be used about any one person to talk about themselves. If you want to use the past tense and say “I didn’t quite catch that,” you will need the perfective verb поня́ть to refer to a one-off, specific situation. The feminine form is “Я не поняла́” and the masculine form is “Я не по́нял,” both meaning “I didn’t get that.”

woman in a phone booth

Photo by Reeney Jenkins on Unsplash

5. Вы говори́те по-англи́йски?

[vɨ ɡəvɐˈrʲitʲe pɐ‿ɐnˈɡlʲijskʲɪ] — Do you speak English?

Finally, it never hurts to ask if the other person speaks another language. The formal question “Вы говори́те по-англи́йски?” uses the verb говорить, to talk/speak. If you are talking to a friend or relative who is close to you in age, you could use the familiar variant “Ты говори́шь по-англи́йски?” The last part, по-англи́йски, may be replaced with other languages — по-неме́цки (German), по-францу́зски (French), and so on.

Tags: , ,
Keep learning Russian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.