To understand feels good. Not being able to understand feels bad. And, being able to express you don’t understand is super important.
Having a variety of expressions is also helpful. Too often, non-native speakers will jump straight to “I don’t understand”. Depending on the context, straight and to the point can be best. Unfortunately, if you’re always too direct and basic, it makes your language comprehension skills seem lower than they are.
If you’re in the intermediate-advanced range, you should know different ways to dance around your unfamiliarity:
- I tried, but I still don’t get it.
- I’m not sure I follow.
- I think I might, but I’m not positive on what you mean.
Those kinds of phrases, while natural, are a bit harder to utilize.
It might be easier to use a substitute like “to wrap my head around” (to comprehend, to visualize, to understand fully/well).
Most of the time, you’ll use this phrase in the negative form:
- I hear you, but that’s so hard for me to wrap my head around.
- I can’t quite wrap my head around it.
If you learn English in the traditional academic sense, of course you’re going to learn about adverbs. The concept of an adverb is easy enough to comprehend. The cool thing about adverbs is they seem pretty easy to use too.
Adverbs can detail and add emphasis to your adjectives and verbs.
Unfortunately, if you’re attempting to elevate your English ability, you’ll want to wean off heavy adverb usage. “Good writing” advises minimizing it, but as the Conversation Coach let’s focus on how it affects your speaking.
Even when someone says “I don’t speak English”, s/he is going to know these words:
And when we use them in sentences, it can look like this:
- I’m very happy. / This is very good.
- I’m really happy. / This is really good.
- I’m so happy. / This is so good.
Great! All “perfect” English. As you go down the list, it sounds more and more natural.
So what’s the problem?
If these are the only ways you know how to add emphasis, you sound too basic. That’s more of a problem with “very” than “really” or “so”. A little variety is good, so here’s a simple way to add variety: more (adjective) than ever.
Modifying our list from before:
- I’m very happy. –> I’m happier than ever.
- This is very good. –> This is better than ever.
By using this phrasing from time to time, you can sound like you have a stronger command of English without that much more effort.