How Many Times Can You Ask Someone With An Accent To Repeat?

It’s tricky diplomacy

Alex Rosado
3 min readAug 9, 2022
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

We’ve all been there, talking to someone with an accent — either foreign or from another part of the country — and they say something we don’t understand. Naturally, we ask politely to repeat. It’s not a big deal, it happens. Yet, we still don’t understand.

Words get tangled into one another, mispronounced, misused, misunderstood. Should we ask them to repeat a second time? How many times can they repeat before being offended? Should we just fake it?

I’ve been both sides, and none of them are fun. I struggle to understand some accents, especially when I’m tired, and I need people not to mumble. I may be fluent in English but I still encounter difficulties. I need to focus on the person to hear what they are saying. It’s a blessing, as I can tune out the English I don’t feel like hearing, but it can be complicated around people with deeply rural accents.

Sometimes I need people to repeat. Fortunately, I tend to understand the second time around. When people are asking me to repeat, it’s not always the case.

Having an accent in the US can be tricky. People know you’re not from around here. Most fellow immigrants will be nicer to me, they know the struggle. Some Americans will be less patient. That’s how it goes.

I’ll tell you what: when asked to repeat, the first time, I don’t mind. It’s fine. It happens to everyone.

The second time, I’m extra careful with the pronunciation, I go slowly and try to imitate what I’m talking about (if possible).

The third time, I feel like utter crap.

It either goes on until they get it or, if my husband is around, he’ll say it for me. We’ll move on, and I’ll be feisty: I don’t care if they don’t understand me, I’m the one speaking their language, they wouldn’t do the same in France.

But the truth is that I care. I absolutely care, and it hurts when I can’t do something as simple as order hot cocoa. I feel small. Oh so small. I’m a little kid again, a finger pointed toward me because I’m different. I want to disappear, run away and never come back because I’m humiliated. I hate that I…



Alex Rosado

Oversharer. French. Occasional critic. A bit dramatic but still figuring things out