How to Say ‘I Don’t Speak Spanish Well’ So That You Don’t Sound Disrespectful

How do you say “I don’t speak Spanish well” in Spanish?… 

Plain and simple: “No hablo bien español”.

Now, if you’re looking for a way to say this, it means that you’re a person who wants to show respect for a foreign culture.

That’s super valuable!

And I really want to compliment you because not everyone considers other people’s feelings when treating foreigners.

Because of that, I crafted today’s blog post to help you learn how to show respect with your words when Spanish isn’t your thing.

This is crucial to avoid hurting other people’s feelings when you’re on a trip through Latin America or when you live surrounded by Spanish Native speakers. 

So my respectful amigo or amiga (friend), get ready to speak like a real “caballero” (gentleman) or a real dama (lady), and let’s get started! 

Why Learn How To Say “I Don’t Speak Spanish Well”

I get it, not everyone has an interest in learning a language. 

That’s totally fine.

However, if you’re going on a trip abroad, then you probably want to know a couple of phrases to let other people know you don’t speak his/her language.

Even if you say with a calm tone in English, “I don’t speak Spanish” or simply “No español”, that’s going to be better and more respectful than if you impatiently say a bunch of phrases nobody understands.

And if you’re in your own country and show respect for the immigrants who don’t speak your language, it would be like a house owner who dignifies everyone who comes into his house.

A good example is my friend Donald, an American who retired and moved to Colombia.

At first, he didn’t speak a word of Spanish, yet every time someone tried to speak to him, he would make an effort to use a respectful tone and one or two phrases to say:

 “Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish well.” 

I guess the bottom line of what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need to speak Spanish fluently to show respect for native speakers.

And if you want to be a little more friendly, then you may use some of the following words or phrases:

How To Say “I Don’t Speak Spanish Well” In Spanish

Just for the sake of showing respect and good manners, the first thing I suggest you say is “sorry”.

You may use the words:

  • “Disculpa” (DEES- COOL-PAH)
  • “Perdón” (PEHR-DON)

They both mean excuse me or I’m sorry, which would just be a nice way to excuse yourself for not understanding what the other person is trying to say.

Related: 3 Totally different ways to say sorry in Spanish

Then you can add the exact translation for “I don’t speak Spanish well” which would be:

  • “No hablo bien español”.

Open your mouth enough so that vowels sound clear enough in Spanish, and read this:


Now an easier version for that can be simply:

  • No hablo español (NOH-AH-BLO-ES-PAH-NYOL): I don’t speak Spanish.

Of course, there are variations and other phrases you can use, like:

  • Hablo poco español (AH-BLOH-POH-KOH-ES-PAH-NYOL): I speak a little Spanish.
  • Hablo poquito español (AH-BLOH-POH-KEE-TOH-ES-PAH-NYOL): I speak very little Spanish.
  • No sé español (NOH-SEH-ES-PAH-NYOL): I don’t know Spanish)
  • No sé nada de español (NOH-SEH-NAH-DAH-DEH-ES-PAH-NYOL): I know nothing of Spanish.

All phrases I listed above work under any context, so it doesn’t matter if you want to be formal or informal, they all work and sound respectful. 

Some More Phrases In Spanish To Respectfully Approach Language Barriers

When I was writing this blog post, it dawned on me that if you intend to show respect for another culture, then you would like to learn some more words to achieve just that.

Take note of the following words or phrases because they’re essential to be nice to anyone around you.

In front of each phrase or word you’ll see its meaning and, you’ll find the pronunciation in parentheses:

  • Por favor (POR-FAH-VOR): Please.
  • Gracias (GRA-SEE-ASS): Thank you.
  • Con permiso (KON-PER-ME-SOH): Excuse me (We use it for politely asking someone to move and let you pass, or when you’re leaving a place).
  • Señor (SEH-NYOR): Mr.- Sir.
  • Señora (SEH-NYO-RA): Mrs – Ma’am.
  • Señorita (SEH-NYO-REE-TAH): Miss – Missus.
  • De nada (DEH-NAH-DAH): You’re welcome.
  • Con gusto (KON-GOOS-TOH): You’re welcome.

Also, this might be enough for a short trip, but if you want to know more vocabulary to sound respectful, I suggest you check out the following blog post I wrote in the past:

Also, mi amigo (My friend), don’t do this:

Meme: Locals don't speak English; speaks English louder

Yeah, I know it’s a popular meme, but it’s real.

I have seen foreign people coming to Colombia to speak louder when Spanish speakers don’t understand their English.

Please don’t do that.

No matter how loud you talk, if the other person doesn’t know English your effort will be useless.

Instead, just use any of the phrases I shared above! 

How To Be Friendly And Respectful With Spanish Native Speakers

People in Latin America appreciate good manners very much.

Especially in Colombia, the country where I am from, people like…

  • Hospitality, 
  • Being approachable, 
  • And helpful

Of course, there are always exceptions to all this; you know, you can find mean people all around the world.

But in general, if you want to show respect to people you can go further than using words in Spanish.

For example, you can always watch your tone and avoid talking aggressively.

You might also smile and be kind with your gestures.

Also, something super important is being patient with Spanish native speakers.

I know that Latinos who like to learn English get a little excited when they get a chance to practice with an English speaker, and they probably see you as an opportunity to practice.

Yes, that might be a little annoying for some people but try to be a little patient and don’t be rude to them.

Now, for all the folks out there who are visiting Colombia, please: 

Be Respectful To Women

One thing is clear to the whole world:

Latinas are some of the most beautiful, lovely, and sexy women on the planet.

However, in recent years, we’ve seen a growth in what’s been known as “sex tourism”.

Sadly, this has been having an impact on the way some foreigners treat women in Latin America.

And let me be clear on this point:

Colombians hate being treated as a sex object. 

This has become such an issue, that I’ve seen some foreigners approach a regular woman on the street on a regular day as if they were prostitutes.

Please don’t do that, we hate that, and is extremely annoying.

For example, one time a friend of mine was at a saloon.

And right after she was doing her hair an English speaker was walking by as she was looking at the mirror to see the result of her treatment

Out of the blue, this “gentleman” (if he can be called that) began to praise my friend saying stuff like:

“wow wow that’s such nice hair… you’re beautiful, let me take a picture of you, blah, blah, blah etc”.

The guy went ahead and kept complimenting her, to the point she was feeling uncomfortable.

Eventually, this sick dude began to ask for a kiss as my friend was trying to pay for her hair treatment.

My friend and everyone in the saloon were so mad that they even wanted to call the police. 

This annoying person began to pretend he was confused giving stupid excuses like “I don’t speak Spanish, I’m sorry… I don’t understand”.

Please, folks, don’t treat women this way.

We hate that, and this is the kind of thing that real Colombians hate about people visiting the country right now.

We love showing our country to the world, and we like to welcome people, but we hate this kind of misogynistic attitude.


I feel like today’s post has been a little more than a language lesson.

In conclusion, we might say that respect is the universal language that transcends words and dialects. 

As travelers and good neighbors, we bear the responsibility not just to learn phrases but to embrace respect as our guide, honoring the customs and dignity of every person we encounter.

Here’s a summary of all the phrases and pronunciation we covered today, which will help you say “I don’t speak Spanish well”:

  1. No hablo bien español (NOH-AH-BLOH-BEE-EHN-EHS-PAH-NYOL)
  2. No hablo español (NOH-AH-BLOH-ES-PAH-NYOL)
  3. Hablo poco español (AH-BLOH-POH-KOH-ES-PAH-NYOL)
  4. Hablo poquito español (AH-BLOH-POH-KEE-TOH-ES-PAH-NYOL)
  5. No sé español (NOH-SEH-ES-PAH-NYOLH)
  6. No sé nada de español (NOH-SEH-NAH-DAH-DEH-ES-PAH-NYOL)

Also, take note of these expressions to show good manners in Spanish:

  1. Por favor (POR-FAH-VOR): Please.
  2. Gracias (GRA-SEE-ASS): Thank you.
  3. Con permiso (KON-PER-ME-SOH): Excuse me (We use it for politely asking someone to move and let you pass, or when you’re leaving a place).
  4. Señor (SEH-NYOR): Mr.- Sir.
  5. Señora (SEH-NYO-RA): Mrs – Ma’am.
  6. Señorita (SEH-NYO-REE-TAH): Miss – Missus.
  7. De nada (DEH-NAH-DAH): You’re welcome.
  8. Con gusto (KON-GOOS-TOH): You’re welcome.
  9. “Disculpa” (DEES- COOL-PAH): Sorry – excuse me.
  10. “Perdón” (PEHR-DON): Sorry.

Remember, every “por favor,” every “gracias,” and every attempt to bridge language gaps is a gesture of goodwill, a testament to our shared humanity. 

So, go forth with respect as your language, kindness as your currency, and understanding as your compass. 

Safe travels amigo or amiga, and may your adventures be rich with meaningful connections and respectful exchanges.

Diego Cuadros is a blogger and a Spanish online teacher. He uses stories to help Spanish lovers understand fast-speaking native speakers, so they don't freeze and panic in conversations.