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I'm just beginning to learn French, and often I want to ask native speakers to speak more slowly. What is the most polite way to ask this? I'm especially wondering whether a request to "parler plus lentement" may be considered impolite and if "parler moins vite" may be considered more respectful.

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    I would say it shouldn't make much difference and anyway not specific to French, it would surely be the same in your native language. Personally I find plus lentement better (you're not reproaching the person you are talking too of talking too fast, but express your need of it being slower), but again, that's not a language question. As long as you say it politely Pourriez-vous parler un un moins vite s'il vous plait, j'ai du mal à suivre.
    – None
    Nov 9 '21 at 17:25
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    Excusez-moi, mais est-ce que je peux vous demander de parler plus lentement, s'il vous plait ?
    – jlliagre
    Nov 9 '21 at 18:13
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The level of politeness required would depend on the context but as you asked for the "most polite way", I would avoid both parlez plus lentement and parlez moins vite as they are kind of orders.

A more polite way would be to apologize and indirectly ask for a slower pace like in:

Excusez-moi. Est-ce que je peux vous demander de parler un peu plus lentement, s'il vous plaît ?

i.e.

Excuse me. May I ask you to speak a little bit slower, please?

An extra polite one would be:

[...] Est-ce que je peux me permettre de vous demander [...]

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Both are perfectly fine. The only thing I would change is adding "s'il vous plaît" at the end. You can also write "s'il vous plait" without the circumflex accent on the last 'i'. It is correct too.

Parlez moins vite, s'il vous plaît. Parlez plus lentement, s'il vous plaît.

Kind regards.

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