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Wait… what?

April 28, 2013

I’m still debating the idea of sitting for the DELE B2 this summer or fall – the fact that I’m obviously still voicing my doubts about my ability really being more a debate of the level – but I think what’s biasing my debate on the level is my ability to grasp colloquial phrases.

I’m actually doing really well these days about listening to the Spanish station out of DC, and I’m finding that I’m understanding most of what’s said.  The part where I’m falling down is either when they’re going too quickly (which isn’t common, except when they’re obviously excited with a caller) or when they’re lapsing into idiomatic phrases that I’m not up on.

I have similar gaps in the majority of the languages I speak beyond English – everything I’ve learned, obviously, is on a more academic level.  For instance, the Hebrew I learned in my childhood was largely oriented towards my ability to read prayers and understand it a little.  (Now, mind you with Hebrew, I’ve always had a debate about this issue, even when I was teaching the basic levels for a few years – the few religious schools I’ve gone to at synagogues in my movement have concentrated more on prayer readiness rather than conversational Hebrew.  Personally, where I stand… if you want kids to actually want to be interested in this funny-looking language that has almost no use in the States, teach them things that are useful.  They’ll pick up the religiously necessary parts on their own.)  Likewise, when I was in high school and learning Spanish, it was geared towards basic literacy and getting a decent mark on the Advanced Placement exam.

And all of these goals are great, but I want to be able to do more than read a magazine, newspaper or book.  I want to be able to watch Israeli movies.  I want to catch a soccer match on Univision and follow the play-by-play.  I want, on the rare occasions where we can travel, to be able to communicate with locals and not rely on my English.  (Or, even better, go to a Universala Kongreso and not be allowed to speak English, and get by just fine.)

In all of these environments, there’s a body of common phrases that I’m entirely clueless about which are used in every day speech, which gets even more complicated when you think of the cultural differences across some of the languages, just from sheer number of countries where some of the languages are spoken.  (Spanish is the main one that comes to mind as having this problem, among the languages that I’m learning.)  But even identifying a good resource as to common idiomatic turns-of-a-phrase in the languages as a starting point – even if I have to remember which ones are country/region specific – would be a good thing. 🙂

I think that’s one of my next steps as I move forward.

One Comment
  1. Course, just to clarify – yes, dirty language is fun… but I’m far more concerned with common idioms. 😉

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