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Applying What You Know

May 12, 2013

I’ve mentioned before the Spanish Lunch group at my office.

To date, it’s really been only four or five of us, including one native speaker, but there is the occasional day where only two of us appear (or even worse, where only one is available).  Normally, our conversations tend to be mundane about whatever is going on outside of work or the like, or about children, or general topics that come up that we stumble through.

This week, though, only one other of my coworkers showed up.  Because of other things going on – said coworker happens to be working with the team that I manage – our conversation strayed into unfamiliar territory for us: our jobs.

Neither of us considers ourselves more than really tourist-fluent when it comes to Spanish.  He’s traveled abroad more recently than me, and it’s been better than ten years really since I’ve had to use Spanish on a semi-regular basis.  And neither of us really has ever tried to do more than converse about familiar topics like family, what’s going on with our lives, or a little bit of office gossip.  All of this is, as I understand it, the basics of B1 skill with a language, which is just a little bit below the level that I’m targeting for the moment.

Instead, we delved into the matter of running the team for a change and how things are going, actual operational business matters.

So what did we learn going through a half-hour of talking about work?

I think the biggest defect that either of us has is familiarity with vocabulary that is needed for discussing a couple of the details involved with our work.  (Some of the terms that we’re lacking are… likely to end up being cognates, just by the nature of what was being discussed.)  We bantered back and forth with limited stuttering and pauses for grasping at words for a change, so it sounded at least like every sentence was a herculean task to get out.  There was the now-and-again pause to worry about grammar (or my having issues with remembering the exceptions to the gender rules), but it was a lot more natural than some of the other conversations we’ve had.

It did bolster my confidence a lot with the thought that I might be able to get to a measurable B1 or B2 fluency before the end of the year, even with fewer chances to practice than I would like.  That practice, though, is where I’m seriously lacking opportunities… and I think that I need to find, at least over the summer, a few more chances to practice with others besides the folks I normally converse with…

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