Why do you find it so hard to follow real conversations

You are a student of Spanish and surely, at some point in time, you have heard in your manual audios similar to the one in the following text:

  • How good are the ice creams at this ice cream parlor!
  • That's true. We could bring a tub of chocolate and a tub of cream for lunch, what do you think?
  • Well, yes, good idea, we never eat the cakes...
  • Okay, so two tubs will be enough? You know Luis is crazy about chocolate.
  • Well, two is enough for me, Nati and Miguel don't eat sweets.
  • Really? To me it seems little, but hey, you pay, you decide.

Then you would ask some comprehension questions (What are they going to bring for dessert at lunch? Who loves chocolate? ... ) which you would probably solve without any problems; and then, probably, some grammar and vocabulary exercises.

In real life we can also find conversations on this topic but, do we speak the same way? What do the dialogues that appear in the Spanish for foreigners manuals and those in real life have in common? What are the differences? Do these dialogues help you understand real conversations in Spanish? And finally, what do you think this same conversation would be like if it were REAL?


I'm sure the first thing you'll think is:

\ÒIn book dialogues, they donÕt talk as fast as in real life.


I remember when we were working in Hungary and they called us to record auditions for an ELE manual for a publishing house, and how they made us repeat them if we read too fast, if we didn't pronounce all the sounds, if we didn't speak clearly, if we hesitated, if we paused where there was no comma (,)....

It sounded so UNNATURAL and UNREAL! 


How do you know if a conversation

in audio or video

Is it good (is it real or looks like it) or not so good?


Turns to speak

Generally, in aural conversations in Spanish manuals, turns are passed from one person to another just after the end of the sentence.

But in real life This is not always the case. As a rule, we interrupt each other and there are times when two or more people talk at the same time.  🙄 


The topic of conversation

In the manuals, only one topic is usually discussed in a dialogue, but in colloquial conversations we are constantly changing the subject. For example, in the above dialogue, it would be very easy to also talk about favorite flavors, whether there is another ice cream shop more expensive or cheaper, the last time they shared an ice cream....


Colloquial vocabulary

In the oral texts that are worked on in the Spanish courses, vocabulary of the subject matter (desserts, types of ice cream) appears, but colloquial vocabulary (much less vulgar) rarely appears.

But the truth is that in conversational Spanish we use a lot of colloquial and vulgar vocabulary.. There are people who do not use the vulgar vocabulary itself but use other words that attenuate it. (We will talk about this in future posts).



As I mentioned above, people who read the dialogues in Spanish manuals usually have to do it in an unnatural way: in addition to reading more slowly than we do in real conversations, they have to make an effort to pronounce all the sounds. By speaking more slowly, pauses are made where they do not normally go, not all word junctions are made, sounds that we usually omit are pronounced, and even certain intonational patterns typical of colloquial conversations are avoided.. In addition, when reading these dialogues, an effort is made to adopt a "standard" and, therefore, less natural accent.



Many dialogues in the Spanish manuals try to use more and more muletillas (eh?, no?, oye, anda, pues...) and that is good because in real conversations we use them a lot.


Doubts and pauses

Rarely do we find in the audios of Spanish courses dialogues in which there are pauses in the middle of sentences and hesitation or thinking while speaking. Instead, this is characteristic of colloquial conversations because they are totally sporadic and are not planned in advance..


Sentence structure

The structure of the written register is different from the one we use when speaking. Generally speaking, when we speak, it is common to change the order of words:

              I love ice cream.

              I put the keys on the table.

And we will rarely find these changes of order in the auditions of the manuals.


Dialog auditions are good for learning and practicing vocabulary and grammar, but don't you think they should also be used for learn and practice the characteristics and strategies typical of colloquial conversations?

I think you will agree that at beginning and lower intermediate levels it would be very difficult to work with real 100% conversations, although the auditions could certainly be much closer to the real thing.

But I doubt very much that it would be beneficial to the student at a more advanced level. listening to dialogues in which, generally:

  • They do not fight for the floor.
  • They do not interrupt each other or talk at the same time.
  • There are not a lot of markers, or crutches, or connectors.
  • They speak about the same amount of time.
  • They do not change the subject.
  • There is no hesitation or pause.
  • They do not use much colloquial vocabulary.
  • The sentence structure is the same as in the written register.
  • Non-verbal language is not seen or explained.

Do you understand now

why is it so hard for you

follow real conversations?

You have done many vocabulary exercises, grammar exercises, listening comprehension exercises... but never with audios of spontaneous colloquial conversations or conversations that imitate reality!



And... do you want to start speaking fluently, reduce your foreign accent or understand conversations? 

Download our free guide and get started now!