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Understanding irony in conversations


\ "intonation-ironic".

(Listen to this entry as a "blogcast" or continue scrolling down to read it)

A few days ago I held a chat conversation with one of my DELE preparation course students. She had missed two of the last classes and, with the exam date just around the corner* (for those who don't know, the DELE exams start tomorrow), I was "kidneying" her a bit and asking her how she was doing with the homework and the results of the model exams. 

* Just around the cornerbeing an event that is very close to happening (conversational expression)

Part of the conversation went something like this:

  • Sorry, Alexandra, it's just that I had two business trips these days, and on both of them I traveled by plane.
  • Okay, don't worry, I understand. Have you been able to do anything?
  • Yes, the listening task and an essay. I'll send them to you right away.
  • All that in one week? That's nice.
  • Yes, I know, I was able to make some time.
  • Great.
  • It was good for me to spend so many hours at the airport.
  • Yes, airports are ideal for work.
  • That's what it looks like to me too.


As I was writing I thought that if my student could have listened to me (and not read) he would have understood the irony that accompanied my wordsA homework and an essay at this time of the year are NOT enough, at least not in my courses.

Also, in my opinion, airports are far from being a suitable place to work.

We can say that, in Spain, irony allows us to express a negative feeling, to complain or to comment humorously on a situation or context. without the listener thinking we are rude or discourteous.

It is, probably, one of the most powerful tools in our everyday conversationsWe use it to hide our true intentions, and usually with people we know and know will not mind if we use it.

Speaking with irony in Spain does not have much to do with irony in France, for example, even though they are neighboring countries.

Irony is closely related to culture and you need to study it.In other words, you need to listen to it many times with the help of a guide in order to understand it, assimilate it and, finally, put it into practice.

In the following audio you can hear the phrases my student heard in his head. 🙄 

And in this audio, you can hear them just as I was saying them in my head. 😆 

Can you notice how different they are?


The change in intonation you may notice is due to irony..


Now listen to these other examples, which ones do you think are ironic? Leave your answers in the comments.

EXAMPLE 1: "No, he said he understood me".

EXAMPLE 2: "No, he said he understood me".

EXAMPLE 3: "Yes, it's listísima".

EXAMPLE 4: "Yes, it's listísima".

EXAMPLE 5: Patricia? 

EXAMPLE 6: Patricia?

Fortunately or unfortunately, To identify irony, it is not enough to know how to understand some intonational patterns that accompany sentences. There are other aspects that can help you to identify irony

In the next entries we will introduce you to them and, of course, share with you real conversations in which irony is used.

Going back to the conversation with my student, I have to admit that, when I checked that the essay he sent me and the results of the listening test were pretty good I started to doubt whether or not airports are a good place to work or, rather, to do your homework there.

What do you think? Have you ever studied or practiced Spanish at the airport? What is your ideal workplace like?


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

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