James29, I love that you are enjoying reading so
much. I also like that listening to the news in Spanish for you is just listening to the news
. It's a wonderful feeling, I often can't remember in which language I have heard something because I get my news in four languages other than English, except for local news.
My advice on picking up natural Spanish idioms(and I, myself, still have a long way to go), without reading books originally written in Spanish, is to try this:
Write down what you hear on Los Miserables. Try to take an episode and go through it intensively with the Spanish subtitles, taking notes and watching it again without the subtitles. Of course, this means spending more time with an episode than usual. These episodes are chock full of natural speech and have a heck of a lot of idioms. You just need to notice
them more. Once you start noticing, you'll see them everywhere.
While there are plenty of Spanish idiom books out there, the problem with committing such a book to memory is the lack of context. The other problem is that many idioms can be very regional and most of the Spanish idiom books are international. My kids are English. When they were with me this summer, we ran up on this a lot. There were English idioms, Northern English (Lancashire) idioms, general American idioms, my Southern Appalachian idioms and Caribbean idioms. For example, take the word directly
- I'll get to it directly
. Where I'm from originally, directly
usually means not right away
but soon. Depending on the person directly
can mean not soon at all and mean whenever one gets around to doing it
. My kids expected it to mean straight away
- immediately. They know the difference now
. Here, in the Caribbean, the words to use for the equivalent to directly
are soon come
- which has no meaning in the rest of the English-speaking world outside the region. When we say good evening
here we say good night
, which means I am going to bed now
in the rest of the English-speaking world. A common response here to the question How are you?
is Everyting safe
. Everyting safe
is also how one may be greeted and the response is often just Everyting safe
repeated. If you get a book with the most common idioms- make sure that it provides plenty of context.
I have a neighbor from Chile. When it is very hot here, hotter than the Fourth of July
, (a phrase which has no meaning to my English kids) he says- Se hace tanto calor que están cayendo patos asados del cielo
. Of course, this is easily understandable and I have incorporated it into my Spanish, but I've never heard it from anyone but chilenos.
Idioms and idiomatic speech are one of the hardest things to get right
in a second language. Many learners fail with them because in order to use them appropriately- context is absolutely necessary. Idioms and idiomatic speech are also the hardest things to get right in translation. Idioms are what give flavor to a language and many of our native English idioms just don't come out well in translation. Idioms and idiomatic speech are a huge part of what gets "lost in translation" and when they are used appropriately they often are what polishes a language.