EnBooo Podcast

Episode 102 • Languages


Pick up (a language)

Brush up on


Draw a blank

Look up (a word)


Ricky: Man, I can’t believe we’re in Barcelona. This is so cool!
Brian: I know, right? If only we could speak the language…
Ricky: What are you talking about? My Spanish is great.
Brian: Is it?
Ricky: Of course it is. I took Spanish for two years when I was in high school. In fact, I picked it up really quickly, Miss Gonzales was really proud of me. Anyway, it’s actually really easy to learn.
Brian: I was in Miss Gonzales’s class too but I don’t remember a thing. You still remember what you learned even after all these years?
Ricky: Well, I mean, I brushed up on my Spanish before coming here. I knew I was pretty rusty so I had to find my old Spanish textbooks and after two days, my Spanish was great!
Brian: Really? Okay, cool. Listen let’s just buy what we need so we can go back to the hostel. We’ve got everything we need except for… the avocados. Wait, how do you say avocado in Spanish? I’m drawing a blank right now. One second. Let me look it up.
Ricky: You don’t need to look it up. Avocado is avocado.
Brian: No, it isn’t. It’s something similar but it’s not avocado.
Ricky: Yes, it is. Here, let me ask this lady. Per- Perdona. Necesito un avocado.
Spanish lady: Un abogado?
Ricky: Yes. Si, un avocado.
Spanish lady: Uh. My brother. Abogado.
Ricky: Oh, tu hermano vende avocados?
Spanish lady: Yes, yes, here give me your phone. Dirección. Address.
Ricky: Oh, thank you. Gracias. Okay… This is weird. This does not look like a supermarket. This looks like… A law firm?
Brian: Haha. Yeah, Ricky. I looked it up, avocado is aguacate. Abogado is
Spanish for lawyer.


Boy oh boy, these false friends, they always get us, don't they?

Pick up (a language)

' In fact, I picked it up really quickly,'

• Does the expression ‘pick up a language’ refer to learning a language or speaking it?

If you say that you are picking up a language, that means that you are learning it, that you are in the process of learning this language.

• And if you say you picked up a language, do you imply you had to study hard to learn it or not?

Not really, not exactly. When you say that you picked up a language, you imply that it mostly happened very naturally. Maybe by listening or watching, I don't know, movies or TV series. Some people are just more gifted when it comes to languages, and they pick them up really quickly, and they do that without a lot of effort, without having to spend like hours and hours on textbooks.

• Is it easy for you to pick up foreign languages?

I think it is fairly easy for me to pick up foreign languages. It's something that I've always been very passionate about. I started learning English when I was seven years old, and then when I was, I think, 12, I started studying French, and then a couple years ago, I started studying Spanish. Yes, it's always been fairly easy for me to pick up new languages. I do have a method in place right now so that's why it's gotten easier.

Brush up on

'Well, I mean, I brushed up on my Spanish before coming here.'

• If you brush up on a language, can you already speak the language or not?

If you brush up on a language, that means that you can already speak it.

• What‘s the purpose of brushing up on a language? To learn new things or to review what you already know?

To learn new things or to review what you already know. If you want to brush up on a language, so if you want to brush up on your English or your French, that means that you want to review and remember, bring back to the surface, what you once knew. If you studied a language in the past, maybe you stopped practicing for a while, you might start forgetting things, so you have to brush up on it if you want to start remembering these things and get back to the level that you once had.

• What things can you do when you want to brush up on a language?

What I do when I want to brush up on, for example, my French, because I haven't spoken French in years. Every now and then, I just decide that I want to brush up on my French, and what I will do is usually read like a bunch of articles that I come across that are in French, and then maybe watch a bunch of videos.


'I knew I was pretty rusty'

• If you are rusty when trying to speak a language, does that mean you speak it as well as you used, better than you used to or worse than you used to?

If you are rusty, that means that you can speak a language, but you can speak it worse than you used to. Sometimes it might be even hard to form sentences. It just means that your overall level in that language has gotten worse over time.

• What usually causes someone to feel rusty when speaking a foreign language?

The reason why you have gotten worse or your language skills have gotten worse is because you have let a lot of time pass since you last used that language. That's what makes you feel rusty. Like an old machine that if you don't keep using it, it's going to get rusty, it's going to stop working, or it's not going to work as well. That's what we feel like it's happening in our brain. If you don't use a language often, then over time you will start getting rusty but thankfully, you can just brush up on it, and it'll be like you never stopped speaking it.

• Do you feel rusty when speaking a foreign language? Which one?

Yes. Technically, I speak four languages. In reality, I only speak three. Obviously, Italian is my native language. Then I obviously speak English. Then I also speak Spanish, also the fact that I live in Spain, and that my boyfriend is Spanish that helps. Then I speak French. I used to speak French that's what I say now. I definitely feel rusty when I have to speak in French because I haven't done that like I said in years. I really don't have the time to brush up on it. For now, I know it's there somewhere in my brain, but it's just not doing anything at the moment.

Draw a blank

'Wait, how do you say avocado in Spanish? I'm drawing a blank right now.'

• If you are drawing a blank, do you remember a word or or not?

No. If you are drawing a blank that means that you have forgotten a word, so you do not remember it.

• If drawing a blank something temporary or something permanent?

If you are drawing a blank that means that in that moment you can't think of that word that you think you know it, you think you learned it at some point, and it will probably come to you at some point in the future, but right now, at this very moment, you are drawing a blank. You can't remember it. It's pretty frustrating when-- I'm sure you guys know the feeling. I know I know the feeling when you want to say that word and like, "Ugh, but I know it," but you're drawing a blank at that moment. A worst feeling ever, if you ask me. Thank goodness, we've got Google now. That helps sometimes.

• Do you remember a time when you wanted to say something in English or another foreign language buy you were drawing a blank?

It happens to me all the time every day because I oftentimes mix the three languages. It doesn't happen to me a lot with English, but Spanish and Italian being very close, sometimes it's hard for me to switch from one language to another. That happens to me very often with my boyfriend, because like I said, he's Spanish. He is from Spain, and when we speak, I speak to him in Italian and he speaks to me in Spanish. Every now and then, I will try and say a few sentences in Spanish, but then when I can think of a word, when I'm drawing a blank, what I do is I will just insert the word in Italian as if it was normal, and so we have this like very, very weird mixture of languages in our conversation. Yes, to answer the question, it does happen to me very often. Usually what I will do is I will just replace that word that I can't think of with a word in another language.

Look up (a word)

'One second. Let me look it up.'

• If you want to look up a word, what will you need? A dictionary or a native speaker?

If you want to look up a word, you're going to need a dictionary or even Google. You can look it up on Google now, but looking up a word means trying to find that word or that definition in the dictionary. Now, I know that sometimes it's easier to go and ask a native speaker, especially if you live in a foreign country. Me with my boyfriend, my boyfriend is my personal Spanish dictionary. Whenever I don't know a word, if he's around, I'm usually too lazy to look it up and so I'll just ask him.

• What was the last word you looked up in the dictionary?

I think the last expression that I looked up was the expression "tuckered out", which I found in a TV series that I was watching. I didn't know it, so I looked it up and thought, you know what? I'm going to use it in one of my next stories. You're going to find out sometime soon what that means, or you can just look it up.

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