Feb 19, 2010, 11:18 AM
Post #5 of 11
I have the same feeling.
I am a bit of a linguist, in the sense that I speak and have studied several foreign languages, including Latin. I know what grammar, syntax, declension, conjugation, etc. mean. I know what idioms are.
An idiom, in my definition, is a figure of speech whose meaning is something different, often much more, than a sum of the meanings of the individual words. Like "He kicked the bucket." The words themselves, alone, do not convey the real meaning, that "he died."
I assume "¿que tal?" is some sort of idiom, so what does it mean? "What's up?" "How's it going?" "How are you?" I rarely here it here. Most everybody says some version of "¿que ondas?" Another mystery.
Spanish, like the other foreign languages I know, I believe can be spoken and used to communicate without venturing into the murky waters of idioms. They are dandy for literature and for native or near native speakers who know what they are doing. To me nothing sounds more ridiculous than a foreigner trying to use American/English idioms, invariably incorrectly and/or inappropriately, trying to sound like a native, with the boat they arrived on sailing off in the background.
"¿Que tal?" may be a bit of an exception, because even high school Spanish text books teach it almost from the very beginning. Odd that I almost never hear it used here.