The Pearl In The Mud
Often, when you ask a client a question, you'll get a long, complicated answer. For example, if you ask how long the dog has had this swelling, the answer could be something like this: "Well, I'm not sure exactly. The first time I became aware of it was when my inlaws were visiting from Florida. They noticed it when they were playing with the dog. I guess that was about two weeks ago, more or less." When you get an answer like that in your own language, you probably only hear "not sure exactly...two weeks ago." We don't really listen carefully to each other; we certainly don't hear every word. Instead, we use a filtering system that I call "the pearl in the mud." Our hearing ignores the mud and focuses on the pearl (that is, the answer to the question). In the example above, the pearl is "two weeks ago." The rest is all mud. Your response to the statement would not be "Oh, your inlaws live in Florida?" It would be "Has it grown in the last two weeks?"
In Spanish, you should use the same filtering system. Don't panic when the client tells you a long response that you don't understand. Look for the phrase or word that tells you the answer you want. Often, a long response begins with sí or no, which may be the only word you really need. If you were told the response above, all you would need to listen for is "hace dos semanas." Don't worry about the inlaws in Florida.
Many English speakers think that Spanish is spoken rapidly. In most cases, that's only because you don't understand it; the actual speed is no different from that of English. Keep in mind that Spanish speakers think that English is spoken rapidly too. If you want to help out a Spanish-speaking friend who is learning English, put spaces between words. Don't say "howareyoutoday," say "how are you today?" Your friend may be sufficiently grateful to speak that way in Spanish with you.
Pearl in the Mud Dialogue