Understanding the Deeper Meaning in L2?

So I was watching S2, E1 of Game of Thrones (I’ve never seen it before) in L2. The scene with Cersei and Baelish, where they’re letting one another know about what they know, without actually directly making the accusations.

I understood the sentences, though I somehow wasn’t sure why they were saying what they were saying. I promptly went looking for the scene in English and I immediately understood what was being implied (obviously, because it isn’t difficult). I caught on after just a few words, yet somehow it didn’t register with L2, even after hearing almost the entire conversation.

What’s going on here? Like I said, I completely understood the sentences, yet somehow the very obvious, and not so subtly hidden meaning escaped me. I’ve noticed this a few times before. Am I alone here?

Are we sometimes so concentrated on the raw language that we sometimes forget to, or are unable to, follow/see the bigger picture, even when it’s so obvious? Just thought I’d ask if anyone else has experienced this, and to check that it’s normal.

hmm, perhaps because words have different meanings and nuance in different contexts. It seems to me that while you may “know” the word, you are perhaps not yet familiar enough with the word or phrasing in all of the contexts it may appear in.

Take following simple example in English, off the top of my head:

Person A: Do you want to go to the movies with her?
Person B: yeah right

You could know every word in both of above sentences, but not realize that movies is not only the plural of movie, but can also mean cinema. You might also know the words “yeah right”, but think it means “yes, indeed”, failing to catch the sarcasm the phrasing implies.

edit: I remember also refold.la had a handy breakdown on the levels of comprehension: https://refold.la/roadmap/stage-2/a/levels-of-comprehension


I understand what you’re getting at, but I absolutely understood every sentence. Sometimes, like in the case you’ve mentioned, I will know the words and not get the meaning, but I got the meaning of the sentences, just not the hidden message (which wasn’t even that hidden) behind them, which had nothing to do with the language itself. Hopefully that makes more sense. It’s kinda tricky to explain this, haha.

I feel like I understand you…your brain working hard to understand the language, so you dont have enough space to kind of wander and think about the meaning, which requires a kind of floating consciousness (if that makes sense.). Because there are words and there is also connotations, tone of voice, implication… tons more than the literal meaning that is being conveyed. I suspect it will get better once the language becomes a bit more “automatic” but I don’t actually know! I


Understanding the nuances, play on words, all the cultural references requires years of exposure for the language to deeply be internalized, the final step of language acquisition.

English is my L2 and I’m at a level where there are nuances and words that I don’t know how to translate to my native language. I’m also quite proficient in french but the language hasn’t been deeply internalized so if you insulted me in french, I’d “Understand” what you meant but I wouldnt "feel* insulted.

Or it could simply mean that the scene you mentioned doesn’t translate well to other languages


Not exactly that but it sounds similar to my experience of understanding humor.
So I have three L2’s: Spanish (in which I’d say I’m fully “fluent”) and French and Russian both of which I’d say I’m somewhere in mid-high intermediate.

With Spanish for at least the first five years after I felt like I was fluent (I could understand everything and respond without ever not having a word missing and with full understanding and control of grammar), I still couldn’t understand humor. Like at all. I’d be watching Mexican friends laugh their asses off and I’m like “I don’t get why this is funny”. Somewhere around 7-8 years in I could kinda sorta get some of it. It seemed like it was meta-language rather than language. I “knew” what was funny even though technically there was nothing to tell me what was funny.

With French (and even worse Russian) zip, nada. I’m like “huh?”.

Maybe it’s like that: maybe “nuance” and “humor” are the very, very last things to come to you. For humor I’ve wondered if it might be possible to “learn” by watching things that are “funny” and asking why it’s funny. It’s kind of cringe to think about socially but it might work. I dunno. Anyhow. Interesting question.


I’ve noticed there are tons of phrases that just don’t compute at all when translated back into English.
Me caes bien gordo word for word is “me [you] falls very fat”.
Which is gibberish.
But it means “I can’t stand you”.

That was one I picked up over years of watching people talk in Spanish.

Absolutely, it’s an amazing experience. One old joke I can think of in English that took me a long time to understand is "A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asked him, “Why the long face?” which is a super simple dad joke but it’s hard to understand for non-natives because the expression is so uncommon. And, even you if understand it you might not understand why it’s