Thank you, thank you Spanish talk radio. Listening to the talk show here in Miami I can hook into content that I already know about - politics and the snowstorm up north. Context is huge I remember from those teacher trainings again. I watched some Mexican police drama on TV last night and hardly understood anything, but politics I get, and I am interested. It was like this in Japan too, when I could follow the business and economic news on TV but was lost in the soap operas. The register is higher, the language more structured.
Relating this to assessment, the ability to demonstrate higher-level language can be easier to demonstrate and measure in non-dialogue situations. This is one reason why Avant uses presentational speaking questions in our Avant STAMP test rather than trying to imitate a conversation. Not that conversation is bad, it is actually very cool and impressive that it can be done, but it makes it hard to elicit the longer chunks of language that intermediate high and advanced levels require.
I was thrilled to go to the Latin Restaurant in west Miami this morning and actually place my order in Spanish, and have the waitress understand me and not speak back to me in English. Of course, I didn't understand when she asked me if I wanted toast and said no, when I really did want toast. Even better, the Cuban style harino grits were delicious.