I first came across mal in a lesson on colloquial expressions on Memrise (a nifty tool that interfaces with Facebook). The first expression I learned using this flexible little word was mal sehen which can be translated as “we’ll see” or “I’ll have to see.” Like another phrase I learned early – Warum nicht? meaning “Why not?” – it comes in incredibly handy when you want to comment but can’t seem to form that nice, full sentence. Later on, I learned that you can do a swap and and say Sehen Sie mal! and ask someone to look at something – “Look!” – in a tone that is friendlier and softer than saying Sehen Sie! Likewise, to invite someone to try something in a friendly way, you can say Probieren Sie mal!
Today I added mal kurz to the mal family. This phrase is helpful when you don’t have your Handy handy and want to make a call or google something: Kann ich mal kurz dein Handy benutzen? “Can I use your phone for sec’ ?” Or if you want to check on something, you can say Ich gehe mal kurz nachsehen – “I’ll have a quick look.” Or when you are struggling to hold your groceries and get out your keys, you can say Kannst du das mal kurz halten? – “Can you hold onto this for a moment?” Then, when you get inside and realize that you’ve forgotten one thing, you can say Ich habe etwas vergessen. Ich gehe mal kurz nach draußen – I’ve forgotten something. I’ll just nip out.” Finally, mal kurz appears in a slightly humorous/euphemistic phrase you can use to indicate you need to use the toilet, similar to saying in English “I need to powder my nose/answer the call of nature/spend a penny.” This phrase, Ich muss mal kurz verschwinden, could be slightly confusing if translated literally – “I must disappear/vanish for a moment.”
Here’s hoping that mal kurz will stick in my memory the way mal sehen and Sehen Sie mal have, rather than vanishing after only a moment as so much of my new vocabulary seems want to do!