I love language. The ability to communicate, often taken for granted, is an astonishing tool which gives a voice (figuratively and literally) to who we are as individuals, and in a broader scope, an insight into human nature. Without this intricate method with which to communicate, where would be as humans? How would we managein navigating our complex societies? The obvious answer? We wouldn’t.
This past week I’ve learned the words for “to light” (a fire), “to catch fire”, “burning coals”, and “thin” (pieces of wood)”. Now, to be clear, “to light a fire” is different from “to make a fire”, “burning coals” is one word which only describes that specific phenomenon, and “thin” only refers to strips, strings or wire.
I’ve been learning French since middle schools and have lived in two francophone countries for a total of a year and a half. Yet, I do not know the equivalent of these words in French, or for that matter have ever even stumbled across them in conversation. This makes perfect sense; one of my basic needs in surviving here is fire, and the materials to make it. These words are elementary in learning Mongolian, while “beach” may be considered highly advanced. Now I truly love Mongolia… but the next language I learn, “beach”, “tan” and “washing machine” will be considered basic vocabulary, while “to freeze”, “dust”, and “bowl to hand wash laundry in”, will be learned only at the most advanced level.
I’ve never considered myself eloquent. More aptly, my description could easily read “Ariel: the anti-thesaurus”. Not only is it difficult to brainstorm synonyms, finding a word in the first place is often challenging enough! What’s the word for… darn. You know- the opposite of cold? Yes, hot may be a basic word. Yes, I learned it when I was four. No, I’m not an idiot. But words really aren’t my thing. On the rare occasion I ‘m able to express ideas in a slightly sophisticated way, I am so proud. Continue reading
Last night, as I was doing some light fun reading (An Introduction to Historical of Linguistics), I stumbled upon a characteristic of some languages, called Evidential Markers, which identify how a speaker arrives at the information contained in a given statement. For example, if I stated “She ate three chocolates”, an evidential affix would be needed to specify whether I know this because I, myself, saw her eat these yummy chocolates (a ‘visual’ evidential), if I heard it from another source (‘secondhand’), or if I assumed it- as there are no more chocolates, and she’s a glutton (‘assumed’). Continue reading
We’re all aware I can’t spell, and now my students are too. This afternoon in English club a ninth grader corrected my spelling. Did “congratulations” have two t’s or a d and a t? I couldn’t for the life of me remember. Now that I’m typing I’ve forgotten all over again. I’d like to blame dyslexia, or some garden variety of learning disorder. But no, it’s just me. I REALLY can’t spell. I will never be able to spell. But at least my students can!