When I started learning Spanish in Aug. of 2010, I would often stumble through learning new words. They looked so strange to me, and then even more surreal was how these words somehow lined up with an English equivalent. “How could that word mean this word?” I used to mutter. And then, in a stranger turn of events, I’d soon realize that the definition for one Spanish word wasn’t just one word, in fact there could be two words, maybe three, maybe even four that could suffice.
Then I realized that each Spanish word could be a part of a set of words to describe something. Take for example the word “said” as in “He said he’d be back in 10 min.” We realize that there are a multitude of ways that someone can “say” something in English.
Did he simply respond, did he mutter it, or was it just suggested? Maybe he mentioned it, or no, he announced it, but how alluring would it be if he revealed it?
So then the obvious follow-up question is when and how do I use these new-found words. Ah there’s the nuance. Which in Spanish is “matiz.” How do we know when to use what we need to use? I guess that’s the magic of language ability. We just know.
Soon, I got over the confusion of words with multiple meanings, the inherent nuance, and of course the difference between slang and what could easily offend someone, but what I never got over is something so fundamental, so simple. I realized that there were words that I would never truly understand, not because of their definition, that part is easy, nor of their use, because context will help you out, but of how we come to know and understand words as they reflect the life we lived, our joys and our sorrows, and how we choose to approach a new day.
How can we understand words like these:
These are words I thought I knew and used, but realized they were words I’ll never understand . . .
I’ve always been a fan of this song:
“See I’m all about them words
Over numbers, unencumbered numbered words
Hundreds of pages, pages, pages forwards
More words than I had ever heard and I feel so alive”