Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Note about Language

It is so fascinating to think about how a different language offers a whole new perspective. A different language is not just a word by word translation- it is an entirely new way of thinking as well. I think about this when my brother and his wife communicate- there are probably some things that make more sense to say in English, and others to say in Spanish. And depending on which language you use, it communicates something entirely differently.

The other day in class we were telling my teacher that we all had procrastination issues. She didn't understand procrastination, so we looked it up in our dictionary, only to find that there is no noun for procrastination in Spanish! The verb procrastinate is translated as "dejar para mas tarde-" to leave for much later. That doesn't really communicate the connotation we associate with procrastination. In English, and in American culture, we are very familiar with the concept and flaw of procrastination. We need to be efficient and productive and get things done, and thus view procrastination as a weakness or flaw. However, in Spanish, there really is no word for it. Maybe I am overanalyzing that, but I'm curious as to whether it has some cultural explantation. In Latin culture, time is viewed much differently than in American culture. It is not strange or rude to arrive late to something (with some exceptions) since people here are more relaxed about time.

I have also been thinking about ways we describe ourselves, our feelings, and our current states of mind. In English, we pretty much just say "I am..." I am Hannah. I am from New Jersey. I am a student. I am her sister. I am tall. I am hungry. I am tired. I am nervous. I am jealous. Etc. However, in Spanish, there are three categories in which those statements fall under. There is one, the verb "ser," which describes permanent things. Your name, your nationality, your physical characteristics, your occupation, and your relationships to others is in this category. Then there is another verb, "estar," which describes temporary emotional and physical states. I am sick, I am tired, I am frustrated, and others like that would fall under this category. The third one is my favorite. The verb "tener," meaning to have or hold, is used in certain expressions. For instance, rather than saying "I am jealous," you would say "I have jealousy." Rather than "I am afraid," it is "I have fear." Rather than "I am 20 years old," I would say "I have 20 years." It is interesting to think about jealousy, fear, and age not as something you are, but as something which you hold, temporarily. It is not a permanent characteristic, but rather something that you are holding within you.

I just think that is so fascinating! Sorry to bore you with a language lesson, but if you dissect the way we say things in English, it reveals a lot about ourselves and our culture. And the way we say things is unique to our language and the way in which we view the world.

Hope you all are enjoying this Sunday morning. :-) Miss you.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Hannah! I love catching up with your blog and find myself a bit envious of your family and the FIESTA FIESTA!! Sounds like such fun! Oh, al the spanish... wow, ther is no way I could do it! I envy that in you too. Thank you for sharing all of this, you are a wonderful writer:)