Maria Holland

Complain + Complain = Drive

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2013 at 1:32 am

Today in our lab meeting, a visiting postdoc from Switzerland gave a presentation on his research.  The title of one of his slides was something like “Gute Results”.

I know a little bit of German – enough to realize that “gute” wasn’t some technical term I wasn’t familiar with, but rather just a relic of a presentation translated from German.

That made me think . . . and I realized that no Chinese speaker would be likely to leave an untranslated Chinese word on an English presentation.  They stick out too much, look too different from English to be passed over or forgotten.

After the success of last year’s resolution to finish Harry Potter in Chinese, I decided to read Life of Pi in Spanish this year.  It’s going well so far!  To finish the book this year I have to keep up a pace just over 1 page per day, and today on the 30th of January I’m on page 42.  My atrophied Spanish muscles are strengthening and I feel like I’m getting faster at getting better, and getting better at getting faster.

I started a Spanish Anki deck when I started the book, and have been adding both the new words I have to look up and old words that I know pretty well.  This helps avoid burnout when reviewing all really challenging cards :)

I’m also still reviewing my Chinese and German decks, plus in a spurt of zeal after I upgraded to Anki 2.0 I made itty bitty decks for all the other languages I’ve picked up words in while on trips . . . I can now say that I know 13 words in Khmer (oh heavens!  10 of those are numbers . . . ), 9 in Korean, 4 in Polish, 5 in Dutch, and 10 in Slovenian.  Not much, but it would be sad to lose those tiny treasures!

Anyway, it’s been interesting having to swtich between languages in a way I’ve never really done before.  When I started learning Chinese I pretty much let Spanish fall by the wayside and never focused on any other language for longer than the few days I was in country.

The other day, I was reviewing Spanish and the English word “complain” came up.  I answered immediately – but incorrectly.  It’s a word that I considered myself to have known before, so I was confused as to how I could have gotten it wrong?

Even more confusing, after a few seconds of consideration, I realized that I knew the true meaning of the word I had answered with – manejar means “to drive”.

But I figured it out.  “Complain” is quejarse in Spanish and manyuan (埋怨) in Chinese . . . My answer, manejar, was a combination of the two.

Interesting how the written languages can be so distinct, but my mind puts all the sounds in the same place!

  1. I remember standing in a German meat store thinking about how to order something and all that came to me was the word in Russian. Different alphabets but I don’t think (now so long ago, I’ve forgotten the words…) similar sounds. But, remember, I DIDn’t cry (llorar) one day in Mexico when it rained (llover) every day!

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