viernes, abril 25, 2014

On The Myriad of Words I Ignore

As of recently, I’ve been reading with great delight the blogs of some interesting expats living in Merida and other parts of Mexico, as well as those written by Americans living in the US, and thanks to them I not only have enjoyed very interesting stories about their everyday lives, their travels, their dreams, and their reflections, but I’ve also learned lots and lots of new words.
Every time I stumble upon a new one, I go to for enlightenment. And boy do I ignore a myriad of words. I’ve found out that, though I have learned hundreds of technical words after years of being an English-Spanish translator, I do not know many colloquial expressions, simple words of everyday use, uncommon words, and words that are used in literary texts.
The bloggers I follow have proven to be wonderful teachers, for they provide with each post new words for my vocabulary, but I always want to learn more. I thought of ways to learn more English words, such as interact more with native English speakers or take a course… but this is difficult because the few English-speaking friends I have live very far and, with two jobs, a Chinese course, two dogs and a house to tend to, I certainly don’t much time to start a new class.
And then I remembered that, in my younger years, I used to read a lot of books in English, dictionary by the side, and as a result I slowly acquired a decent vocabulary. So I decided to buy me a book, and recalled that the nearest Libreria Gonvill keeps a little stock of books in English. I’ve seen them several times over a couple of years and it seems to me that they are almost always the same, perhaps because they do not have a lot of customers who can understand this language. Or perhaps they are not displayed in a manner that can attract the attention of potential readers.
I visited the bookstore the day before yesterday and spent some time in this forgotten corner, absent-mindedly going through the titles and glancing at the covers, reading a few pages of some of them. Vampires (disgusting/boring). A book entitled Get Laid, with a lot of illustrated sexual positions and tips to seduce women (No, thanks). Poems (I’m not much of a poetry reader). Mystery thrillers (I’ve read enough). Romance (No, please). Nothing seemed to be of interest!
But then a little book with a Chinese-looking couple on the cover caught my attention. It was “The Good Earth”, by Pearl S. Buck. I had heard the name of this author many times, but I have to confess that I had never read anything from her. Yes, I know that I should be ashamed, but… I’m more familiar with Spanish-speaking authors because I’m Mexican.
Nevertheless, I truly believe that “it’s never late to learn” and “every day you learn something new”, so I used my smartphone to find information about the book and the author on the Internet, and that’s how I learned that she was a woman and, though she was born in West Virginia, she spent half of her life in China and spoke both languages more than fluently because she was “equally well versed in Chinese and English literary traditions…”.
I also learned that she published a lot of books and that “The Good Earth”, published in 1931, became an immediate sensation and remained in the best-seller list for two years, winning the Pulitzer Prize the following year.
As Alice said, I became “curiouser and curiouser”, and with great joy (because I feel a great attraction towards the Chinese culture) I read that the book tells the story of a Chinese farmer during the years of the last emperor. This specific edition contains detailed explanatory notes, a chronology of Buck’s life and work, a timeline of significant events that sheds light on the historical context of the book. I decided that this was definitely the book that I needed, so I took it with me.
So far I’ve read the introduction, the chronology of Pearl S. Buck life and work, and the historical context of “The Good Earth”, as well as the first chapter. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my reading, and the best part is that I’ve learned a handful of precious words: eke out, barred, bleak, squelch, pawns, tattered, fluttered, fruition, brazen, thatched, gourd, shriveled, tottered, bawled, wadding, tasseled, gruel, sup, stooped, mutinous, pock-marked, betrothal, barrow, grimaced, guffaw, hovered, skirted, beancurd, lounged, incensed, impudence, sliver, striding, tinkles, dais, gilt, gash, gruffly, plodded, snugly, scant, drooping, spruce, tinder, smouldered, shouldered, volubly, seemly, demurring, moth-browed, meet (proper or fitting), tarried, cowered, doggedly… not few, huh?
By the way, I’ve always thought that perhaps I need to learn all the S section of an English dictionary, since there are so many words starting with an “s” that I ignore.
Having stumbled upon “The Good Earth” has made me very happy, because that it will certainly give me hours and hours of enjoyment and, besides, lots and lots of new words that I’ll be able to use in my future posts.

13 comentarios:

  1. Your English is already excellent, but how admirable that you are constantly striving to learn more! I read "The Good Earth" many years ago, and it is a classic. Ages ago, I think in the 1930s it was made into an Oscar winning movie. If you should ever find a DVD of it, you should watch it and compare the movie to the novel.
    In Mexico City there is a restaurant chain called "La Buena Tierra". Alejandro and I have eaten there frequently because it is close to the apartment that I rent, and because it specializes in healthy food. I have no idea if the owners realize that their restaurants share a name with a famous U.S. novel. But I was telling Alejandro about Pearl Buck and "The Good Earth", and I recommended the book to him.

  2. I truly appreciate your comments, Bill, and let me tell you that your texts have been a source of inspiration for my desire to expand my vocabulary. I'm enjoying the book very much, and I'll follow your recommendation as to the dvd when I finish it. Regards.

  3. Tino, I feel the same about Spanish. Sure, I have a decent vocabulary that lets me get by, but I'm always hoping to learn more.

    I've never read Pearl Buck, but she's on my list for someday. Also, don't forget you can buy kindle books on Amazon and you can download the reader for free to use on your computer. Also, check out Project Gutenberg, which provides electronic versions of English books for free. The books are all older, with expired copyrights, but it's a good resource. Oh, and there are also free kindle books on Amazon.


    Kim G
    San Cristóbal de las Casas
    Where we loving the sights and sounds.

    1. Kim, I appreciate your tips on the kindle books and the Gutenberg project... I do have a little tablet which I use for reading ebooks and I guess I should use it more often. Enjoy Chiapas, boy sometimes I'm envious you know my country more that I do hahahaha.

    2. You know, at this point I know Mexico better than most Mexicans. Kind of ironic, but not a lot of people have the opportunity to travel. I feel very fortunate. At this very moment, I'm in a fantastic restaurant on the Zócalo of Córdoba, Veracruz eating a wonderful "sopa de mariscos." Why am I here? It's completely random. It got dark, and I had to stop. And I'm now having another amazing adventure. Saludos y abrazos desde Córdoba!

    3. That is very true... how I would like to visit Chetumal and other places of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Chiapas, Tabasco... Puebla, Tlaxcala, Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, to name only the states, but either I don't have time (there's a limited number of vacation days every year) or I don't have money... deep inside I know it will be possible in the future. And back to your trip, you just can't stop surprising me... now in Cordoba. I hope you enjoyed good coffee and good food. Meet any Veracruzanos?

  4. Oh I love this post! How wonderful that you seek out knowledge through books. I am not even close to being fluent in Spanish but I listen only to music by Spanish artists, to radio stations in Spanish, and try to read CNN's website in Spanish. Of course right now I am only able to understand a few words here and there, but I believe my ears are acclimating to the sound, the cadence, of the Spanish language and one day I hope to speak it well.

    Meanwhile you have found a wonderful book! What a lovely treasure. I've always believed we can go anywhere we want in the world just by reading a book. I am so glad you are enjoying it so.

    Happy reading!


  5. And by the way - should I ever, ever be able to speak Spanish as well as you currently speak English I will be proud as can be!


  6. Barbara you just made my day! I thank you so much for your comments, mostly because through them (and my reading) I can see that I made a terrific choice by taking The Good Earth with me. I wish you the best in your journey to learning Spanish, please feel free to ask me when you have a question related with my mother tongue.

  7. Thank you my dear - I'll remember your kind offer of help and try to never make my ignorance an imposition! : )

  8. The funny thing is that I am in the USA and I have trouble finding books in Spanish, you can place the order but the books in Spanish are very expensive maybe because of the shipping costs, I even tried e books but happens that some publishers don't offer e books in this country only in some Spanish speaking countries, this is absurd but I absurd myself as well since I should try books in English, doesn't it?
    If you need some books in English just let me know and I'll find a way to mail it to you.
    Regards, K.S.

  9. I truly appreciate your kind offer!!!! About books in Spanish, have you tried Amazon? They carry a lot of Spanish titles, and many are used, in good conditions, and... cheaper. I've had the same problem trying to buy e-books in English, they won't sell them to me because I'm ordering them from Mexico. Isn't this idiotic? Well, perhaps it would be a good idea if you tried books in English, huh? Hugs.


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