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 wordreference.com 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.