Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Feelings attached to words

One thing I have realised is that swearing does not feel as wrong nor as strong when I hear it in a foreign language as when I hear it in my own. For that matter, saying 'I love you' does not have the same connotation in my language than in a foreign one.

We associate words with the experiences that we have experienced them in. It is different learning a word in a foreign language classroom from learning it in a real-case scenario. We associate words with the feelings that we have experienced as they have been used all along our life by our family, friends and acquaintances. We have also learned about their connotations as we have read them in books, as we have heard them used in films, etc. When those words are learned in a classroom setting they do not hold the same emotional weight. We simply do not have enough experience to associate to those words.

One example of this is my cousin's experience of learning the word 'wheel-barrow'. He used to have difficulty remembering it - it did not have any link to real life. However, after he helped me shift a big amount of soil in my garden he will never forget it, particularly because he can remember how heavy and burdensome a 'wheel-barrow' is. This is quite different to his previous experience with wheel-barrels. The most notorious one being our granddad's wheel-barrel which is disused and it is a feature of his cherished allotment. My cousin has typically associated the Spanish word for 'wheel-barrow' ('carretilla') with our granddad's 'wheel-barrow'. Whether he will think of his new experience with a 'wheel barrel' in England when he hears the word in Spanish, I do not know. It will be interesting to ask him.

Talking about the efficiency of learning in a classroom I must add, though, that I do remember the tenderness that my English teacher transmitted to us when she was describing the meaning of the words 'cuddle' and 'cuddly'. She pretended to cuddle a teddy bear. Even though I do not have the experience of my family saying 'cuddle' as they tenderly hugged me as a child, I can remember how tender a word it is because of my teacher's explanation. So it is possible to attach feelings to words as they are learned in a classroom setting.

1 comment:

  1. I could never remember the word for scissors until I went to Spain and saw people using the tijeras. I looked it up in the dictionary several times and always forgot what they were called.