Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Unfamiliar Distinctions, Part I

July 15, 2005

YEARS ago,when computer translationprograms werestill in the earlystages, program developersfed into acomputer the phrase,“The spirit is willing,but the flesh is weak.”What emerged inRussian was “Theliquor is strong, butthe meat is rotten.”The problem, ofcourse, was that thecomputer had encountered words withmore than one meaning and, having ameager spiritual existence, the poor thinghad opted for a purely concrete translation.We language learners are sometimesnot very different. When, in another language,we find words with more than onemeaning or find the contrary, several wordsthat we thought had only one meaning, weoften misinterpret or remain perplexed.Languages such as ancient Aramaicand many of the indigenous languages ofthis continent contain a large percentage ofwords with multiple meanings. These languagesare called “synthetic,” and areoften very poetic. English, on the otherhand, contains a large vocabulary thatallows it to make more distinctions. It is an“analytic” language and is more precise.In general, English is a more analyticlanguage than Spanish. In some cases,however, Spanish differentiates more thanEnglish, and then the English speakerstudying Spanish finds himself in trouble.Let’s take a look at a few nouns whereSpanish outdoes English in distinctions.You may remember that a concha is aflat shell and a caracol is a curled shell,but did you know that Spanish has twowords for “corner?” Rincón refers to theinside of a corner, and esquina refers tothe outside of a corner. Thus, we mightput the broom in the rincón of the kitchen,but we are going to wait for our friend atthe esquina of 1st and Central.Spanish speakers recognize severalkinds of sinks. The kitchen sink is a fregadero.The bathroom sink is a lavamanosor a lavatorio. The big sink in the laundryroom (or outside) is a pila.English may distinguish between onekind of truck and another, but not nearlyas much as Spanish does. A pickup truckis a pickup (pronounced “pee-cúp”). If itholds five tons or more, it is a camión. Adump truck is a vagoneta. A semi truck isa furgón or trailer (pronounced “try-lair”).Spanish speakers are also more discerningabout the nature of time. Tiempomeans “time” in general, that is, in anabstract sense (careful – tiempo alsomeans “weather”). Thus: El tiempo vuela(“time flies”); and no tengo tiempo (“Idon’t have time”). Vez, on the other hand,refers to time in the sense of “occasion.”Thus: Lo vi solamente una vez (“I sawhim only one time”); and ¿Cuantas vecestengo que decirte? (“How many times doI have to tell you?”).A further distinction then comes intoplay when we ask for the time of day.Spanish speakers ask for the hour, not thetime: ¿Qué hora es? (literally, “What houris it?”). If it is one o’clock or any part ofone, the verb and the article are singular:Es la una; es la una y media. Once it istwo o’clock or later, the verb and article areplural: Son las dos; son las tres y media.Perhaps the nouns are not all that difficult.It is distinctions among the dreadedverbs that really trip us up. Another time,I’ll explain how complicated it is just to“miss” and to “stop.”

You may be interested

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Wednesday, September 30
Costa Rica
5585 views
Costa Rica
5585 views

Costa Rica coronavirus updates for Wednesday, September 30

Alejandro Zúñiga - September 30, 2020

Costa Rica announced 24 new coronavirus-related deaths over the last day for a total of 904, according to official data…

Some 34 million jobs lost in Latin America due to pandemic
Business
3341 views
Business
3341 views

Some 34 million jobs lost in Latin America due to pandemic

Carlos MANDUJANO / AFP - September 30, 2020

The two aspirers for the presidency of Costa Rica, the evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado and the former minister Carlos Alvarado, reach the closing of the electoral campaign for April 1st with a technical draw, according to a poll disclosed this Friday.

CureVac launches second stage of vaccine clinical trials in Peru and Panama
News
21363 views
News
21363 views

CureVac launches second stage of vaccine clinical trials in Peru and Panama

AFP - September 30, 2020

The German pharmaceutical company CureVac announced that it has started Phase 2 clinical trials of its experimental vaccine against Covid-19,…