Knowing me, knowing you

In English, we only have one word: to know. In many other languages, however, there is a distinction made between what my professor called know-how (Spanish/French conocer, connaitre) and know-that (saber, savoir). I would tend to define them more along the lines of know-of (being familiar with something or someone - "I know Italy", "I know Johnny Depp") and know-that (facts, how to to things - "I know that I'm failing", "I know how to do long division").

I wonder how the fact that we only have one word affects the way that English speakers know things. How does it affect our view of the world?

srah - Friday, 12 September 2003 - 12:41 PM
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Comments (7)

gravatar katie - September 12, 2003 - 1:34 PM -

A resounding YES to that question. I'm sure it's very hard to be a non-English speaker trying to learn English, because their inclination will be to want to use different words...

gravatar richard - September 12, 2003 - 3:15 PM -

srah asks: How does it affect our view of the world?

I don't know.

gravatar Jez - September 12, 2003 - 4:02 PM -

No lo s. No conozco nadie que te pueda responder.

gravatar Jez - September 12, 2003 - 4:05 PM -

But then again, you would say: je connais Johnny Depp if you knew personally, or if you were saying that you were aware of his existence. So the word is also fairly ambiguous in French and Spanish too.

gravatar Mer - September 12, 2003 - 4:44 PM -

I love conundrums like this (conundra?).

I don't think people learning English have a problem going to a one-word for two-meanings system. In going from English to French, I (nor my classmates) didn't mind learning one word for 2 meanings, it was always the other way 'round that gave us trouble. Right? The 2 kinds of "to be"'s in Spanish, for example. (Or is that, "to have"'s? (soy/estoy...)

gravatar srah - September 13, 2003 - 1:06 AM -

That's to be.

And the first time I went to France, I couldn't understand why people kept asking me if I knew this or that famous person... not realizing that connaitre could mean to know of a musical group or actor...

gravatar Stephen - September 13, 2003 - 6:16 PM -

It's a strange question. I still have to think about whether I should use savoir or connaitre in certain situations. I know (savoir, c'est sans doute) that it will never come completely naturally for me.

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