saber o conocer? understanding from experience

I admittedly didn’t improve in my Spanish as much as I had hoped, but the amount of joy I got out of the whole experience makes that all okay by me.  If I could go back and re-live my 3 weeks in Bocas, I would not change one single thing.

One of the things I loved about learning Spanish, was seeing how much language can influence culture and the way we think of ourselves and the world.  It is fascinating! Like, sometimes there is no word in Spanish for something we have in English (no words to accurately express the same thing), or there are multiple words in Spanish to express something that we only say in one way in English.  Even though these differences are what make it really hard for me when I am trying to talk and translating everything in my mind word for word (NOT a good technique when trying to speak a new language haha); they are also what make me intrigued.

One of my favorites are the 2 words for “to know”.  You use saber when you know facts, a skill, things that you learn and memorize.   You use conocer when you are (or are not) familiar or acquainted with a person, a place, or an object.  The difference between the knowings is experience.  For example, you can know who someone is (saber), but do you really KNOW them??? (conocer).

These 2 words made me think about my own life and how having direct experiences and practices changes everything for me.  We grow up with people all around us telling us things are like this, or things are like that.  We read to learn, we study and memorize facts to accumulate knowledge.  We “know” what we need to do to stay healthy, or lose weight, or save money, or reduce stress, or be more loving or more present with life.  Often we know these things (or like I like to say….we saber these things) because we are told these things, and when reminded of them it’s a reply of….. “I know, I know”.

And then there are things we know because we have experienced them.  These are the things we know in our bones.  These are the things that shift our perspectives, that open our minds, that change our ideas and stories of ourselves and the world……if we let them.   These are the things we answer with a resounding “Yes!  I know!”  The things that build empathy and compassion and connection.  I love to conocer things 🙂

To me, this is so much of what traveling is to me.  To become intimately acquainted with new people, places, and things.   I have come to know so much more about myself and the world by experiencing it.  I know in my heart that people are so much more alike than they are different.  I know that eye contact, energy, music and dance can connect people as much as, or more, than a common language.  I know that there is so much goodness and so much kindness in this world.  I know that the more I am immersed in community, connection and the things I am passionate about; the less I need or even think about the “things” and comforts that I thought I would miss (i.e. hot showers, comfortable beds, nice clothes, air conditioning, specialty mustards and condiments from Trader Joe’s).

Another thing I love about Spanish is how they ask your age. English:  How OLD are you?  In a culture that fights hard against the most human thing there is (aging)…even the language behind it seems negative in a way.

In Spanish- “How many years do you have?”  I love it!  I have 38 years of life…..isn’t that great?!  haha….Like it’s something wonderful you are collecting…..It sounds way more positive to me!  My friend asked me in another language, Guari Guari “How much I have completed”  38 years completed?  That’s great!

If you are interested in reading any more about how language shapes our thinking, I loved this article: Click HERE


8 thoughts on “saber o conocer? understanding from experience

  1. Ah, Kelly…once again you have expanded our knowledge base as you share your experience…so is that saber or conocer?? How much more do I know now that I have read your blog and the fascinating article you referenced??? I think I need to experience that for myself…looking forward to visiting Panama with you some day…Love, Momma ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I must say I have loved hearing about your great experiences. YOU are one great 32 year young lady. Your Mom is so proud and I hope she gets a chance do go with you sometime.
    Love Ya Aunt Ma y Lou.


  3. Well, I love everything about this. I love the distinction between the 2 “knows”. “When you conocer better, you DO better”
    -Maya Angelou
    Thats how you can tell the difference.
    Otherwise its just a mental concept.
    I love the connection between the words used regarding age and how it reflects how we view and feel about it. When my step sister died at 48 I began to have an appreciation for every year I am blessed with. I have 41 years! How lucky am I!?
    Lastly, I love that you KNOW that there is so much kindness and good in the world, because especially lately, I havent believed that. If you know it, I can at least believe you until I know it too ❤


    1. Love the way you share your own connections when you comment on Kelly’s posts…you are contributing to the kindness and good in the world, Maria!
      ❤ Liz


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