Tag Archives: Oaxaca

How do you say “Way too many”?

In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, thirteen indigenous languages are spoken. (This in addition to Spanish.)

In Oaxaca city, working with a group of preschool teachers who were making handmade readers for their students, we posed a question: How, in your various languages, would you express quantity: words like “lots,” “a few,” “some,” “a bunch”?

They grinned and asked us back: What are you referring to? Because in our languages it depends whether you’re talking about a lot/few/some/bunch of:

Long, skinny objects

Round objects

Animals

Fingers

Stuff that is neither close nor far away

Things we used to have

Things we might have someday

and so on.

I was humbled. Until then I had felt smug about the precision of my prose.

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