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What Languages Can Teach Us About Learning

When we make the leap from memorizing facts to truly understanding course material, a powerful transformation occurs


The English word know has many different meanings. For example, if someone were to say, “I know the alphabet backwards,” know in this instance refers to a fact or something that can be memorized. However, if that same person were to say, “I know him; he is my friend,” know suddenly takes on a more personal meaning.

Teacher Writing on the Board
Strive to understand and apply what you’re learning.
In Portuguese, 1
Also applies to the Spanish words saber and conocer
there are two separate words to represent these two very different meanings: saber and conhecer. Saber refers to knowing facts or truths about a topic or situation, while conhecer represents a deeper kind of understanding.

As you pursue education, you can choose to simply saber the concepts and principles you are learning, or you can conhecer them. As you strive to truly understand and apply what you are learning in your courses, your education will become meaningful and applicable.

Coursework and real life

True learning will not occur until you apply what was taught in a course to a real life situation. For example, it’s quite easy to saber a math equation. A person can see it on the paper and memorize its components. However, when the test comes, all that person knows is a memorized math equation — they won’t know how to actually solve the problem. To conhecer math, you need to be able to apply the principles you've learned to the situation. It is in the application that you'll truly learn a concept.

When you memorize coursework, you can remember definitions, equations, and facts word for word. But when you understand coursework, you can put concepts into your own words.

In order to conhecer the principles taught in class, these three steps can help you: (1) have the desire to internalize coursework, (2) understand why what you are learning is important, and (3) apply what you have learned. Once you are able to do these three things, your education will take on a whole new meaning and you'll experience deeper personal growth.

To truly know the Savior

Picture of Christ Smiling
Jesus Christ knows us perfectly.

The concept of saber and conhecer also applies to personal relationships with the Savior. There are many ways to learn facts about Jesus Christ and His ministry. However, to truly know Him and have a relationship with Him, it helps if you open your heart and seek Him.

In the April 2020 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught how to better know the Savior. He said, “It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, and His truths.” 2
Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2020
The prophet then highlighted five essential practices to help you come to know (conhecer) the Savior. He taught:
  1. Offer heartfelt daily prayer
  2. Search the scriptures
  3. Hear Him in the temple
  4. Heed the words of the prophets
  5. Hear Him through the Holy Ghost

By diligently doing these things, President Nelson promises, “You will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your marriage, family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”
The Savior knows and loves you, and by seeking to truly know Him and know the principles taught in BYU-Pathway courses, many blessings will come your way.