Improving your native language with foreign language study

I always thought my English vocabulary was fairly extensive, so it’s not often that I hear new words and think ‘why haven’t I heard of that word before?’ (this doesn’t count for technical and regional terms, of course).

Recently, though, I had trouble understanding the concept that my teacher was trying to explain to me. So I looked up the word in my trusty dictionary, and it came back with the translation ‘convene, convoke’. Convene is fine. Convoke was a different story. Revoke and invoke, I’d heard of, but convoke was new to me (it means to call together to a meeting, in a sort of formal way). Even after learning its meaning, I still find that ‘a meeting of the delegates was convoked‘ sounds really weird.

After seeing so many brilliant uses of archaic or obscure English terms used by speakers of other languages, this shouldn’t really surprise me. Often, translations in dictionaries are formal and unnatural-sounding, so I suppose it’s not completely out of the question that people who use dictionary terms might even be unintelligible to native speakers.

Even though I will probably never utter the word convoke again, I think I will just take these moments as opportunities to both improve my target language, and my native one.