How have you approached "stretch" literature?

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How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby luke » Sat May 22, 2021 1:59 pm

Do you want to read some big difficult classic in your target language?

How do you do it?

I'm roughly B something in Spanish. Took almost 10 years off of Spanish, but think in most skills I'm as good as before. (been back on for about 6-12 months).

2 books on my Spanish list have always been Cien años de soledad and Don Quijote. Not limiting myself to those 2, but if I never read them, I'd basically consider myself as never having achieved a significant part of what I set out to do.

One approach I've done and am doing is with Cien años de soledad One years of solitude) is to go headfirst into the actual book. The book 450 pages or so, long sentences, long paragraphs, 20 chapters, complex story told in a not so straight-forward way. It's fantastic.

The techniques below weren't done sequentially. They're things I've given my attention to. I'll put them roughly in order, but some of these happen at the same time and some I return to more than once.
Listen/Read in Spanish/English multiple times with various recordings.
A dabble with Listen/Read using English audio/Spanish text.
Listen/Read in Spanish/Spanish at least once.
Listen to the audiobook in Spanish during very long drives. (think I've listened to it 2 1/2 times in the car.
Watched Jesús G. Maestro (professor) analyze each chapter in a 20 hour series. (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... xmEYbNJp8I)
Watched a bunch of shorter youtube videos on characters, summaries, etc. (in target language)
Read summary on GradeSaver in Spanish.
Dabble and read the Wikipedia article.
Dabble in the translation by itself.

I can understand most of the spoken text now pretty well and am decent at reading the text when I put my mind to it.

I'm still working on it. It's not boring. Lately, I've been listening to a fantastic series that a professional actor is doing for the love of the story. https://www.youtube.com/c/ConKepaAmuchastegui/playlists

Another book on my goal list is Don Quixote. I've never concentrated on it like I've done with the previous book. Based on cavesa's suggestive posts in general, Anaya's El Quijote with a vocabulary of 1600-2000 words has come to my attention and I've just bought it. Comes with a couple CDs that have some of the text recorded. (there are 2 books and 2 CDs).

So I'm going to try this other approach with an adapted, simplifed text.

Contemplating "modernized" version of Don Quixote, but since I've got the stomach to do what I've done with Cien Años, can see doing a variety of things.

Wondering what you all do, suggest, or have done.

edit: added name of professor and link to playlist of lectures.
Last edited by luke on Tue May 25, 2021 2:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby einzelne » Sat May 22, 2021 2:16 pm

I shared my experience here: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 14&t=16499 and got some useful links/comments.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby luke » Sat May 22, 2021 10:01 pm

einzelne wrote:I shared my experience here: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 14&t=16499 and got some useful links/comments.


Please pardon my simplification of part of your opening post. This is to help me understand. Hopefully it doesn't go to far off of your method.

Also, understand that the original thread is richer than any summary here.

einzelne simplifed wrote:I have an original book on my kindle. (to use pop-up dictionary) and a printed translation next to it.

I read the translation first (a paragraph, a page, a chapter — depending on the difficulty of the text and my current knowledge of L2).

Then I read the original checking new words by using pop-up dictionary (quite often translations are too loose or downright incorrect). I underline new words in the kindle (adding a translation, if the build-in dictionary doesn’t have it).

When I start a new session (whenever I have free time, since the app is synchronized, I can always open the book on my iPhone when I’m standing in the line etc.) I try to go through the new vocabulary before I start reading a new portion of text.

If I happen to have an audiobook, I listen and re-listen to the sections I’ve already read while walking my dog.


Very helpful!

Alexander Arguelles - Reading Literature in Foreign Languages: Tool, Techniques, Targe - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUqME-RTtIs
Vocabulary is key. Read aloud. Use program and type text while program makes sure your typing matches the original. Start with elementary texts. 98% rule for extensive reading. Readers, bilingual texts, original and translation, original and use translation only when you're not understanding original. Use audiobooks. Listen/Read L2/L1, L1/L2, L2/L2. Shadowing. Listen to audiobook. Novels, Literature with a capital L.

Longinus suggests the Goldlist method is particularly helpful for reading literature.

lusan uses a paper book, writes down unknown words and transfers them to Anki in a clever way. 20 pages per day. On 100 Years, "I would stay away from the heavy guns till really grounded in the language.

tungemal - Don't make it a chore. Read for pleasure.

Lemus shares about Gabo's master work and using an annotated text, etc, for support.

einzelne does not fear diving into the deep end when he wants to swim in the deep end.

cpnlsn88, start with shorter easier works, works you know. Read widely. Use a vocabulary augmentation method you enjoy. Enjoyment is your true guide. Enjoyment is not a single path. Embrace ambiguity.

risbolle uses a multilingual dictionary.

DaveAgain prefers parallel texts. Write down unknown words if there aren't too many and look them up afterwards for paper books or immediately with an e-book.

Dave27 looks up everything. That's easier with an e-text.

Again, please pardon the simplifications above. I know it can be quite offensive when someone who doesn't understand simplifies what you said so much that it's clear to you they missed the point.

But this sort of read the original, summarize, read again, and again is how I make sense of things.

The original post that einzelne linked to is not that long and definitely worth reading.

Also have enjoyed Professor Arguelles talk a bunch of times.

BTW, read about 65 pages of El Quijote, the Anaya simplifed version. Can see reading and listening to it a few times before I turn my attention from 100 Years of Solitude towards Don Quijote de la Mancha. The Anaya reader has uncovered a few details that I've missed in my previous runs at the original.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby kanewai » Sun May 23, 2021 7:37 am

I struggled with Don Quijote. I tried the original Spanish, but it was more work then pleasure. I liked it, but there chapters that would take me weeks to work through. I switched to a modern Castilian version, but it still was harder than reading modern languages. I finished Book 2 in English.

I'm currently listening to a radio telefónica performance of the second book, and love it to death. It's fantastic. I'm glad I already know the story, though.

Persevere, however you approach it. People often stop with the first book, but to me it's the second book where Cervantes achieves greatness.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby einzelne » Sun May 23, 2021 3:57 pm

Thanks for your summary.

I think I should specify: I don’t shy away from hard work but it’s important to train your stamina by reading lots of less demanding texts before you can tackle a classical text. It tried to read demanding texts (Melville, Heidegger) right away after textbook materials and adapted texts and spectacularly failed. It doesn’t help to shorten your path. The Untranslated project tells about 2-5 years of reading practice and I agree with their estimation.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Sun May 23, 2021 11:21 pm

einzelne wrote:Thanks for your summary.

I think I should specify: I don’t shy away from hard work but it’s important to train your stamina by reading lots of less demanding texts before you can tackle a classical text. It tried to read demanding texts (Melville, Heidegger) right away after textbook materials and adapted texts and spectacularly failed. It doesn’t help to shorten your path. The Untranslated project tells about 2-5 years of reading practice and I agree with their estimation.


Alas this was my experience as a German major in college. The first two years you learn German, the next two years you are supposed to read Goethe and Schiller? It didn’t work well, and at the time I thought it was all my fault. These days I’m much happier reading murder mysteries in German than attempting the Classics.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby Le Baron » Mon May 24, 2021 12:47 am

einzelne wrote:Thanks for your summary. I think I should specify: I don’t shy away from hard work but it’s important to train your stamina by reading lots of less demanding texts before you can tackle a classical text. It tried to read demanding texts (Melville, Heidegger) right away after textbook materials and adapted texts and spectacularly failed. It doesn’t help to shorten your path. The Untranslated project tells about 2-5 years of reading practice and I agree with their estimation.

Wholeheartedly yes. I would second this (and third it and fourth it!). Each to their own, but I've never jumped into a text I thought would be a real slog. Well I have and it can go one of two ways: either you manage it, which means it's actually at your level or just above; or it's a fatiguing exercise in looking-up words and trying to work out complicated sentences. The second is just a motivation-killer.

I know there are all kinds of apps and methodologies for tackling a text, but what we want to do is read a book unencumbered. Without a dozen crutches, which often doesn't feel like reading, but study. The best thing I've ever used for getting moving in reading are comics. I learned loads of words and phrases/idioms (in both French and Dutch) from comics. The historical ones, gag ones, adventure like Tintin etc.

If I've ever felt like having a bash at a classic or modern classic and that my command of a language might not manage it, I go for shorter books. The sense of achievement in finishing it spurs you on to another and you accrue vocabulary/structure instead of worrying about how to get through 400 pages. I'd want to have read at least 20 such books before tackling a 'big book'. I'd already read about 40 progressively harder books in Dutch before tackling Max Havelaar.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby Lianne » Mon May 24, 2021 5:01 am

I have a casual goal of eventually reading the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and at some point I wouldn't mind reading the French ones in the original French. But it's definitely not something I'm rushing to do. Right now I can read YA novels, and even those tire me out a bit.

Right now I'm reading Les Misérables in English and that's hard enough! :lol: (To be fair, I'm reading it only at bedtime, as I often do with ebooks, so I'm only reading a few pages each night before I fall asleep. At some point I'll have to read it during the day if I ever want to finish!)

Also, I read a lot of English "classics", and they can be challenging. Even reading Jane Austen with language from 200 years ago has me tapping words on my Kobo to get the definitions. I can only imagine how challenging reading that stuff in a second language would be!
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby coldrainwater » Mon May 24, 2021 5:39 am

A high percentage of texts that I read tend to be stretch literature and I often prefer classics. With that comes a general soft spot for longer, more complicated novels. While studying Spanish, I read both books mentioned, Cien años de soledad and Don Quijote and both are pretty high on my favourites list for ES.

With Cien años de soledad, I read it like a good stream of consciousness book. I trusted myself to follow the complex and interwoven storyline, but I did not overburden myself parsing the family forest. In short, I made sure that I did not get lost in the weeds or the forest. That approach allowed me to enjoy the ride and perhaps more importantly to focus on the language I was learning. I recall that I had access to a translation and that I had run it through Calibre and read much/most of it at work right out of notepad++. I suspect I plopped a good many paragraphs right into Google Translate when I got too word-tied. Noting that I read part of it at work is also stating that I went out of my way to find enough time to finish it and I put doing so as a rather high life priority at the time. So for stretch literature, I am also stretching my schedule and clearing the rest of my plate.

Don Quijote took me over a month to finish. Version selection was worth at least an hour or two of administration time since there are so many to choose from and I ended up selecting one that stayed as close as it could to the original orthography. Namely, I eschewed anything like an easy-reader or overly-modernized option. I appreciated the humour and elaborate style presented to such an extent that the reading went quickly enough. As with most of my earlier reads in Spanish, it took several hundred pages before I felt used to the author's idiolect and general style. Specifically, with Quijote, I would say I felt that way after 400 pages or so. It creeps up on you but when you are there, you know it. One reason I like such long books is that I know there is a sufficient page count for the read to progress from bumpy to smooth without ending too soon.

Now that I am studying German, I also read longer classics and tend to tackle works way over my level. History repeats itself, but this time I developed habits/methods that help me handle a harder reading language. To do this, I get the text using Calibre from the original DE work (Magic Mountain by Mann is a good example) as well as the text from the translation (EN). I do a modicum of data munging, then run both files through LF Aligner or youalign to align them sentence by sentence. From there I upload the aligned text directly to Anki and use Anki purely as a parallel book reader (no repetition, just reading it once). I use a clipboard app for saving dual-language quotes and interesting vocabulary. What this approach allowed me to do is read hard books literally on the run, as a part of the Polyglot Fitness Challenge. So it took me from desk to city street. That last touch was important to me since I need/needed to be able to put in a good five hours a day sometimes and that worked best by being able to read under much more varied day to day circumstances. I don't think the approach I use will change the 2-5 years of reading 'requirement' at all, but I am confident that at the end of it, I will be able to handle the harder classics without feeling like my brain will explode.

The rest of my 'program' if you call it that is aligned around helping me read and listen also. I am self-teaching grammar and do focus somewhat on using it to assist with reading. I embark on larger dictionary projects to help learn vocabulary and will listen to 1000's of hours of combined audio, plus coursework and other methods to support the effort. For technical literature, I will look at Wikipedia and do some background research, fore and aft, but I consider that to be more for intellectual enrichment than as a reading assist.
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Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Mon May 24, 2021 3:23 pm

Running with Anki involves TTS, right?
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