How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
iguanamon
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1980
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:14 am
Location: Virgin Islands
Languages: Speaks: English (Native); Spanish (C2); Portuguese (C2); Haitian Creole (C1); Ladino/Djudeo-espanyol (C1); Lesser Antilles French Creole (B2)
Studies: Catalan
Language Log: viewtopic.php?t=797
x 10811

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby iguanamon » Mon May 24, 2021 4:50 pm

I agree with both kanewai and coldrainwater. "Don Quixote" is a hard book to read, but well worth the effort. I read it in high school in English translation by Tobias Smollet. I re-read it about a decade ago in Spanish. The issue with DQ is not just Spanish but 500 year old Spanish. For this, I used an annotated version.

The first book of DQ sets the stage. The second book of DQ breaks the fourth wall hundreds of years before "breaking the fourth wall" became a common thing. Cervantes brings the tragicomic and bittersweet nature of the Knight to all its glory. It is for this reason that DQ is often cited as "the first modern (western) novel. The story is also available for free as an audio-book all over the web to accompany reading.

"Cien años de soledad" also should be read in an annotated version. There is so much reference to nature and idiosyncratic Colombian cultural references in the book, that some of the best dictionaries won't be able to explain them adequately. I read the RAE edition which has a long forward and copious notes with a glossary.

Gabo's "100 years" is a classic of not just Spanish-language literature, Latin American literature, or Colombian literature... it is a classic of world literature. It is much more approachable than DQ in Spanish and delivers just as well.

Reading these books is not a simple page turning exercise. It is an exercise in thought and contemplation as much as a struggle with the native Spanish. Again, it is well worth the effort and it will take time. Don't be downhearted about having to look up words. The look-ups can be essential to true comprehension of these masterpieces... though also, don't turn the novels into things to be studied by stagnating over looking up every flipping unknown word. They will eventually sort themselves out.

Have a look at the Cervantes Institute DQ version online. The first paragraph of the first chapter has 16 notes alone. Not every note needs to be consulted. Be judicious in their use, but when you need them or want them... they are there.
10 x

User avatar
Le Baron
Green Belt
Posts: 474
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2021 5:14 pm
Location: The scullery
Languages: English (N), Nederlands, Français, Deutsch, Esperanto (a very worthy language). Studying: Castellano, Swahili, rather slowly, but surely. Also Sranantongo in the past with my wife, but it has lapsed. Dabbled in: Cantonese, Russian, Norwegian. Finished the Hawaiian course on Duolingo, but can barely remember a thing!
x 978

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby Le Baron » Mon May 24, 2021 7:33 pm

iguanamon wrote:Reading these books is not a simple page turning exercise. It is an exercise in thought and contemplation as much as a struggle with the native Spanish. Again, it is well worth the effort and it will take time. Don't be downhearted about having to look up words. The look-ups can be essential to true comprehension of these masterpieces... though also, don't turn the novels into things to be studied by stagnating over looking up every flipping unknown word. They will eventually sort themselves out.


I wouldn't argue with the idea of having to stick through the initial discomfort of looking up words and reading notes. Reading comprehension does take time and improves, but I don't want it to be study; it should be the fruits of study. I'm much more willing to fly over some words and constructions in order to read something and if that still isn't enough to read it then I'll leave it a later time.
2 x

User avatar
coldrainwater
Blue Belt
Posts: 572
Joined: Sun Jan 01, 2017 4:53 am
Location: Houston, Texas
Languages: EN (N), ES (intermediate), DE (beginner)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7636
x 1367

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby coldrainwater » Tue May 25, 2021 2:00 am

Lawyer&Mom wrote:Running with Anki involves TTS, right?

I limber up ahead of time (Zombieland rule #18...always follow the rules), but saying I use TTS would be too much of a stretch, even for a thread like this. Here it appears I meet life, cars and language learning head-on. The real risk of running in a city is very often what is behind you, not what is in front of you, so having open ears may be more of a safety factor than having open eyes. I may not be able to see a car behind me, but often I can hear it in time to get out of the way. Traffic laws in Houston are more like traffic suggestions (quote from a police officer I knew personally).

In addition to raw stupidity combined with general language passion, I have on my side that I run slower than many people walk and occasionally google fit can't tell whether it should give me cardio points or just mark me as completely stationary. I don't hug trees often, but for this type of stretch reading, I definitely learned to hug curbs and can bail off the road in a pinch (rule #22, when in doubt, know your way out).

In the daytime, when there is too much traffic to read via Anki, I take my 'real' cardio indoors and train stairs via a 10-story office building where fitness is built against gravity (which we all fight) rather than with speed (which I don't have). I have at least two major passions in life, learning and fitness. Neither one of them are going to be achieved overnight, and both are hard to maintain so they might as well learn to live with one another. I use stretch literature on stairs with one hand physically holding onto the rail and the other holding my smartphone reading via Anki. The reading material is way over my level and the cardio right at my level. So one is building (and in a building on stairs) and the other maintenance.

It sounds almost like a jest except that I have read many thousands of pages like that, mostly stretch literature/tomes and do participate actively in the polyglot fitness challenge. Objectively, quite a bit of my German reading ability is due to this decision of how to read stretch literature. Fingers (but not feet) crossed + sturdy ankles = no falls yet. I run outside in the late evening/night and use the beacon of my smartphone as a warning light (at least I know I am an idiot and do signal ahead). It is very similar to how we use turn signals when driving. In Houston at least, if you see a blinker light, all the driver is doing is telling you that they are definitely coming into your lane whether you want them to or not and it is simply a matter of courtesy that you are being warned. I try my best to reciprocate, even if I am only on foot.
6 x

Online
User avatar
sirgregory
Yellow Belt
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:22 pm
Location: USA
Languages: Speaks: English (N), Spanish
Studies: German, French
x 225

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby sirgregory » Wed May 26, 2021 4:57 pm

luke wrote: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.

I think the professor is correct about this. At first blush the 98% standard might sound too high, but unfortunately I think it's about right. Some years ago I was using Spanish for a while as my primary language and I felt like I had it down pretty good. So I figured I'd get some Spanish literature. I picked up Don Quijote and El amor en los tiempos de cólera but I was in for a rude awakening when I started reading them. The original Quijote is brutal. It's like reading Shakespeare but in Spanish. I have the RAE version and even with the footnotes for all the archaic words it's still pretty difficult, although still enjoyable and worthwhile. Garcia Marquez is not nearly so hard, but I was trying to read it casually like I would an English novel and after a fair bit of denial I had to admit that I didn't have the vocabulary to read it unassisted (I was probably at, I don't know, 95% or so but not 98%). I wasn't aware of this 98% rule of thumb at the time but I reached pretty much the same conclusion on my own.

One thing to do would be to start out with some shorter material. Garcia Marquez has quite a few short story collections and some novellas which should be more manageable and should get you used to his style and vocabulary. For a longer novel, my main problem is that I hate using a dictionary while reading as it interrupts the flow. If I ever revisit El amor I would probably do something like the following: Read maybe 15 pages at a time. Read the selection in English first. Skim through the Spanish and flag the unknown words. Make a little glossary for the session. Then read through the Spanish with minimal interruption. Or I might just read the whole thing in English and then do the Spanish. That won't help much with the Spanish vocabulary but knowing the characters and the story should aid overall comprehension and lessen the cognitive load of reading the original version.
4 x

jmar257
Orange Belt
Posts: 204
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2020 2:41 pm
Location: USA
Languages: English (N), español (Intermediate), français (Lower Intermediate), deutsch (beginner)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... hp?t=15645
x 478

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby jmar257 » Wed May 26, 2021 8:49 pm

sirgregory wrote:One thing to do would be to start out with some shorter material. Garcia Marquez has quite a few short story collections and some novellas which should be more manageable and should get you used to his style and vocabulary. For a longer novel, my main problem is that I hate using a dictionary while reading as it interrupts the flow.

Same, I tend to stick to reading on Kindle until I feel confident enough to read paper books without feeling like I'm missing a ton. I find the Kindle lookup isn't nearly as much of a flow-breaker. That said, I don't tend to read a ton of literature even in English, I read a lot of non-fiction and genre fiction. That said, I have a Garcia Marquez short story collection I want to get to this year...
1 x
Feel free to give me corrections in any of my target languages!

Online
User avatar
luke
Orange Belt
Posts: 244
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2015 9:09 pm
Languages: English (N). Spanish (intermediate), Esperanto (B1), French (intermediate but rusting)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=16948
x 539

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby luke » Thu May 27, 2021 2:44 am

sirgregory wrote:Garcia Marquez has quite a few short story collections and some novellas which should be more manageable and should get you used to his style and vocabulary.


Another supplement for Cien años de soledad if another 10+ hour automobile trip shows up in my life this year is the Vivir para contarla autobiography audiobook. The sample on audible seems pretty comprehensible and think it would not only provide real world backstory for the novel, but also use García Márquez' idiolect, which was something else Professor Arguelles mentioned in his talk.

Wouldn't expect his autobiography to draw me into multiple listenings in the same year. Just for fun, so low pressure. Also, a mind that wanders while listening to an autobiography doesn't necessarily limit understanding of the rest of his story. Arguelles also mentioned that a mind-wander is what makes audiobooks harder than reading. (you can rewind, but I get his point).
0 x

User avatar
IronMike
Black Belt - 2nd Dan
Posts: 2114
Joined: Thu May 12, 2016 6:13 am
Location: Boston
Languages: Russian, 3/3 (DLPT, 2021) 2+ (OPI, 2021)
German, 2L/1+R (DLPT, 2021)
Italian, 1L/2R (DLPT, 2019)
Esperanto, C1 (KER skriba ekzameno, 2017)
BCS, 3L/2+R/2S (DLPT in, oh God, 1999!)
Slovene, 2+L/3R (DLPT in, yes, 1999)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5189
x 5347
Contact:

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby IronMike » Sat May 29, 2021 11:59 pm

coldrainwater wrote:Zombieland rule #18...always follow the rules

This comment right here makes this thread worth reading.
3 x
You're not a C1 (or B1 or whatever) if you haven't tested.
CEFR --> DLPT equivalencies

rpg
Orange Belt
Posts: 133
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:21 pm
Languages: English (N), Spanish (B2), French (B1)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=8368
x 383

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby rpg » Sun May 30, 2021 7:56 am

sirgregory wrote:Some years ago I was using Spanish for a while as my primary language and I felt like I had it down pretty good. So I figured I'd get some Spanish literature. I picked up Don Quijote and El amor en los tiempos de cólera but I was in for a rude awakening when I started reading them. The original Quijote is brutal. It's like reading Shakespeare but in Spanish. I have the RAE version and even with the footnotes for all the archaic words it's still pretty difficult, although still enjoyable and worthwhile.


Not to pick on you but I want to push back on this a little bit, because I've seen a lot of comments like this online that had put me off attempting El Quijote for a long time (admittedly I've still only read the first 10 chapters or so, but that's because my language study got interrupted at the time, not because of the difficulty of the language). I think it's much easier than Shakespeare. Here's the start of a random chapter (15) (link):

Cuenta el sabio Cide Hamete Benengeli que así como don Quijote se despidió de sus huéspedes y de todos los que se hallaron al entierro del pastor Grisóstomo, él y su escudero se entraron por el mesmo bosque donde vieron que se había entrado la pastora Marcela, y, habiendo andado más de dos horas por él, buscándola por todas partes, sin poder hallarla, vinieron a parar a un prado lleno de fresca yerba, junto del cual corría un arroyo apacible y fresco: tanto, que convidó y forzó a pasar allí las horas de la siesta, que rigurosamente comenzaba ya a entrar.


This is relatively normal Spanish--the syntax can get a bit winding and in places archaic, and here and there you find archaic words (but as a learner you frequently run into unknown words when reading anyway, and at least here they're glossed for you with a good edition). But in general I don't think it's that bad at all. Now let's pick a random part of Shakespeare (Act III of Twelfth Night):

SCENE I. OLIVIA's garden.
Enter VIOLA, and Clown with a tabour
VIOLA
Save thee, friend, and thy music: dost thou live by
thy tabour?
Clown
No, sir, I live by the church.
VIOLA
Art thou a churchman?
Clown
No such matter, sir: I do live by the church; for
I do live at my house, and my house doth stand by
the church.
VIOLA
So thou mayst say, the king lies by a beggar, if a
beggar dwell near him; or, the church stands by thy
tabour, if thy tabour stand by the church.
Clown
You have said, sir. To see this age! A sentence is
but a cheveril glove to a good wit: how quickly the
wrong side may be turned outward!
VIOLA
Nay, that's certain; they that dally nicely with
words may quickly make them wanton.
Clown
I would, therefore, my sister had had no name, sir.
VIOLA
Why, man?
Clown
Why, sir, her name's a word; and to dally with that
word might make my sister wanton. But indeed words
are very rascals since bonds disgraced them.


I can more or less figure out what's going on: a tabour must be some kind of musical instrument & it begins by punning on two meanings of "live by": to live nearby (a meaning we still have) and to making a living with (an archaic phrasing, I think, but still intelligible). But then it starts getting pretty hard for me to follow: I don't really understand what "they that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton." means, and the line "Why, sir, her name's a word; and to dally with that word might make my sister wanton. But indeed words are very rascals since bonds disgraced them." is near gibberish to me. Seems like some kind of double entendre with the word "wanton" followed by something that's a completely mystery. I really need a few annotations here to understand everything.

IMO, though they both lived around the same time, the English of Shakespeare feels more different to me from the present-day language than the Spanish of Cervantes. And I think Shakespeare relied more on now-opaque puns and wordplay than Cervantes did, which can make things worse. Overall I don't think learners should fear El Quijote!
4 x
Super challenge 2020/21
French reading: 2300 / 5000      Spanish reading: 81 / 5000
French movies: 65 / 150       Spanish movies: 98 / 150

Online
User avatar
sirgregory
Yellow Belt
Posts: 75
Joined: Sat Apr 27, 2019 5:22 pm
Location: USA
Languages: Speaks: English (N), Spanish
Studies: German, French
x 225

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby sirgregory » Mon May 31, 2021 12:32 am

rpg wrote:Not to pick on you but I want to push back on this a little bit, because I've seen a lot of comments like this online that had put me off attempting El Quijote for a long time (admittedly I've still only read the first 10 chapters or so, but that's because my language study got interrupted at the time, not because of the difficulty of the language). I think it's much easier than Shakespeare. Here's the start of a random chapter (15)

[...]

IMO, though they both lived around the same time, the English of Shakespeare feels more different to me from the present-day language than the Spanish of Cervantes. And I think Shakespeare relied more on now-opaque puns and wordplay than Cervantes did, which can make things worse. Overall I don't think learners should fear El Quijote!


Believe it or not, I initially approached Quijote thinking it would be relatively easy and I attempted to read the original without even having read it in English. You see, I had read a fair bit of the Reina-Valera Bible and found that to be very understandable. The original Reina-Valera goes back to 1602 which is around the same time as the English KJV. R-V seemed much closer to modern than the KJV and this led me to assume, incorrectly, that most of the Spanish of this era would be similarly intelligible. Little did I know that Spaniards have trouble reading Cervantes. As I recall, I got through a significant portion of Book 1. Many of the individual paragraphs were understandable and I was more or less hanging in there but over the course of many pages I found I was just missing too much to continue further (this goes back to the 98% thing). Whenever I return to the original I will swallow my pride and read each chapter first in translation (either in English or a modern Spanish adaptation). Or perhaps just work through my favorite selections rather than the whole thing.

It's hard to say which English author would most accurately approximate the difficulty of Cervantes, but in terms of cultural stature Shakespeare would seem to be his most obvious analogue and the key point is that in both cases native speakers of today have difficulty reading these authors without annotations and special effort (though maybe it's not quite proportionate). I think it is good to be aware of this for those approaching these texts as foreign language literature and not to approach it as naively as I did. I don't mean to dissuade anyone from reading Cervantes, Shakespeare, etc. but I think it's good to be realistic and not hesitate to cheat absolutely shamelessly with translations and other forms of assistance.
4 x

User avatar
leosmith
Blue Belt
Posts: 728
Joined: Thu Sep 29, 2016 10:06 pm
Location: Seattle
Languages: N:English
~C1: Spanish
~B2: French, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Swahili
Language Log: https://languagecrush.com/forum/t/2093
x 1662
Contact:

Re: How have you approached "stretch" literature?

Postby leosmith » Mon May 31, 2021 2:22 am

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

einzelne wrote:I have an original book on my kindle app (I prefer to use iPad since e-link readers are not that good when you need to use pop-up dictionary often) 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 Russian translations are too loose or downright incorrect). I underline new words in the app (adding a translation, if the build-in dictionary doesn’t have it) and when I start a new session next day (or when I a have free time, since the app is synchronized, I can always open the same book on my iPhone when I’m standing in the line etc.) I try to go through the new vocabulary (I tried to implement flash cards, but I’m either too lazy or disorganized for that) before I start reading a new portion of text. If I happen to have an audiobook, I listen and relisten to the sections I’ve already read while working my dog

Overall, I think it's a good method, and I'm sure it works well for you, but I have two questions.
1) Why do you read the translation first? To each his own, but for me that would reduce my motivation.
2) Why don't you just use a reading tool? They have built in mouse-over dictionaries and keep track of your vocab, including color coding. There are free ones available, if price is the issue.
1 x
https://languagecrush.com/reading - try our free multi-language reading tool


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: jackb, timsung207 and 2 guests