How to Read and What to Read

Ask specific questions about your target languages. Beginner questions welcome!
User avatar
Seneca
Orange Belt
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 5:08 pm
Location: Eurasia
Languages: English (N)
x 167

How to Read and What to Read

Postby Seneca » Sun Feb 26, 2017 9:53 pm

How does one go about choosing what to read when going beyond transcripts in a course, short news items, etc...? There seem to be many ideas and strategies. One being to work with very simple texts geared towards children and work your way up in time. Another to just get a very long book so you get used to one author's writing style and read it faster and with more comprehension as it goes along. Then I see different arguments for the merits of fiction versus non-fiction. On and on.

What say you all? My instincts (which don't count for much, but they are what they are) would be to go for somethng beyond children's books to work through

Siddhartha is relatively short, but I recall as being fairly simple and straight-forward in prose.
The Da Vinci Code is far from high-quality fiction, but is simple, a page-turner, and longer than Siddhartha.
The Count of Monte Cristo was quite long from what I recall. I don't think the level of it was too hard, but it was many years ago so I may be misremembering.
Alternatively, maybe something like "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" could be good since it is one author but much shorter pieces so maybe it would not seem so daunting.

In the non-fiction realm, the last very long book I read was Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Though it is available in translation in my target language, I suspect it may be a bit too high of a level with some technical terms to be a good choice. I was looking to read Ian Kershaw's Hitler in English at some point this year. It is incredibly long, so if there is anything to be said for non-fiction over fiction and sticking with one author, maybe that'd be a way to go? Or is that more likely to be a high-intermediate sort of read?

This is all for a ways off from now as I am still working on the beginning stage (and news and such. Don't worry, iguanamon, multi-tracking makes sense to me ;) ), but I am just thinking/planning ahead. Any thoughts on the above being good, or should I aim lower and start with the Roald Dahl's and The Little Princes of the world?
1 x

User avatar
tarvos
Brown Belt
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Hollandiában
Languages: Native: Dutch, English
Expert: French, Russian, Swedish, German, Romanian, Esperanto, Spanish
Advanced: Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Greek, Czech, Norwegian
Intermediate: Hebrew, Icelandic, Hungarian
Beginner: Breton, Korean, Finnish, Polish, Japanese, Bulgarian
Read-only: Danish, Latin, Afrikaans
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 2071
Contact:

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby tarvos » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:03 pm

Personally I never go for quality but quantity when reading. I'd rather read ten crime novels than one piece of literature if that's what it takes to get my level up. The thing about reading is that it only matters what you read when you are doing intensive reading, because there it's the vocabulary gaps you want to fill up that make you choose certain texts over other texts. But all of that becomes irrelevant if you can't enjoy the reading process.

The thing about extensive reading is that it makes no sense at all whatsoever to read things you hardly understand. That's not just me saying that - I recall a lecture by professor Arguelles during the Novi Sad conference where he argued exactly the same thing. Too little understanding, and even if the book is fantastic, you will give up because you don't understand. Too easy - you don't learn anything. (You could still read for pleasure though, without any view to improving your languages).

The third is that translations are of course slightly easier to read - they are meant to render meaning for foreign readers, not literally translate the flowery idioms of the original. A good reading routine should mix translated material with original source material written in the target language. I personally don't even really seek out translations - I tend to seek out interesting material instead.

The trick isn't to simply find a book that suits your level. You are going to need to grind through some pages anyway. The trick is to find source material that interests you and doesn't make your brain go cloudy when you read the first sentence. Only that combo will do the trick. And if you never liked Roald Dahl in the original, why the hell would you read it in translation? Find source material in your preferred target language for your favourite genre instead. Pretty sure they've got something for you - after all, 60 million German speakers still need to read science fiction, and they aren't all stuck on Asimov.
18 x
To polyglotism and beyond.
Preferred pronouns: feminine.

DaveBee
Green Belt
Posts: 405
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:49 pm
Location: UK
Languages: English (native). French (studying).
x 433

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby DaveBee » Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:46 pm

Seneca wrote:What say you all? My instincts (which don't count for much, but they are what they are) would be to go for somethng beyond children's books to work through

Siddhartha is relatively short, but I recall as being fairly simple and straight-forward in prose.
The Da Vinci Code is far from high-quality fiction, but is simple, a page-turner, and longer than Siddhartha.
The Count of Monte Cristo was quite long from what I recall. I don't think the level of it was too hard, but it was many years ago so I may be misremembering.
Alternatively, maybe something like "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" could be good since it is one author but much shorter pieces so maybe it would not seem so daunting.

In the non-fiction realm, the last very long book I read was Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Though it is available in translation in my target language, I suspect it may be a bit too high of a level with some technical terms to be a good choice. I was looking to read Ian Kershaw's Hitler in English at some point this year. It is incredibly long, so if there is anything to be said for non-fiction over fiction and sticking with one author, maybe that'd be a way to go? Or is that more likely to be a high-intermediate sort of read?

This is all for a ways off from now as I am still working on the beginning stage (and news and such. Don't worry, iguanamon, multi-tracking makes sense to me ;) ), but I am just thinking/planning ahead. Any thoughts on the above being good, or should I aim lower and start with the Roald Dahl's and The Little Princes of the world?
I'd agree with going for books you want to read, rather than books you feel are at your vocabulary level. eBooks and software dictionaries let you reach higher, but I would not recommend the Count of Monte Cristo. I read it some years ago in english, and my lasting memory is long descriptions of horses and their equipment. At the time I thought it was a good story, but a bad bad book. More recently I read the three musketeers in french, again I think the book would have been improved by editing. A good story, a less good book.

That said they are stories you are familiar with, and I think that has some value when you're reading with weak language skills. Books/authors you have read and enjoyed in the past are, in my opinion, helpful.

As Tarvos suggests, a mixture rather than a monotone.
1 x
FR films: 46 / 100, FR books: 20 / 100

Tomás
Blue Belt
Posts: 551
Joined: Sat Oct 10, 2015 9:48 pm
Languages: English (N). Currently studying Spanish (intermediate), French (false beginner).
x 622

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby Tomás » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:34 am

I agree that you have to find things that you enjoy. Comic books can be a fantastic way of finding something adult that is in relatively simple language. Plus you get the drawings to help you guess at what's going on. Those 19th century novels can be long hard slogs in a new language, but they make for great classic comic books. I've read Count of Monte Cristo as a comic book and it was engaging. War of the Worlds was another good classic comic.

I've read Kershaw's Hitler in English. It's a good but detailed history. I liked it, but I don't know if I'd read it in another language. If you like that genre, you might also try Montefiore's "Young Stalin", which is a better read than the Kershaw.
2 x

User avatar
Ani
Blue Belt
Posts: 509
Joined: Mon Mar 14, 2016 8:58 am
Location: Alaska
Languages: English (N), French (getting fairly proficient), Finnish (on hold) Greek and Russian (beginner)
x 952

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby Ani » Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:38 am

There is a reason many people start with Harry Potter. If you have a few thousand vocabulary words to start and know the story, you can do a mixture of intensive and extensive reading to get through from a lower level than you'd need for other books. If you you do enough intensive work through the course of the first books, you won't have much to look up by the 7th book.

I admit I was not a Harry Potter fan when I started, but by the end I found the series both redeeming and useful from a language learning perspective. I'm planning on choosing it again for first books I other language projects before moving on to native material.
6 x
But there's no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.

User avatar
reineke
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1770
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:34 pm
Languages: Engrish
x 2652
Contact:

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby reineke » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:59 am

Demian and Siddhartha are reasonably easy, you can buy parallel texts cheap and I have seen audiobook versions for sale somewhere. You need to spend some time sampling German literature. You don't need to bore yourself, there's plenty to read if you're willing to explore. I've witnessed an 85-year-old lady plough with a dictionary through several 19th century novels. The language difference was 1-3 on the FSI scale. It's up to you what you want to do.

Harry Potter became popular with forum people because HP (hey, an acronym!) audiobooks are easy to find for most languages. Language-wise there's nothing else that's interesting or magical about these books. You can find easier, more engaging material in German but you need to look.
2 x

User avatar
blaurebell
Blue Belt
Posts: 545
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:24 pm
Location: Spain
Languages: German (N), English (C2), Spanish (B2-C1), French (B2 passive), Italian (A2), Russian (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3235
x 1246

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby blaurebell » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:03 am

You can pretty much read any Hesse and probably won't struggle too much with the language. When I was a teenager I went through a huge Hesse phase and I think I've read everything he ever wrote, none of it was very challenging. The stories are usually similar, it's usually a coming of age story in some way, all with their little differences. The only exception is the Glasperlenspiel. That's a little more complex, but really really lovely. So, theoretically you could just go on a Hesse marathon and always find something new and more challenging along the way. That said, it really depends what you like though. At some point reading Hesse can get very repetitive too.

I myself usually tend to start with translations of a long series. I choose a translation because there will normally be expressions in there that are closer to the original language and that makes it easier to understand. And I choose a series because that way I don't have to get used to new writing styles and new characters while building up on the vocabulary of one story. With French I started with Harry Potter and right now I'm reading the Belgariad Saga in Russian. It's good to have something like 3000 or 4000 pages of page turners lined up where the story is more important than the language itself. Serial writing that doesn't become too repetitive is usually found in Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction and usually the writing isn't too high brow in those either. That's good, because high brow means oodles of long and difficult sentences in German. Of those genres Science Fiction might actually be a little too difficult, because there are always a lot of unknowns - that's the allure of it. In any case quantity is better than quality here so pick a story that interests you and run with it. You can also think of something like Anne Rice or Stephen King. The German translation of "It" is not half bad and it's also rather long too.

The stuff I read as a child were mostly translations of Fantasy novels actually, so those can't be too difficult to read if I managed to get through those at age 9. I can recommend the German translation of the Belgariad Saga and also Terry Pratchett. That said, they are not always totally easy to read because of all the literary vocabulary that you probably won't have encountered in your courses. I would recommend using something like Readlang or Learning with Texts in the beginning if there are too many words that you don't know.

And if you get too lost there are actually children's stories with brains too. Look for Astrid Lindgren. They are translations from Swedish, but I loved those as a child and I think most 30+ Germans will have grown up with those too. I have one or two at home that I still reread every now and then because the stories are so nice. Also very very popular and fun are Die drei Fragezeichen. You can also find tons of those as radio plays, which is an added advantage. A lot of Germans I know continue listening to the radio plays into adulthood, so they can't be too childish. With German comics I'm totally biased, I just love the Digedags and Abrafaxe, which are East German comics, educating kids about history and different places. They will sometimes be set in Italy, Greece or in America. Some of them are totally not PC by todays standards - the America ones definitely -, but I have fond memories of them anyway and they hold up nicely even when you read them as an adult. A lot of East Germans buy republications of those actually out of nostalgic reasons - I'm one of them ;) They might be a bit tough to find outside of Germany though, not sure. Also, and that might be weird weird weird: Karl May, another East German classic that kids like a lot, set in the wild west written by an East German thief and fraudster who even escaped prison once. I personally haven't read his books, but my brother read all of them voraciously. They are just wild west adventure stories written by someone who probably never sat on a horse. These are a bit older though, so they may be a little more challenging to read.
5 x
: 92 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Обретение чуда
: 7017 / 35000 LWT Known

: 7498 / 10000 French Pages
: 42 / 150 French native audio
: 127 / 150 peninsular Spanish audio

Ingaræð
Yellow Belt
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 9:34 pm
Location: United Kingdom
Languages: English (N)
Studying: German (?), French (?), Russian (beg.).
Previously studied (beg.): Italian, Welsh.
Wishlist: Hungarian, most other European languages, Mandarin, Hebrew.
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4993
x 170

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby Ingaræð » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:41 pm

blaurebell wrote:The stuff I read as a child were mostly translations of Fantasy novels actually, so those can't be too difficult to read if I managed to get through those at age 9. I can recommend the German translation of the Belgariad Saga and also Terry Pratchett. That said, they are not always totally easy to read because of all the literary vocabulary that you probably won't have encountered in your courses. I would recommend using something like Readlang or Learning with Texts in the beginning if there are too many words that you don't know.


Thank you, I'm so glad you mentioned Terry Pratchett! :D I was really hoping that the translations would be okay for reading, as I'm less than enthusiastic about Harry Potter (although after Ani's post, I might reconsider that...).
1 x
: 10 / 100 Russian without Toil

User avatar
tarvos
Brown Belt
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 11:13 am
Location: Hollandiában
Languages: Native: Dutch, English
Expert: French, Russian, Swedish, German, Romanian, Esperanto, Spanish
Advanced: Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Greek, Czech, Norwegian
Intermediate: Hebrew, Icelandic, Hungarian
Beginner: Breton, Korean, Finnish, Polish, Japanese, Bulgarian
Read-only: Danish, Latin, Afrikaans
Language Log: http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=1
x 2071
Contact:

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby tarvos » Mon Feb 27, 2017 12:54 pm

Terry Pratchett is awesome, but his style is notoriously difficult to copy in translation. I've tried, but he just reads better in the original. That's not even taking into account the insane amount of puns, wordplay and so on which falls by the wayside, but which makes his style so singularly engaging.
3 x
To polyglotism and beyond.
Preferred pronouns: feminine.

User avatar
blaurebell
Blue Belt
Posts: 545
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 1:24 pm
Location: Spain
Languages: German (N), English (C2), Spanish (B2-C1), French (B2 passive), Italian (A2), Russian (Beginner)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=3235
x 1246

Re: How to Read and What to Read

Postby blaurebell » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:22 pm

Ingaræð wrote:Thank you, I'm so glad you mentioned Terry Pratchett! I was really hoping that the translations would be okay for reading, as I'm less than enthusiastic about Harry Potter (although after Ani's post, I might reconsider that...).


I've never read Harry Potter in German. Only in English and French, and the first 2 in Italian and Spanish as well. I can't read them more often than every 5 years, so I should probably pick up new languages at a slower speed now :lol: It's actually fantastic for language learning since the difficulty builds up with every book, the vocabulary widens and so on. And it's 4000 pages of a real page turner which definitely helps. Not going Young Adult is rather more difficult as I'm noticing right now with the Belgariad! Possible, but you'll probably struggle a little more.

With Terry Pratchett you should probably start with one of the series, like the ones about Rincewind (Die Farben der Magie) or the ones about the night watch (Wachen! Wachen!). Otherwise you might accidentally pick one with lots of spiritual or boat vocabulary, or other random stuff. Some are rather abstract too, like Small Gods - I love that one, but it's not that easy. It was the first book I read in English that I found "challenging" when I was a teenager. I agree with Tarvos, Terry Pratchett is a lot better in English, but I've read about 6 or 7 of the novels in German before my English was good enough and found them very readable and funny.

As for bad translations: DON'T ever try to read the German translation of Lord of the Rings! The old translation is atrociously boring and the new one is so colloquial it ruins the whole mood. I never understood how my brother managed to get through that old boring translation. Even my dad, who became a real Tolkien fan in the end, couldn't get through it until he tried reading it in English. The Spanish translation is actually not bad, but I found myself swimming a lot there because it's super literary. It was too early for me to pick that one. Basically, make sure you don't pick super literary well-written originals. Pulp is best for the first 5000.
2 x
: 92 / 100 Дэвид Эддингс - Обретение чуда
: 7017 / 35000 LWT Known

: 7498 / 10000 French Pages
: 42 / 150 French native audio
: 127 / 150 peninsular Spanish audio


Return to “Practical Questions and Advice”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 1 guest