Challenging Myself to a Duel

Sometimes, it’s unusually difficult for me to read without editing—an occupational hazard I suppose. As a native English speaker, I’ve always been fascinated with other languages so I learned Spanish and French, though I never considered myself fluent in either. The study of language reminds me of a duel between two parts of your brain; one that understands and one that attempts to interpret to promote understanding.

After six years of Spanish classes beginning in junior high school, and two additional years in college, I understand the gist of conversation when I hear it. In fact, by the time I graduated from high school, I often thought in Spanish. Unfortunately, I rarely have occasion to speak it now and content myself to say, “Hola,” “Adios,” or “Buenos días” whenever I’m bored with English. Truth be told: I struggle to speak Spanish because its not practiced.

Only having studied French for two years, I’m less adept with that language, but I watch a fair amount of foreign films and I like to try to figure out what’s being said without the English subtitles. I’d consider myself decent at it, although it helps that I’m not under pressure of having to respond to it verbally.

No spoilers please.
No spoilers please.

Recently, while browsing the local bookstore, I noticed a section of Spanish novels. I began thinking that it might be an interesting challenge to read one to see whether I’d fully understand it. So I looked through the section for an interesting title.

I’ll be honest. The picture on the cover of Las Valkarias by Paulo Coelho caught my eye (no pun intended.) According to its synopsis, this bestseller has been translated into many languages and sold around the world. I have never read it in English or otherwise.

I decided it might be fun to read it in Spanish and then pick up an English copy afterward to see whether I interpreted it correctly. Plus, I’ll have the added bonus of being preoccupied with understanding so as to avoid the invariable editing that goes on in my head every time I read.

I’ll re-post when I’m done to share my experience.

Have you ever tried to read a book in a language that is not your native one?

2 thoughts on “Challenging Myself to a Duel”

  1. I’m Greek, but for the time being, I write in English. Which also entales me reading in English. I’m used to it, with very little difficulty switching between the two, despite the different alphabet. I will agree with you, however, that a foreign language not used on a daily basis, does make things difficult when it comes to using it (primarily the oral use of the language). It’s been 10 years since I came back from Scotland, where I studied, and I no longer feel confident to converse with a native English speaker. No problem with writing it, though. :/

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Chris. I appreciate your insight. I suppose your relative ease in writing in either Greek or English has much to do with your perceived ability to make corrections without the natural scrutiny that comes in conversation. It’s interesting food for thought.

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