Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reading in a Foreign Language

I have studied Spanish on and off for over 40 years (since September 1973), but until last year, I had never managed to read a novel in Spanish. I could struggle through a newspaper article, but the effort to look up words made even that unpleasant--much more difficult than conversation. Every few years I would make another attempt at reading a novel, but no matter what I did, I never got more than two or three pages into one.

In September 2013, I was sick for a week, and during that time, I decided to try the experiment of reading a Spanish novel on a Kindle e-Reader. I selected Ojos de agua by Domingo Villar because a) it was available on the Kindle b) I like police stories c) it won three prizes in Spain, d) it was only 188 pages long.

Then I bought the HarperCollins Spanish-English Dictionary for the Kindle. This was very important because it meant that if I found an unknown word, I could press on the screen and immediately get an English definition for the word. I found myself looking up one word in ten or more, but it was so fast and easy, I didn't care. I was still able to immerse myself in the book. I laughed, I cried, I sat on the edge of my seat.

And I finished the whole thing in four days.

That convinced me that, for students of foreign languages, e-readers like the Kindle are game-changers. Since that time, I have read five novels in Spanish, two novels in Italian, and I've just started reading one in French. That last is impressive because I didn't start studying French until January 2014.

The purpose of this blog is to document my progress, to describe what methods are working for me, and to identify problems with the tools I use and propose ways around them. This post serves as a introduction. Writing a blog is a new experience for me, so we'll have to see how it goes, but I'll try to update it regularly.

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