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Novels for the "Airplane Test"

  Tags: Literature | Book
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
Oliver B.
Diglot
Newbie
Germany
Joined 4068 days ago

1 posts - 1 votes
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: FrenchB2, Spanish

 
 Message 1 of 7
28 June 2008 at 5:28am | IP Logged 
Dear Prof. Arguelles,

you wrote, a bit more than three years ago, the following lines:

Quote:
A meaningful standard of fluency for me is the ability to read an artistic work of literature such as a novel by a difficult author like William Faulkner or James Joyce. How many native English speakers can do this? How many do do this? I call it "the airplane test": take a 400-page novel of this type on an intercontinental flight and read it cover to cover by the time you land. If you remained engrossed and enthralled the entire time, you really know the language. You need to know about 20,000 words in order to do this, while you only need 10,000 for sophisticated conversation, and far fewer for daily needs such as business or study in a specialized field. In order to read a novel "fluently," you should not need to have recourse to a dictionary, but you should profit greatly from every single word you do look up if you choose to use one.

Books I've read recently in this fashion in modern living Romance and Germanic languages include:

Hermann Broch, Der Tod des Vergil
Selma Lagerl�f, G�sta Berlings saga
Hella S. Haasse, Het woud der verwachting
Marcel Proust, Du c�t� de chez Swann
Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez, Cien a�os de soledad
Jorge Amado, Gabriela Cravo e Canela
Umberto Eco, Il Pendolo di Foucault


I think that this "Airplane Test" is a fascinating idea. Unfortunately the list of novels quoted above is quite short. That is why I would like to ask you to add some novels to this list. I am especially interested in Spanish and French novels, although I feel that I am only able to read novels of this kind in German and English at the moment.

I am sure that many people would profit greatly from an enlarged list of recommended books for the Airplane Test.

Thank you very much in advance.

Oliver B.
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Captain Haddock
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
kanjicabinet.tumblr.
Joined 4843 days ago

2282 posts - 2814 votes 
Speaks: English*, Japanese
Studies: French, Korean, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 2 of 7
28 June 2008 at 5:59am | IP Logged 
Forgive me for answering in the Professor's absence.

In addition to Foucault's Pendulum, add The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The originals are in Italian, but international editions are translated by the very best of translators.

For English, I'd be impressed by any non-native speaker who could read Dan Simmons (Hyperion) or Alastair Reynolds (Century Rain) without difficulty. Any of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novellas are tremendously enjoyable reads, containing both top-notch language and great wit.

For Spanish, there is The Club Dumas and the Captain Alatriste novels by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.

(My literary knowledge is dominated by SF and mystery. I suspect the Professor doesn't read too much from those genres.)

Paul D.

Edited by Captain Haddock on 28 June 2008 at 6:07am

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Ruan
Diglot
Groupie
BrazilRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4256 days ago

95 posts - 101 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, English

 
 Message 3 of 7
02 July 2008 at 10:43am | IP Logged 
"Gabriela, Cravo e Canela" is considered an easy novel and is often read by high school students. "Grande Sertão : Veredas" by João Guimarães Rosa is the masterpiece of Brazilian literature and undoubtly one of the hardest novels ever written in this language. It is frequently called "the Brazilian Ulysses".

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Felipe
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4105 days ago

451 posts - 501 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Italian, Dutch, Catalan

 
 Message 4 of 7
02 July 2008 at 11:39am | IP Logged 
[QUOTE=Oliver B.] Dear Prof. Arguelles,

you wrote, a bit more than three years ago, the following lines:

[quote]A meaningful standard of fluency for me is the ability to read an artistic work of literature such as a novel by a difficult author like William Faulkner or James Joyce. How many native English speakers can do this? ...QUOTE]

I've tried to read "Finnigan's Wake" by James Joyce and I doubt if many native English speakers can make sense out of it. I sure couldn't. I have read "El Club Dumas" and the "Capitán Alatriste" series and many other books by Arturo Pérez-Reverte and didn't have any trouble with them. "Cien años de soledad" wasn't too difficult either. Does this mean I fail the airplane test in my native language, but pass it in Spanish?
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TheElvenLord
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4155 days ago

915 posts - 927 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: Cornish, English*
Studies: Spanish, French, German
Studies: Portuguese, Mandarin

 
 Message 5 of 7
02 July 2008 at 11:58am | IP Logged 
For Cornish

Broder Wella (Brother Wella: story about a priest, about 700 pages)
An gurun wosek a geltya (The bloody crown of the celts: no idea how many pages)

TEL
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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5331 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 6 of 7
03 July 2008 at 7:11pm | IP Logged 
I have a relatively ready answer for this one: please visit the Great Books page on my website and look at the lists at the bottom of the page.

The lists for the non-Western civilizations are pathetically sketchy and incomplete even though they are expanded versions of all previous lists that have been made in this direction. Much work remains to be done here, but I have gotten disappointingly little feedback on this thus far.

Alexander Arguelles
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minus273
Triglot
Senior Member
France
Joined 3840 days ago

288 posts - 345 votes 
Speaks: Mandarin*, EnglishC2, French
Studies: Ancient Greek, Tibetan

 
 Message 7 of 7
15 February 2009 at 7:56am | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
I have a relatively ready answer for this one: please visit the Great Books page on my website and look at the lists at the bottom of the page.

The lists for the non-Western civilizations are pathetically sketchy and incomplete even though they are expanded versions of all previous lists that have been made in this direction. Much work remains to be done here, but I have gotten disappointingly little feedback on this thus far.

Alexander Arguelles

I would suggest Kokon Wakashuu and Edo popular novels, besides, one or several commentaries on Genji Monogatari (Motoori Nobunaga at least).

Native commentaries are also important for Chinese classics as the trends and conversations and arguments in Chinese intellectual history are almost all in form of commentary of Confucian/Taoist classics.

The Chinese-language collection looks quite superficial, have you read http://www.cul-studies.com/Article/sixiang/200501/581.html or http://www.guoxue.com/gxrm/mjtjsm.htm, for example?

One or two gems in 魏晋玄学, and a whole lot of books on Neo-confucianism and its intellectual descendants (there are only 传习录 and one 朱熹), and an prose analogy from the 春秋 masters to Qing prose (in the gist of 古文观止) would be good also.

I would like also to see a Chinese book on poetics.

Edited by minus273 on 15 February 2009 at 8:06am



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