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Reading Literature

  Tags: Literature | Reading
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
United States
Joined 4303 days ago

24 posts - 31 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Polish, German, French

 Message 1 of 2
20 February 2009 at 1:16am | IP Logged 
Dear ProfArguelles,

Like I've said in a previous post I've read through your posts of the last couple years and they have inspired me to learn for the most in your way. This is because 1) my main wish is to be able to read the literature of the languages I study with speaking still being important but just not the prime directive and 2) I prefer a learning system where I'm not being explained what a verb or what the conditional is every time I start anew.

My question revolves are learning through and reading the literature of a language. Now I've been studying Polish for about a year and a half now and am maybe at the cusp of at an intermediate level. As anyone who's studied a slavic language nows the grammar can take awhile to get your head around.

With that said, I've already started translating/transcrribing certain more modern works (specifically The Soccer War by Kapuscinski which is NF). What I do is first transcribe what I read in the original reading it out loud, then I translate what I can without a dictionary to really give myself a the physical view of what's cloudy, I then proceed to fill in the blanks with a dictionary and by annoying my wife with translations of things the dictionary doesn't explain well do to context. Then I transcribe it in the original again and after reading (and listening to it when I can) through out the week about a week later I try to translate it again without a dictionary. Of course I do different sections of the book on different days depending on what stage of the translate/transcribe step I'm in. I find I suck in an incredible amount of vocabulary when I do it this way and get to see all the verbs and nouns in their real life inflections and declanations.

Now my question isn't whether I should be doing it or not per se, because I enjoy drinking a beer in a pub and playing my little game. My question is this a worthwhile endeavor for learning. I mean, thiniking from a pure learning point of view is this something that will, in your opinion, help advance to the next level? Also if you think it is worthwhile at what point in learning the language should I start doing it?
Thank you very much for any reply you might give...

Christopher Sarda
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 5798 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 Message 2 of 2
20 February 2009 at 7:32pm | IP Logged 
Dear Mr. Sarda,

Thank you for writing and for describing your innovative technique. Given that you feel that working in this way makes the grammar come alive as well as adds greatly to your vocabulary, then certainly this must be a worthwhile endeavor for learning that will help you advance and make continued progress. As to your question about what point in your overall learning you should begin using such a method, I think the real issue lies in the relative difficulty of the material that you work with as compared to your relative level of attainment. I think a natural and normal “mistake,” which could make this kind of technique less effective and less enjoyable than it might be, would be to choose material that is too difficult for you, i.e., to begin working with your ultimate target texts of serious literary works right away. Do not be ashamed to begin with children's classics and work you way up and through them. The ideal is to choose a text whose narrative you can follow just beyond the mere gist of the matter, i.e., you want to understand most, but not all, of what you read, or, phrased otherwise, you want to comprehend the story line but not the details upon first reading. This is because when your overall understanding is at this level, you will be able to correctly intuit the meaning of many words from their context alone. This is a more effective way of remembering and internalizing their meanings than looking them up in the dictionary, and it will also, obviously, enable you to spend more time actually reading.

Yours with best wishes for progress towards Polish, Spanish, and German literature and then beyond,

Alexander Arguelles

1 person has voted this message useful

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