Thursday, April 18, 2013

Booking Through Thursday: Languages

Deb at Booking Through Thursday asks:

I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?


If I did not read any foreign languages – or did not enjoy it – I would not be reading this question…!

I know it’s hard for many who have English as their first language to quite grasp – but there are actually quite a few of us using English daily on the internet, to whom English is in fact “foreign language” even if we use it fluently… :)

My first language is Swedish and I’ve lived all my life (57 years) in Sweden. I started learning English in school at age 10. I’ve been reading books in English since my early teens. I studied it at University. For a period of my life I also taught it to others.

But there’s also the fact that ever since the early days of television back in the 1960s, in this country we are used to hearing English daily, even though it is not our first language. We get all foreign films and TV series in the original language(s) with subtexts rather than dubbed (except some children’s programmes and films). And most of the foreign films and series that we get are English and American.

Besides Swedish and English I also know German well enough to be able to read books in it (I studied German at University too). Have to confess it does not happen very frequently though. We aren’t surrounded by the German language in the same way as with English. I’m not sure when I last read a whole book in German. Must be years ago. While I got really hooked on English classics during my University studies, I can’t say the same of German literature. I don’t own many German books. But I have one favourite, and that’s Michael Ende’s Die unendliche Geschichte (The Never-Ending Story) which I have read in the original a few times. Not just recently, though.

PS. I also know a little bit of French – studied it for five years at school – but don’t think I ever read a whole book in it. (Not in the last forty years anyway!) I also took Latin for two years in senior high school - but I try to avoid even mentioning that!! (as I remember so embarrassingly little…) 

21 comments:

  1. My mother tongue is Finnish but I also read mostly in English.

    "But there’s also the fact that ever since the early days of television back in the 1960s, in this country we are used to hearing English daily, even though it is not our first language. We get all foreign films and TV series in the original language(s) with subtexts rather than dubbed (except some children’s programmes and films). And most of the foreign films and series that we get are English and American."

    Yes, that's my experience here in Finland, too.

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  2. You always amaze me! And not only all this, but you beat me at word games, and English is not your native language! This really impresses me!

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  3. I never forget that English is a 'foreign language' to you which is why I always marvel at your fluency. Surely when one reaches the stage you have you can be regarded as bi-lingual!

    I think a lot of English-speaking people tend to forget that without people who have English as a foreign language the blogging community would be so much poorer. If it relied on us English speakers knowing another language it would be a much less rich environment and I marvel at the fluency of many of my Scandinavian and East European friends. The fact that people forget this isn't the language you speak on the street and hear your television news in is a tribute to just how fluent so many of you are and how rich your vocabularies are.

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    1. Thanks Scriptor. Yes, I suppose I do rather consider myself bilingual. I guess it might be a little bit more obvious in the spoken language that I'm not, though - having no time to look things up etc ;)

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  4. Monica, I envy you for getting all the English and American TV shows and films in their original language! Here in Germany, everything is dubbed - sometimes VERY badly... I don't watch much TV anyway, and this certainly contributes to keep me away from it.
    Most of my reading is done in English, too; every now and then, my Mum lends me a German book (often about my town's history), and I read my weekly paper, "Die ZEIT", in German (which is, as you know, my first language).
    I use English all the time, I often can't think of a German term but the English expression comes to my mind first. My blog and many of my emails are written in English, some of my work is done in English, and I speak English when I am out running with my American friend or with my team at the pub quiz (some of them are from England, some from the US).
    Other languages: I am fluent in Italian but do not read much in this language. There were several books in Italian I have read in the past, but interests and priorities have changed since then. Sometimes I think I should do more to keep that up.
    French - I can read, write and speak French, but am not very good at it, certainly not good enough to read an entire book.

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    1. Yes, I know you get everything dubbed in Germany... Which really is a disadvantage when it comes to learning foreign languages. Frequently hearing it spoken helps one pick up pronounciation and accents as well as vocabulary and expressions/idioms.

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  5. I agree with you that most English native speakers don't indulge in their language studies the same way non-English speakers do with English. It may be simply because English is the world language. Chinese is only this close because it already has more natives than English, I'd say.
    Die unendliche Geschichte really is a great book. I love the two movies that were made of them as well. Great for kids, something to watch over and over again. It just never gets boring. Yet, I haven't read the book until a few years back. Maybe I should re-read...
    Since I am German, I had to go through a lot of German lit in school, and I can tell you that there was only one novella I enjoyed more than all the stuff we discussed in our English lessons. ;)
    Thanks for stepping by and sharing your answer. If you want to get back to a good German, maybe I can be your pen pal. ^^

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    1. Hallo Caro, darf ich fragen, welche Novelle Dir zu Deiner Schulzeit so gut gefallen hat?

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    2. I'm curious about that book too! :)

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  6. Where I live in the Northern Territory of Australia there are more than 200 languages spoken. It is not possible to forget that English is a second or third language for most of the population. My son speaks English, Thai, French, German, Indonesian, and Dutch to some degree. My daughter speaks English, Japanese, and Italian with varying proficiency. My colleagues at work all consider they speak English, but their skill is continuing to develop. It is useful to have a knowledge of English, but we must maintain as many other languages as possible.

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    1. I never really thought about there being so many other languages spoken in Australia. Thanks for the reminder, Louise.

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  7. My second language is French, which I studied at school, then university. I also tutored both French and English at university.
    I've only read entire French classics for my studies, however, I do have some French books in my bookcase.
    Here on the island, many languages are taught, but they were trying to make Spanish our second language.
    No one meeting you for the first time, would imagine that English was not your first language....good for you.

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    1. Thanks Virginia. As I said in another comment above - it might be a bit more obvious in the spoken language. (When I was in England one summer at the age of 16 going on 17, an old Yorkshire gentleman said to me "You speak like you come from the BBC, lass" ... And I'm not sure it was meant as a compliment!)

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  8. Hey! Glad to find more fans of The Never-Ending Story. I reread it (in Icelandic) every few years, and also Momo, another lovely fantasy by Ende.

    From reading the responses to yesterday's question, it seems that a considerable number of those replying have English as a second (or third, or whatever...) language. I think it's very important to be able to read in other languages that one's own, as it gives one a bigger "book pool" to choose from and widens one's horizons.

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    1. Bibliophile, I agree. Especially for us who have a "small" language as mother tongue (not spoken by a very large population), English especially really opens up the world to us and gives access to so many more books!

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  9. I only speak one languages and wish i had learned another while i was younger. it would be great if they had languages in our schools and for all i know they do. i have been out of school for 50 years. i would love to be able to speak other languages.

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    1. English takes you far, though, as much of the rest of the world speaks it to some degree!

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  10. English is my first language and Spanish is my second, I studied it at college, married a Spaniard whose family had immigrated from Spain (surprisingly he does not speak Spanish), and because we lived in Germany I speak what I call kitchen German, meaning I can shop, order food and get around in German, I would have a hard time reading it.
    I can read Spanish, but I'm lazy, I only read in English.

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    1. It's no doubt easier to stick to what one already knows well!

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  11. I cannot improve on CJ's (Scriptor's) comment. I am ashamed to say that I have no facility for languages other than English (although I cope reasonably well as a tourist in France or Germany) and am obviously the least competent of your commenters in this field. (CJ failed to say that he also read French at University). I do speak English reasonably competently though!

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    1. Yes Graham you do :) And I keep learning daily from you and Scriptor and all the others in Blogland who have English as your first language!

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