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Old 08-02-2012, 02:24 AM   #1
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What do you read in "other" languages

Ever since I learned English well enough I have been a diligent reader of (primarily) American literature. I would guesstimate (see, an Americanism) that about 60% of what I read can be deemed entertainment and that about half of what I read in total is something by an American writer.

As I get older though, I find that American literature, using a broad defintion here, doesn't hold the same appeal as it used to. The fight between "good" and "evil" is depicted too much in black and white for my taste, the motives and reasons for why a person turns evil are almost non-existent (are some Americans evil by birth? I doubt it), the heroes tend towards the super-human. I find a George Smiley inherently much more fascinating than a Mitch Rapp or Scott Harvath. Hence, I find myself "discovering" British literature of lately. Nuances seem more detailed, characters are more fully portraied.

For that reason I have also begun to read more entertainment literature in Swedish, Danish, German and Japanese, and found that the same seems to hold true for books in those languages. Please misunderstand me correctly, I don't have anything against American literature, and perhaps I haven't been capable of finding American authors who are more "grey" than "black & white". I just don't find protagonists like Henning Mankel's Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Brannagh is superb in the BBC series, although it seems Wallander's alcoholism is a no-no for BBC) in works by American authors. After a while the American flawless hero just becomes one-dimensional.

This shift has made me interested to know what and why the rest of you read literature in other languages. The quote marks in the title refers to English in its different forms. I realize that although this is an international forum, it is still dominated by mono-lingual American participants, but within the realm of English there are many versions and there are specific cultural differences, in my own case I still have to read Canadian, South African and Australian authors, the simple reason being my own ignorance.

So whether you're mono or multi-lingual, other than the need to keep your knowledge of a foreign language alive, what are your reasons for reading literature in "other" languages?

Last edited by Kumabjorn; 08-02-2012 at 02:26 AM.
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Old 08-02-2012, 02:48 AM   #2
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For that reason I have also begun to read more entertainment literature in Swedish, Danish, German and Japanese, and found that the same seems to hold true for books in those languages.
5 languages? Do you know more than that?

Man, I only know English. You know, I'd read other languages; but the problem I have with those who use the Latin alphabet is that they put the letters in the wrong sequence. As a result, I don't understand what they're saying.
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:19 AM   #3
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I really only read English. Very occasionally I'll read a book in Norwegian, but really I'm close to mono-lingual in terms of reading material. I can read Swedish and Danish of course, but those hardly count as second languages. I could get by in German with minimal effort and having read all the Norse sagas in Old Norse I guess the same is true for Icelandic. A little extra work would probably have me reading Faroese too. In French, Spanish and Italian I can master restaurant menus and of course I can order beer in an inordinate number of languages.

However, just about everything I want to read was originally written in English, so that's what I end up with.
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:39 AM   #4
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Don't read any Jo Nesb°? I've just bought two of her books so they are on my TBR list.

@tubemonkey
Not a whole lot of books in Simianese out there. But remember, "foreign" in this context includes English if it is by authors outside your specific variation of English. So if you read British, Australian or some other "secondary" form of English, feel free to contribute.
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Old 08-02-2012, 03:45 AM   #5
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What do you read in "other" languages
99% of the stuff.
The vast majority of entertainment literature I read is in English, which is my third language ;-).
See my long post at:
http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...4&postcount=23

As for the Author selection, I do not distinguish between American, British, translated, ...
The book is either "good" [fits my tastes and mood at the moment], or isn't. And I try to avoid most of the "bestsellers".
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Old 08-02-2012, 04:32 AM   #6
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Almost all my reading is done in an "other" language. I hardly read Dutch books (the books I want simply aren't available in ebook format and somehow most Dutch writers write either horror, drama, or detectives and I can't stand those categories).

My German and French I've all but forgotten (especially the French, German I can get by).
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Old 08-02-2012, 04:35 AM   #7
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Don't read any Jo Nesb°?
I'm afraid I haven't. I know everybody raves about her and I'm sure they're good, it's just that I haven't been in a murder-mystery mood for a long, long time.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:11 AM   #8
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Apart from reading in german, my native language, it's only english as an "other" language. But that takes up about 75 % of my leisure time reading.

My basic knowledge of russian is long gone ... as is my latin, apart from some lawterms, I have to admit.(Though coming from western germany I did some russian in school; in the former GDR it was, of course, compulsory).

Oh, just a moment:
I do read "Plattdeutsch" (Low German) too. And that's a separate language, not a dialect.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:25 AM   #9
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I read the classical authors in Latin and Greek.

As far as "variants" of English go, my main reading "genre" is detective fiction, and I far prefer British authors to American. As well as the "classics" of detective fiction such as Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, etc, I very much enjoy the more modern authors such as Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson. I don't really enjoy American detective fiction - probably for no more reason than I'm British, and have no real feel for the American culture that the US books are set in.

When it comes to my other main reading genre, SF/Fantasy, though, that doesn't apply. I read - and enjoy - many more American authors than British. Brandon Sanderson is without a doubt my favourite living SF/fantasy author.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:30 AM   #10
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Don't read any Jo Nesb°? I've just bought two of her books so they are on my TBR list.
I don't like his books much. Most other people seem to do though... (I'm odd enough to not be a huge fan of Henning Mankell either. Probably something wrong with me, but I'm old enough to not care...)

The only foreign language I am fluent enough to read a novel in is English.
Like most Scandinavians, I guess, I don't have too much difficulties to read in Norwegian and Danish, but I don't mind reading those books in Swedish either even though I generally prefer to read in the original language.
I really wish I was able to read in Spanish, but I don't wish it enough to go learn it...
I read lots of non-fiction i English. And I have read tons of both British and American crime novels. I prefer the British ones, but back in the days of Ed McBains 87th books I devoured them all!
While I like the TV series Rizzoli and Isles I did not enjoy the books much. Nowhere near as entertaining as on TV! (Read a couple of books before watching TV and almost didn't want to watch because I didn't think it would be any fun).
With my favourite (or one of any way) Scandinavian crime writer Unni Lindell it's the opposite. Love the books, but don't want to see the TV adaptations.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:49 AM   #11
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I don't like his books much.
Ha, I always assumed Jo was a female adaptation of Josefin or something. I guess one problem with eBooks is that we no longer get author photos on the blurbs.
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:56 AM   #12
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Ha, I always assumed Jo was a female adaptation of Josefin or something. I guess one problem with eBooks is that we no longer get author photos on the blurbs.
It's easy to make wrong assumptions about these things. I took me years to realise that you were a girl .
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Old 08-02-2012, 05:59 AM   #13
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I read the classical authors in Latin and Greek.
Do you feel they lose something in translation? Or do you read them in original just to keep your knowledge of Latin and classical Greek alive?
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Old 08-02-2012, 06:02 AM   #14
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I tend to read non-USian works because they're interest, entertaining, and very diverse.

I also might add that works in English can still be very diverse. Kumabjorn for example stated Canada, South Africa, and Australia, and they write in English as well (in addition to other languages, of course).

At the very least, in science fiction and fantasy, lots of interesting material is being released.
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Old 08-02-2012, 06:06 AM   #15
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Do you feel they lose something in translation? Or do you read them in original just to keep your knowledge of Latin and classical Greek alive?
Both. Yes, I do think they lose a lot in translation - especially poetry. You're losing the metre of the poetry, and the "sound" of a poem is half of what it's about.
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