Hablas another language?

I recently borrowed a popular Spanish novel from my library to test my bilingual abilities.  I fancy myself a linguistic dilettante, though after dos pages in the novel, it’s clear that I’m not even that talented.

I studied Spanish from 6th grade through 12th, plus two years in college.  I teach an ESL class at my library once a week and can communicate with the Latin-American students.    But reading a novel in another language and getting the essence of the story?  That, sadly, is beyond me at this point.   

I’m going to borrow the English translation of the novel so I can refer to it for help.  I really want to finish a chapter or two!  (I’m being realistic, here–it would probably take me the entire summer to get through the whole book and I have a leaning tower of TBRs calling my name!)

So, are you bilingual?  Do you read books in other languages?  Is there a language you’d like to learn? 

22 responses to “Hablas another language?

  1. I wish I was bi-lingual. My mother speaks Lithuanian, but never taught us. I took Spanish in high school and French as an adult. I haven’t had enough of any of them to be anything but mixed up.

  2. I used to speak fluent German and have read German novels in the past. Unfortunately, my German skills are now quite rusty.

    I would love to brush up on my language skills. I did a beginners Spanish course several years ago and loved the language, but there isn’t really much opportunity to use it here in Australia.

  3. I WISH I were bilingual. My sister is and I’m always envious. I can read Spanish okay, but I doubt I’d ever pick up a book with Spanish/English… though maybe I should!

  4. I do consider myself bilingual, since French is my first language and English my second. I have a more difficult time when it comes to talking it though – I’m shy and I forget my words!

    Those days I read more in English than in French. I love to read books in their original language when I can! I also have my blog in English, and I see it as a continuing exercise in writing.

  5. I am really impressed. I studied French and German at school, but I wouldn’t be any good at trying to remember it to actually read a book.

  6. I am bilingual – Spanish, though Spain Spanish not Latin American Spanish. Nicer accent over here.

    I don’t read books in Spanish though, I read to relax from a busy life, reading in Spanish would be too much of a chore.

    I’d like to be able to read a bit of all those crazy Chinese kanji symbols, they fascinate me.

  7. I’m bilingual! (I guess…) I’ve been studying Spanish for 10 years now and I do read novels in Spanish for class. I have been slowly incorporating more Spanish books into my own personal reading time.

    I bought 100 Years of Solitude in the original Spanish the other day, so I hope to start reading that soon. Wish me luck!

  8. I used to be quite good at speaking/reading spanish (4 years of it in HS plus 4 semesters of it in college) but I’ve lost a lot of it. I don’t think that I would ever pick up a book written in spanish! it would just take me way too long to read it and comprehend it.

  9. Good for you! I studied French for years and always want to do more. I should take a stab at reading some . . . perhaps I’ll start with short stories!

  10. I’m bilingual. My first language is Filipino, and we have lovely literature but, sadly, hard to come by abroad. I read in English 99% of the time now, being out of the country. I am comfortable writing in English, but not so much in speaking. I often stop to think what words I want to say, and sometimes get mental block!

    I have Spanish grandparents on my mother’s side and my father is Chinese, and they speak their language, but we haven’t been trained at home, although I can understand and speak bits. I couldn’t read in Spanish or Chinese straight through, though.

  11. I’m a tentative bilingual in French and English. English is my primary language, and I took 12 years of French class (and even studied abroad). Unfortunately, I have little occasion to speak French in Nashville (where more people try to speak to me in Spanish than anything else), so I’m sure my skills have atrophied a bit. In my hey day I have read books in French, and a while back even picked up L’Etranger by Camus to try… but I read MUCH slower in French. It would probably take me half an hour to make it through 10 pages…

  12. I’m a fluent German speaker, but haven’t read any in years despite doing my degree in German lit. A good place to practise reading in another language is to start with children’s books and work your way up to teen fiction, YA and then adult fiction.

    I haven’t read Inkheart yet, but I think I may try to get a hold of the original German.

  13. I am definitely not bilingual, but I did take 5 years of French (8th-12th grade). My skills are SUPER rusty now, but I still like to read Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince every year or so to keep up with it a bit. It is written at a late Elementary level, so it is good for me. I tend to read it first in English then in French so that I can remember what is going on and decipher what I can’t simply read.

  14. I supposedly know Spanish, German and English but can only do anything useful in English, and that’s open for debate. Can muddle through written Romance-y languages using clues from English and Latin and what little Spanish I recall. Have (painstakingly) translated scientific things from Dutch and Danish, in addition to those others mentioned above. (Incidentally, the best advice I ever got about Dutch? “If it looks like an English word, pronounce it as if it were German, and if it looks like a German word, pronounce it as if it were English.”)

    I do want to get my hands on Arika Okrent’s new book, In the Land of Invented Languages, though.

  15. I took French in high school and college (it was my minor!) and I read two books in French. It was very hard and one of the reasons I quit after I met the requirements for my minor — I got headaches. That being said, it was easier for me to read it than to speak it!

  16. I took Spanish in elementary, middle, and high school. It was the “art” of my bachelor’s of art. I am half-mexican and my entire side of my mother’s family is fluent.


    Donde esta el bano, por favor?

    Basically I know enough to get in trouble!

  17. June 22th? (in Crystal Ball announcements)

  18. I am half German although you would not know it to hear me speak the language!!! I think if I were immersed in it for a few weeks I would speak a passable German, as Hayden says, enough to get into trouble. I do read letters from the rellies over there and speak to them occassionally. I’ve been know to attempt German magazines (the pictures give some clues) also read Kafka’s Metamorphesis and that about made me insane!!!

  19. oops…Metamorphosis

  20. Like you, I studied Spanish from 7th grade up to the AP level in 12th grade, and then for two more years in college! When I worked at a bookstore, I communicated with native speakers all the time — they would often come in looking for untranslated works, or books on learning English. I was always so psyched when I understood what they were saying and could answer back!

    I’ve never been anywhere near brave enough to attempt reading a book entirely in Spanish, though… not since college. And I had a pretty difficult time then! Maybe someday? 🙂

  21. I’m a translator, so I’m fluent in French as well, although I don’t read in French very often. I started taking Spanish classes, but haven’t had much time to devote to them recently.

  22. I used to speak pretty good French in high school, but lost nearly all of it within my first year of college as I did not use it. I speak conversational Spanish but I have no idea how to read it. I am working on this. I guess it is because I learned it speaking with the students and their parents in my pre-k class, so no reading or writing was much involved.

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