This is a post about books in translation, and about a question that doesn’t really need an answer: why is it important to read lots of translated books? I’m giving you eight answers – useful for foreign language learners and for literature geeks alike.
1. It may inspire you to read more in another language. Which is the idea for this blog, so we’re starting with this one. Here’s why it’s important.
2. It will improve your vocabulary in your first language. Stories about new worlds and realities will mean that you get new words. New words mean better vocabulary. Get those translated stories in, your brain will thank you.
3. It will make you love reading again. The reason so many kids hated reading in my school was that we had to go through pages upon pages of our national poems, novels and history – all great, but with no variety. Give yourself a break: read something new and you will find the joy in it again.
4. Foreign authors are the emerging thing, you know. Second-generation immigrants, newly-found global adventurers: they are all reading it. Forget JK Rowling, the next big bestseller may come from a country whose name you can’t pronounce yet.
5. It will make you want to travel. This is the best kind of restlessness I can imagine: the feeling that “somewhere out there, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Books are a great starting point.
6. It breaks the dangerous hold of “a single story.” Listen to Chimamanda Adichie tell you all about this.
7. With translated books, you get two for the price of one. Did you enjoy the book? Great, go and share it with everyone. Did you absolutely, positively fall in love with it? Learn the language it was written in – and then read the original. I can’t tell you how much fun I had reading Hamlet side by side with its Polish translations.
8. Reading will inspire you to write. Writing makes you happy. Writing helps your languages develop. And it encourages more people to write back, which is a good thing because every word matters.
Are you sold on the idea already? Good. There’s a journal where you can start your translated reading quest for free. It’s called “Asymptote” and right now (Jan 2015) it’s on its funding mission. Go and help them out, then read all you want. Hit me on Twitter later to share what you read – I might just be between books, you never know 🙂
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