Saturday, December 19, 2009

branching out

Sometime during his expansive overseas journey this year, Alex started reading the Harry Potter series in French. Not to be outdone by my bitty bro, I decided that if he could do it, certainly I could also immerse myself in le monde de Poudlard--a feat made much easier by the fact that Powell's carries a fairly good section of books in other languages. That's how I found myself curled up in bed last night, reading Harry Potter en francais and underlining all the vocab words I didn't know.

Happily, I actually understood what I was reading! The insecure part of me had been somewhat concerned that I would open up my new book and immediately have to concede that somehow Alex had surpassed me in linguistic ability, that he could read French whereas I was stuck in a typical monolingual American box. I'm very glad that's not the case. Certainly there are words I don't know, and I'm pretty sure that my comprehension is much helped by the fact that I've already read the book in English, but overall, it makes me feel pretty competent. And it's what I would call a "just right" book if I were talking to my students: a book that's challenging enough that it's helping me become a better reader (in French), but not so hard that I get frustrated after only a page or two.

The whole thing makes me remember that you actually do get better at reading--at language--the more you're immersed in it. I know it sounds silly, but the more I read, the more I can feel my brain expanding. Since I've really only heard French for most of my life, not read it, it's amazing to see it written out as I pronounce the words in my head. Eventually, maybe I'll even be able to write it myself, at more than a learning-impaired, second-grade level.

There are some funny translation decisions that I don't really understand. How "Hogwarts" got translated to "Poudlard" I have no idea. I'm sure there's some reason behind it, just as there's surely some reason that "muggles" got translated to "moldus," but, not being well-enough versed in French, I don't really understand it. It's like I'm not in on the joke. Like I'm the kid tugging at her mom's sleeves asking about some innuendo that went over my head but that everyone else around me understands. But mostly, it makes sense to me, and it makes me super happy to read it. I'm always happy when I feel like I'm learning something new, and feeling like I'm getting better at French is awesome. Bring it on.

1 comment:

Chrystal said...

In response to your discovering my dusty ol' blog, I have just started to catch up on yours. It sounds like you are doing fantastic, continuing to challenge yourself in many ways, etc., etc., reading French and going to New Zealand! Jealous! And, yes, I'm back in Oregon, looking for teaching work, and enjoying time with the family.
p.s. of course I remember you!