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Chit Chat About Books > Choosing a language

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message 1: by Eliestal (new)

Eliestal | 255 comments First, I hope this is the right place to post this. If not, ...sorry!

When you want to read a book written in a language that you don't understand, how do you choose the language for the translation if you are able to understand more than one language?

In my case, if the book is written in French, I read it in French, if written in English, in English. But, for any other languages, I don't know what and how to choose. Do you tend to choose your first language (if it is not English), English or another one and why?


message 2: by Peggy, Moderator (new)

Peggy (pebbles84) | 15599 comments Interesting question! I also read in the original language, so Dutch or English. I only rarely read Dutch books, so English most of the time. I think that's also why when I read a book originally in another language, I pick English. I'm just so used to reading English that I prefer it over Dutch. And to be honest, sometimes I don't even realize I'm reading a book that was originally not English, as I automatically search for English books except when I know the original is Dutch.

I have read a few pages of books translated into Dutch in book stores but for some reason it always annoys me very quickly.


message 3: by Sandra, Moderator (last edited Apr 25, 2018 12:35PM) (new)

Sandra (sanlema) | 9824 comments Good question, Clément. I can read originals in Spanish (native), Portuguese and English. (I hope to be able to add French in a year or two).
When reading translations I just pick what it is easier/cheaper/handy at the moment. That means when I was still living in Uruguay it was easier to get Spanish translations, so that is what I read. Same thing during the years I lived in Brazil with Portuguese translations, and now in the US with English translations.
That said, I set a goal last year to read at least 10% of the books in Spanish and Portuguese, since I was kind of nostalgic after 6-7 years of only reading in English.


message 4: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 2713 comments If a book is originally written in French or Italian, I always feel like I should read in the original. The problem is that I read really slowly in both languages and need to plan in lots of time, so I often opt for English or read parts in one language and the majority in English.

I read German fluently so, like you, will always read in the original language if the book is available. I sometimes find it hard to get hold of the original German on ebook. British sellers don't have a huge selection of foreign language fiction and German sellers often can't sell to me because of international restrictions. I have an amazon.de account that won't let me buy german ebooks because I live in the UK. Other sellers are slightly more lenient but can also be problematic.

Ans my husband is German speaking, he often reads English books translated into German, so I sometimes read his copies or will read in the same language because it's easier for discussion.

For example: I read Truckers: The First Book of the Nomes in English recently and recommended it to him. He read it in German, so I ended up re-reading that too because some of the plays on words had been translated differently and I wouldn't have been able to share in them otherwise!

If a book is originally in a completely different language, I tend to read the English language version because of availability, but have been known to switch to a German version if I don't like the English translation.


message 5: by Sandra, Moderator (last edited Apr 25, 2018 05:09AM) (new)

Sandra (sanlema) | 9824 comments Annerlee wrote: "I sometimes find it hard to get hold of the original German on ebook. "

Yes, getting books in a different language can become a pain. The outcome last year was I read more classics, available in many ways, but it is not a bad thing. I also want to read more classics.


message 6: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 2713 comments When I lived in Austria, the only English books readily available were classics too. I read quite a few, which wasn't a bad thing I agree. They were my only real link to the English speaking world at the time apart from CNN.

I did insist on reading The Green Mile serialisation in English though. It was really hard sometimes, because the German ones always appeared in the bookshop weeks before and I was itching to know what happened next!


message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisathebooklover) | 9244 comments I only read in English because I am not fluent enough in any other language to read a whole book. I can read some Spanish and also some French but I doubt I could understand a whole book unless it was very short and reasonably simple. I want to brush up on my Spanish though because I would love to read The Shadow of the Wind in its original language. It's beautiful enough translated into English so I reckon it would be sublime in Spanish.


message 8: by Mariab (new)

Mariab | 3059 comments I read always in the original, when available (to me).
When I have to read a traslation, I read in the next closest language. So, when I have to read books writen in Duch, Danish, Swedish, etc., I read, when possibly, in German.
If I have to read a traslation from french or italian, I read in Spanish.
Otherwise, I read the english traslation.
Books originals written in English, I read in English; originals in Spanish, in Spanish
(I also read in Portugese, Italian and French, but mostly non fic.)
I would LOVE to read Japanese -Mangas!- but it's unfortunately out of my league.


message 9: by Eliestal (new)

Eliestal | 255 comments Thinking back on it, I first started reading books in English because I wanted to better my understanding of the language. Before that I was reading only manga, in English too, but mostly because the single-chapter translation was faster.

For non-French author, I think I default to English for two main reasons: first, it has become a habit since most of what I do for fun outside of reading is in English (tv shows, movies, anime, etc). Second, there are a lot of book that I read (light novels) that are simply not translated from Japanese to French so when I buy those, I tend to buy everything that I want in one go (only to be crushed by the growing number of books on my shelves).

Since I bought a lot of French books recently (classics and French sci-fy and fantasy), I first saw that I love the French covers for the latter ones (too bad that I read English writers in English) and, excluding light novels, everything that I read or want to read in the near future is available in French in some form so availability is not really a problem on my end.

I think I will stick to English translation when reading a foreign authors since like some of you said, it is easier to discuss that way since when I discuss books or manga or other things I mostly do it on English speaking sites.

I would love to be able to read in other languages too especially Japanese for manga and light novels mainly. But I was never good in the language department in school so I don't think it will ever happen. I also wonder if there is a map of the closeness of languages in relation to each other. I think it would be interesting to see as well.


message 10: by Saar The Book owl (last edited Apr 26, 2018 01:34AM) (new)

Saar The Book owl | 1926 comments I used to read books in Dutch, because that's my main language. Since a couple of years this changed gradually to English, because for new English books, the Dutch translation takes a while to be published. So I began to buy books in English. Now, and it has increased since being a member of GR, I read 70% of my books in English. Also the translation is one of the points that can make or break a book. For example: I couldn't stand the Dutch translation of 'Fifty shades of Grey', but the English version was okay. Anyway, I've read one book of the serie. For 'Twilight' was it the same: I enjoyed it in English and this serie was the start of reading in English.
I can also read French books, because that's my second language, but that doesn't interest me.


message 11: by Rusalka, Moderator (last edited Apr 26, 2018 05:03AM) (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 17854 comments Clément wrote: "Since I bought a lot of French books recently (classics and French sci-fy and fantasy),"

I can't comment on the actual topic due to the Australian tunnel vision that does not value teaching other languages, however I am really interested in everyone who has these skills thoughts and views, as I work with a lot of dual, tri, quad, more language speakers and we have had this conversation a lot. Also, what language do you dream in, which is fascinating. Gets my underused psychy brain going.

But Clément, your comment above pricked my interest. Any French sci-fy or fantasy authors you would recommend to us? And please feel free to take those recommendations to another thread (even just the Watchya Doin' thread) to not mess with the flow of this convo, but I am super interested.

Sorry, carry on everyone :D


message 12: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 2713 comments I'd be super interested in French Scifi too. If not too long, I might even try reading the originals!


message 13: by Eliestal (new)

Eliestal | 255 comments @Rusalka and @Annerlee: I am going to post what I bought in the appropriate thread when I wake up. Looking up the books on here, I found out that most of the books I bought this time around don't have an English translation. That was surprising to me since there is a lot of books available in French, I thought French books would also be well reprensented abroad.


message 14: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 2713 comments Interesting that they haven't been translated (yet?) Can you let us know which thread you've posted to, when you get around to it?


message 15: by Rusalka, Moderator (new)

Rusalka (rusalkii) | 17854 comments It's in the New Purchases thread, and the link to Clément's comment is: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 16: by Eliestal (new)

Eliestal | 255 comments Thanks Rusalka, I completely forgot to put the link here! :)


message 17: by Annerlee (new)

Annerlee | 2713 comments Thanks Rusalka and Clément! I'm off to explore.. : )


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