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San Francisco, USA

 

The bilingual Love in the Time of Cholera

A few years ago after returning from a trip to México, I took much interest in Spanish language. I started to study on my own and make some good early progress. As I was quite fascinated by Latin America novelists, I took a bold step to order a copy of Gabriel García Márquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera" in its original Spanish. I only knew basic grammar and limited vocabulary at that time, but I have vowed to learn until I can read the entire novel. Just in case, I have also brought an English copy alongside.

All these years I have never put enough time into learning Spanish. The two books are collecting dust on the bookselves. Just now I have found out "Love in the Time of Cholera" has made into a movie. The movie review is quite bad so I won't bother with it. But it has reminded me I have the novel for a long time, which I have not read beyond the first page. This time I have finally started reading it.

How is it like to read a major novel in a language I only half understand? I have found a rhythm that is quite productive. First of all I do not want to use a dictionary to look up every word I don't understand. This way will be too slow and I cannot truly enjoy the story. Instead I am reading the English edition first, one paragraph at a time. Then I turned to the same paragraph in the Spanish edition and read it again. When necessary I go back to matching sentence in the English and read them side by side. Once in a while I will looking use the dictionary to learn a vocabulary or stop to learn a sentence. Other times there will be sentences simply too difficult for me and I will just resign and move on. I am happy to find I can decode 50% of Spanish this way without other aid. At the same time I can follow the story quite well. I am very attracted to the story of Dr Urbino and Fermina Daza so far. I am going at a pace at least five times slower than if I read the English alone. On the other hand, rather than speed through the story as I usually do, I am savoring every sentence by reading it at least twice.

In truth I mostly rely on the English edition to understand the story. I am reading Spanish with a training wheel. But what a fun trip that is. It is certainly more enjoyable to take a trip on a training wheel than to study in the classroom all the time.

2007.11.25 [] - comments

 

 

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