In his Really Learn Spanish podcast, Johan van Rooyen gave some advice on increasing ones comprehension. He suggested that novices read entire novels written in Spanish without pausing to look up unfamilar words. That seems like a crazy suggestion because, especially at the beginning, you are reading books that mostly go by without being understood. I’m guessing that it works, though. I’ve been reading several weblogs in Spanish, including Xataka, and I almost never look up the unfamilar words. I’m now finding that I can always comprehend the gist of the article and can understand about 2/3 of the sentences word for word, with most of the other ones having a few words I don’t understand but can infer a meaning from context. The fact that many of the stories are ones I have seen from Gizmodo or Engadget doesn’t hurt.
In high school, I did a term paper on the novel A Clockwork Orange, which was also slow going because the narrative was written in the nadsat pidgin language. However, by the end you didn’t need to refer to the glossary at all because you had absorbed the vocabulary. Anthony Burgess did this by design, intending the experience of reading the novel to be akin to being brainwashed. I know the mechanism works, so here’s to turning it to my advantage.
I put novels in Spanish on my XMas list, but if I don’t get any I found that one of the branch libraries here has a Spanish language section. I’m torn between whether I should read Garcia Marquez’ Cien Anos de Soledad first or later. Probably I shouldn’t read it first, because I will get more out of it if I have tackled others first. I read it in English translation almost 20 years ago and was floored by it. That’s another bit of Latin culture that the Hernandez Brothers inspired me to explore from Love and Rockets. Gilbert had characters in Macondo turning each other to the novel, so I read it and found it one of the best novels I have ever read. I look very forward to experiencing its beauty and power in the original language.
Update: this was from a comment on this entry but is too funny not to put in the main entry. Apparently, by failing to put the tilde in the Garcia Marquez book title above, it translates to One Hundred Anuses of Solitude.