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Karzac
05-07-2013, 02:27 PM
This summer, I want to work on my French. I spent the entirety of my years in the public education system learning mostly in French, but my mastery of the language is pretty dismal, especially when it comes to conversational French. So I decided that I'm going to try to read more French authors this summer.

Now, I've got a smattering that I remember from school, but none of it really stuck with me, so I'd be happy to revisit them. I've read The Three Musketeers in French and English and wasn't impressed with it, but I am still interested in reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I think I'm also going to grab a collection of Maupassant short stories. Does anybody here have any favourite French authors?

Also, feel free to use this thread for general discussions of non-English authors.

Falselogic
05-07-2013, 02:51 PM
Maybe try something written by someone who hasn't been dead for like 200 years?

Adrenaline
05-07-2013, 02:53 PM
The only time I was ever made to attempt to read actual literature in another language was Albert Camus' The Stranger. I didn't really care for the story, but I guess it's probably pretty readable?

shivam
05-07-2013, 03:23 PM
for my money, reading newspapers is the best way to keep up your language skills.

Karzac
05-07-2013, 04:20 PM
Maybe try something written by someone who hasn't been dead for like 200 years?

I would love to! Unfortunately, I don't know of any good modern French authors. That's why I'm asking.

Newspapers might be a good idea, but I'm afraid that I wouldn't keep up with it enough.

Falselogic
05-07-2013, 04:24 PM
I would love to! Unfortunately, I don't know of any good modern French authors. That's why I'm asking.

I can only think of Camus or Proust... But, then I'm not French

Newspapers might be a good idea, but I'm afraid that I wouldn't keep up with it enough.

try Evening Edition? It's a short on-line newspaper that covers 4 or 5 stories only. They have a French Edition. (http://evening-edition.com/)

Karzac
05-07-2013, 04:40 PM
try Evening Edition? It's a short on-line newspaper that covers 4 or 5 stories only. They have a French Edition. (http://evening-edition.com/)

That looks useful. Thanks!

waterpot
05-07-2013, 04:45 PM
I read comics in english all the time, does that counts?
(my main language is spanish)

Posaune
05-07-2013, 04:47 PM
How about some German authors?

I HEARD YOU DUDES LIKE CRIME A LOT. Not as much as the Swedes, though.

I read comics in english all the time, does that counts?
(my main language is spanish)

Man, I wish Germany had some decent comics. Since you (Karzac) can read French you get access to a great world of comics.

Karzac
05-07-2013, 05:03 PM
Yeah, I'm going to pick up some Boulet stuff at TCAF this weekend.

Teaspoon
05-07-2013, 08:38 PM
English translations of Jules Verne can be pretty frustratingly bad. I translated a chapter of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" once and had a ball doing so.

boot101
05-08-2013, 03:27 AM
Man, I wish Germany had some decent comics. Since you (Karzac) can read French you get access to a great world of comics.

I live in Germany right now and almost every big store I go to has Scrooge McDuck digests full of awesome comics that I can't understand. It really depresses me because they're right there!!!

Pombar
05-08-2013, 05:50 AM
for my money, reading newspapers is the best way to keep up your language skills.Except Chinese, where Newspaper Reading is an almost entirely different skill-set from ordinary language fluency.How about some German authors?

I HEARD YOU DUDES LIKE CRIME A LOT. Not as much as the Swedes, though.Man, all of Europe is Crime-obsessed. I went to a bookstore on Monday, and including the "Foreign Crime" and "Scandinavian Crime" (the UK is ScandCrime obsessed right now), the Crime section was bigger than the Fiction section. Italy, France, Germany, etc etc all have loads of popular crime novelists.I read comics in english all the time, does that counts?
(my main language is spanish)Only if you also read The Shadow of the Wind in English (I wish my Spanish was good enough to read it in the original)

Adrenaline
05-08-2013, 02:25 PM
Man, all of Europe is Crime-obsessed. I went to a bookstore on Monday, and including the "Foreign Crime" and "Scandinavian Crime" (the UK is ScandCrime obsessed right now), the Crime section was bigger than the Fiction section.

We'll trade you Teen Paranormal Romance for Scandinavian Crime.

estragon
05-08-2013, 02:46 PM
Except Chinese, where Newspaper Reading is an almost entirely different skill-set from ordinary language fluency.)

Related question since you can read Chinese:

Do you know any relatively easy to read Chinese novels and/or short story collections that aren't terrible? It doesn't need to be incredibly simple or for children or anything, just not incredibly complex in terms of prose. Like the equivalent of how books by Murakami Haruki and Raymond Carver are good authors for people studying Japanese and English, respectively.

Vocabulary complexity isn't really a huge issue for me b/c Japanese language background means even if I can't pronounce something in Mandarin I generally know what it means 95% of the time, but I've never read a novel before, so I'm looking for some good options for a first step.

If it makes a difference in your answer, I'm studying modern standard Mandarin, and I'm comfortable with either simplified or traditional characters.

Pombar
05-08-2013, 03:40 PM
For absolute simplicity in terms of language, what I've found in general is that if something was translated into Chinese to begin with, the language will be very easy to understand - even when it wasn't translated from English. The first novel I was ever able to read in Chinese was some volume or another of Kino's Journey (though I'm guessing being a light novel the language would've been quite simple in Japanese, too?).

My interests have led to me to read early modern Chinese fiction recently, and a lot of the short stories and such by authors looking to reach the common man are consequently quite simple. Lu Xun and Lao She are pretty accessible in most of their stuff, other than the odd cultural reference that goes way over most Westerners' heads (certainly I found footnotes useful). With a bit more experience under your belt, Shen Congwen, Zhou Zuoren's essays and Eileen Zhang are all worth a look.

As for modern authors I'm not really all that familiar with too many, but it is my understanding that Yu Hua is easier than you'd think, while Mo Yan can be pretty tough.

The vocab that'll be challenging in these will never be the stuff you can easily get from Japanese - that stuff is always easily defined and found in a dictionary. The issue with most of this stuff is bizarre, obscure Chinese flora+fauna, or practices we just don't have (like making lattices out of fishscales for use in shaded canopies on river boats, or the practice of laying out boards criss-crossed across a whole room when the room is filled with silkworms, etc etc) here. Or just cultural references that need explaining (in Shen Congwen's Xiaoxiao, there's a running joke about '自由', as the term was being spread faster than it was being understood - the villagers start to associate it with anything alien, tradition-defying or sexual and so it alternates between being used as a joke by the villagers and being used wrongly by the villagers, making them the joke).

Besides weird little bits like that, most Chinese literature of the past 100 years lends itself well to reading as a foreign student, as the grammar's rarely much of a challenge. I remember being able to (with no Chinese whatsoever) read manga relatively well with just a dictionary in hand. But I suppose you're well acquainted with the simple vagueness of the grammar by now if you're learning it yourself!

estragon
05-08-2013, 04:27 PM
Okay, thanks.

I'm generally not interested in reading something that has been translated into Chinese, but I agree it can definitely be a good strategy. But it's a good strategy because translated language is really its own kind of thing, similar in a way to the modified language you get in textbooks, and I'm trying to go beyond that.

I'm also not too worried about obscure nouns and such or linguistic complexities reading contested meanings about new concepts like the 自由 example you cited, as I've developed pretty good strategies for dealing with that from reading early- or pre-modern Japanese books that present a similar challenge. Obviously I'll have to start from scratch in a new language, but I'm prepared for that.

If you hear it's not that bad, then I think maybe I might go the Yu Hua route to start, probably 活着 because since I've seen the movie my memories of the general plot will help ground me in figuring out the gist of what's going on if I'm confused.

I was also thinking maybe 孽子 by 白先勇 because it's themes are interesting to me (gay people in Taipei in the 60s).

I'll probably just try to get my hands on both and see which is easier.

Fake Edit: Oh wait lol this is Chinese stuff I can just baidu "[Book Title] 全文" and check it out myself because piracy. 孽子 (http://www.tianyabook.com/xiandai/baixianyong/niezi/index.htm) definitely looks a bit easier than 活着 (http://www.readnovel.com/book/53733/) on first glance.

Pombar
05-08-2013, 04:50 PM
To Live is kind of its own thing, since its writing evolves with the times - the early stuff's characters' speech is all hackneyed and old timey, and as time goes on they start talking in party slogans, etc etc. Also for plot, it starts earlier and ends much later than the movie, so the film would only help you with the midsection. Forget all hopes for a similar pseudo-happy ending, at any rate!

I'd say the depressing book of choice rather than that for beginners would be 骆驼祥子.

As for Taiwanese lit, I'm basically clueless. That might well be a great choice! I have a classmate whose specialism is in gay and trans* rights and awareness in China, HK and Taiwan, but personally I know as only slightly less about it than I do about Taiwanese lit.

Paul le Fou
05-08-2013, 06:17 PM
I read all my mangas in the original glorious nihongo (pushes glasses up nose)


...except I really do. It's study! I've learned some fascinatingly specific vocabulary from reading, say, Pluto (legal/police vocab out the wazoo, enough to watch/play Ace Attorney games with almost no problem) and Kabu no Isaki (aviation terminology).

I'm currently reading some Murakami short stories, too. It takes a long time because I insist on turning it into a study session so I'm a) less motivated and b) need a pencil, dictionary, and more uninterrupted time to convince myself to sit down and do it. Sometimes I'm torn between giving it up and just reading, or buckling down and studying.

TK Flash
05-08-2013, 06:29 PM
The only Japanese books I've ever been able to stomach are Kino's Journey. The level is low and the prose reads like it was translated from English. I usually find Japanese prose to be boring, poorly-written, and soulless. Anything with Anime Speech Patterns is immediately out, too.

One of my favorite reads was Chuo Koron - old Japanese men writing long-ass essays about how pissed off they are. I haven't picked it up in years but I wouldn't mind reading it again. The level is high enough to be "study" too.

estragon
05-08-2013, 06:37 PM
I usually find Japanese prose to be boring, poorly-written, and soulless.

I can probably fix this with recommendations for different kinds of stuff that might suit you better if you want it to be fixed. If you're running into stuff with anime style speech patterns, you might be looking in the wrong places.

Specifically who/what have you read that you think this is the case?

Who are some English language authors you do like?

keele864
05-08-2013, 07:12 PM
The only time I was ever made to attempt to read actual literature in another language was Albert Camus' The Stranger. I didn't really care for the story, but I guess it's probably pretty readable?

Camus is very readable in French.

Maybe try Simenon as well? Very pared-down style, but strong on plotting. Also incredibly prolific. The man wrote five hundred-books, and they're mostly good.

Paul le Fou
05-08-2013, 10:13 PM
I can probably fix this with recommendations for different kinds of stuff that might suit you better if you want it to be fixed. If you're running into stuff with anime style speech patterns, you might be looking in the wrong places.

Specifically who/what have you read that you think this is the case?

Who are some English language authors you do like?

I am interested, either way! I like authors like murakami, rushdie, Mitchell, chabon. I'm interested primarily in a good plot and characters before all else.

TK Flash
05-08-2013, 11:38 PM
I can probably fix this with recommendations for different kinds of stuff that might suit you better if you want it to be fixed. If you're running into stuff with anime style speech patterns, you might be looking in the wrong places.

Specifically who/what have you read that you think this is the case?

Who are some English language authors you do like?

I'm not really up for recommendations right now because I already have a few books that need to be read. If I do pick something new up though I want it to be an easy read and exciting, none of that Murakami "Sit around the house for a month and think about my cat" kind of stuff for me anymore.

bobbywatson
05-09-2013, 10:49 AM
I would love to! Unfortunately, I don't know of any good modern French authors. That's why I'm asking.

Daniel Pennac's "Malaussène" books are absolutely brilliant. His other output, not so much. Edit: I should also point out that the books are filled with slang from France, so maybe they are not accessible if you've never encountered that stuff before. You should be able to find them in used book stores fairly easily though, so they should be cheap.

Closer to home, some of Joël Champetier's fantasy books are really good (especially Les Sources de la magie, which took me completely by surprise when I read it years ago).

Elisabeth Vonarburg can write pretty well, but she has a tendency to make her stories overly complicated in my opinion. her Reine de mémoire story was quite interesting, but ended way too quickly and the plot twist was fairly predictable. (Fun fact, I met her on the bus once and, when I asked her what she was doing these days, she said she was busy translating Marion Zimmer Bradley, and that she was doing it to pay the rent.)

Can't think of any other worth mentioning at the moment, but I'll take a look at my bookshelves when I get home.

shivam
05-09-2013, 11:43 AM
I taught myself to read hindi and sanskrit through scripture, but i understand that this method won't work for everyone.

Alpha Werewolf
05-09-2013, 11:54 AM
I read Hebrew all the time, unsurprisingly considering it's my first language. That said, I'm also learning Japanese, though I'm not at the level where I could actually read anything serious.

Pombar
05-09-2013, 04:20 PM
I taught myself to read hindi and sanskrit through scripture, but i understand that this method won't work for everyone.Apparently Chinese kids learned by studying the Four Confucian Classics (and the Four Literary Classics) for centuries. But then that was in conjunction with speaking to friends/family in that same language. This is pretty similar to how Arabic kids in the UK learn Arabic through memorising the Koran and by talking to relatives and the local community, in fact. But it's kinda awkward, I'd assume, to learn this way if you know no-one who speaks the language (as in fact it is to learn any language without knowing anyone to practice it with).

Also, not many non-Asian languages are so entrenched in a certain religious or cultural vocabulary that a single source (or single group of sources) can give you a well-rounded understanding of a language. Especially not in their modern forms.

shivam
05-09-2013, 05:26 PM
yeah, exactly. English was very much like this back in the 1600s, when our linguistic forefathers learned to read and speak and use idiom because of the (literary masterpiece) KJV.

Pombar
05-09-2013, 05:33 PM
yeah, exactly. English was very much like this back in the 1600s, when our linguistic forefathers learned to read and speak and use idiom because of the (literary masterpiece) KJV.And yet, it wouldn't have helped you to speak it to most of the country - even at that point Chaucer and the like would be more helpful there. It's like the wild change in lexis and even grammatical patterns in Shakespeare between the highborn characters and the commoners and servants (when talking to each other, at least).

English was very much a two-tiered language (thanks, Normans!) and the Biblical stuff stayed mostly for the nobs for centuries, as it only very slowly trickled down to the yobs.

Of course, I've heard Chinese was the same - there's just less written evidence of it until the leftist writers in the early 20th century.

Language is awesome and I wish I knew more. Alas.

shivam
05-09-2013, 05:36 PM
historical linguistics is my favorite thing.

MikeDinosaur
05-09-2013, 08:44 PM
Does anyone know any good, fun, simple-ish spanish novels a guy could read to start getting a handle on the language? Ideally they'd be out on kindle, since I'm doing a lot of travelling soon.