“Those who know nothing of foreign languages,
know nothing of their own.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
On this page, I shall be listing the books I’m reading in German. I’m currently studying the language, and this is an enjoyable addition to coursebooks. I hope to read at least one novel per month. My method consists of reading very slowly, sounding out each word, not translating it into English in my head, and not looking up anything in the dictionary. When I see an unknown word often enough, or then hear it on television, something “clicks”.
update: I’ve actually come to the realization that the dictionary/translation method works best for me. So try different things until you find what works best for you.
1. January 2010: currently reading Agatha Christie’s, Und dann gabs keines mehr (English title:” “And then there were none”)
I have read it previously in English, plus have seen the 1945 film version, so am quite familiar with the plot. That helps greatly, no doubt. Several months ago, I did read it in Deutsch. I am thus far pleased at how many words I now know that I didn’t the first time around.
UPDATE: finished Und dann gabs keines Mehr.
being a Christie tale, I thought I’d share a few terms related to crime, death, and murder:
Zyankalivergiftung- cyanide poisoning (btw- never accept any “gift” in Germany. It’s poison.)
And here’s a few translations:
Original English version: “He had even complimented her on her presence of mind and courage, she remembered.
Deutsch: “Er hatte sie sogar für ihre Geistesgegenwart und ihren Mut gelobt, erinnerte sie sich.”
Original English version: “Lucky that he’d managed to pull himself together in time after that business- ten- no, fifteen years ago.”
Deutsch: “Was für ein Glück, dass er sich rechtzeitig nach diesem Vorfall vor zehn- nein, fünfzehn- Jahren wieder zusammengerissen hatte.”
Original English: “They came up over a steep hill and down a zigzag track to Sticklehaven – a mere cluster of cottages with a fishing boat or two drawn up on the beach.”
Deutsch: “Sie fuhren einen steilen Hügel hoch und dann einen Zickzackpfad hinunter nach Sticklehaven- einer bloßen Ansammlung von Fischerhäusern mit dem einen oder anderen Boot am Strand.”
2. February 2010: On January 28th, I began Anton Chekhov’s play, Die Möwe. (English title: “The Seagull”)
3. February 21, 2010:
I finished Die Möwe at the beginning of the month. It was as melancholic in German as I remember it to be when I read it years ago in English. Evidently though, Chekhov considered it a comedy. Hmm…
I’m currently reading Steinbeck’s, Von Mäusen und Menschen. (which you can probably guess is, Of Mice and Men). I recall disliking it when it was assigned back in school (though I loved The Grapes of Wrath). Anyway, the tv show Lost has mentioned it enough times for me to want to give it another try.
The Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag’s back cover describes it thus: “George und der bärenstarke, aber einfältige Lennie ziehen zusammen übers Land, um sich als Erntehelfer ein paar Dollar zu verdienen. Ihr grosser Traum ist eine eigene kleine Farm…”
The best I can translate it is: ” George and the strong as a bear, but slow-witted Lennie are traveling over the land together, as they work as farmhelpers to earn a few dollars. Their great dream is to own a little farm…”
4. March 2010
Early in the month, I squeeled with joy to discover a novel by one of my favorite urban fantasists, Charles de Lint, at the bookstore that I frequent. Grünmantel. (Greenmantel). Locus’s blurb on the back cover describes it as, “Ein Buch voller Kraft und Schönheit.” (“A book full of Strength and Beauty” )
It did not take me long to discover that reading De Lint translated into German was an entirely different beast than enjoying his works in English. Indeed, this book proved to be the most challenging one thus far. By far. As the sentences were much longer, and therefore, not as stylistically simplistic as the Agatha Christies I read, or Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men.
Here are a few examples from Grünmantel that give insight into German’s grammatical structure:
In statements, the verb is always put in the second spot (note: that will not always be the second word). Any other verbs pile up at the end.
“Ich werde sie fragen.” literal translation: I will she ask
“Veileicht solltest du dir einen Termin bei Dr. Bolton geben lassen.” Literal translation: Maybe should you you an appointment with Dr. Bolton give let. (the other two verbs are put at the end)