Tag Archives: language

Reading language and format (2016 update)

About a year ago, I wrote a couple of blog posts where I reflected on the mix of languages I used when reading books between English, French and Spanish and about the format of the books I read, whether electronic or paper books. After having shared last week my 2016 reading list, this is just a short post to update the two tables I included in those posts:

Reading language

reading_language_2016

From 2010 to 2015 I read mostly in English. This is something I changed in the second half of 2015 and in this 2016 I have continued with a more balanced approach, with 42% of the books I read being in English, 33% in Spanish and 24% in French. I believe I will continue with a similar approach in this 2017.

Reading format

reading_format_2016

In 2016 I have continued with the same ratio of electronic to paper books than in the previous years. As I read more books in 2016 than in any other previous year, I have also read more electronic books, hopefully this will lead to the amortization of the e-reader I have in this year or the next (I estimated here its amortization in about 20 e-books read with it, the first batch of 10 already completed).

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Reading language

In a previous post, Musings on objectives setting, I mentioned about reading:

I found that I am not that fast reader (in English and French and neither in Spanish!) nor all the books that I pick are that easy or short, so I linger every year around the 10 books.

BookShelfIn the second half of 2015 I was able to catch up with the objective by reading 2 books a month as intended. This demanded a rigorous approach, dedicating some time each night to reading (not that I didn’t enjoy it!).

I then reflected on the fact that of the last 8 books I read: 4 were in Spanish (plus 3 in English and 1 in French, a light novel by Saint-Exupéry). Did it help in that last reading rush that I read more books in Spanish than in 2014? In 2014 the mix of the books I read was 8 in English and 2 in Spanish. This reflection triggered the curiosity to find out the language mix of the books I read in the previous years, which I checked with the help of this blog (1). See below:

Booksperlanguage

I do not speak many languages, thus I cannot read all the books I read in their original languages (e.g. “The diary of a young girl” or “Crime and Punishment” lately). However, I try to read books in their original language when the authors write in English, Spanish or French, with few exceptions (normally due to availability of a book). When I cannot read one in the original language, I assume that the different translations to the languages I understand are as good (2) and I normally chose the Spanish version to ease the reading.

Seeing the mix above, in the last 6 years I have read more than three times as many books in English than in Spanish. This was intentional, since over a decade ago, in order to keep learning, improving, and to exercise the mind (3). I considered that each book I read in English (or now in French) met two objectives in one: using a different language and reading. It is only now that I reflect that by pushing myself to this exercise I might be reading a bit less than I could if I read always in Spanish, but I am happy with the mix and I think I will keep up with that policy.

I wonder whether you have similar reading language mixes or policies, feel free to comment below if you like.

(1) Either in a specific post about each year’s personal reading list or in the personal summary of each year provided some info of the books I read. However, in 2011 and 2010 I relied on a then available feature of LinkedIn which enabled you to track and comment books read, not active anymore. I retrieved some info of what books I read in those years via the book reviews I made in the blog but I was not able to retrieve all books from 2010 (over a dozen vs 11 I am able to track now).

(2) This may be a bold assumption, but I never go that far as to knowing or researching about how good translators are (may be I should!).

(3) Similar reasons are behind the fact of writing most of the posts in the blog in English: exercising, learning and improving, plus reaching a much wider audience (including foreign in-laws and friends).

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West of here

Some years ago, I watched a TED talk in which the case of the topic of how language influenced the way we think was discussed. In particular I remembered that it was given as an example how the Guugu Yimithirr people, Australian aborigines, had a very developed sense of orientation because in their language there were not such words as “left”, “right”, “in front of” or “behind”, but they have to give relative positions or directions with words like “North”, “South”, “East” and “West”. That example was kept deep in my mind.

I would comfortably reckon myself as someone who has a good sense of orientation, and when visiting Seattle about 2 months ago I was quickly reminded of the example described above when seeing this kind of signs:

"Parking prohibited West of here".

“Parking prohibited West of here”.

We saw several of such signs, either giving instructions in relation to North/South or East/West. As in Seattle you have the Ocean coast mainly at the West, I would say that is easy for everyone to interprete these signs, but then again, not using that kind of language priming in English, I guess that some people will be mistaken from time to time.

P.S.: In the picture above, I knew where the West was and where my car was, I just won’t tell…

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