Fui a la librería. Large bookstore, two stories high on the peatonal, the no-car-zone in the heart of the old part of the city, la Ciudad Vieja. Gorgeous building on the outside, I’ve walked by it every day on my way to and from Spanish class.
Huge front windows filled with treasures and I can see parts of the inside with its stained glass and beautiful architecture. Books of all kinds, CDs, too.
Today, I went inside. ¿Por qué? Es muy importante para leer y escuchar. And my teacher, Juan, had some bookstore-style suggestions for ways to improve vocabulary and language usage. More suggestions, too: Watch Uruguyan or Argentinean movies on YouTube (for the specific accent) and keep an eye on the English subtitles. Same idea for Uruguayan pop songs – search for karaoke, since the lyrics will show up on screen.
Inside the bookstore, I pick up some children’s books. Not big picture books for toddlers, with only a few words on a page, but (very) young person’s books, suitable for ages 6 or 7 or 8, for stories I can read and (mostly) understand.
I couldn’t find books in both languages so I had to ask for them, and was also shown algunos libros en dos idiomas, on facing pages. The same selections of text are presented, so you don’t have to flip pages back and forth, but can practice reading and, by comparing, increase comprehension. I chose two slim books of short stories by Dickens and London, each with a corresponding CD in both languages.
Of course besides seeing how sentences are structured, you also see how things get lost in translation, especially in conveying the writer’s voice. The American-ness of Jack London and the classic English rhythm of Charles Dickens seem to vanish. Makes me wonder what happens when I read Gabriel García Márquez in translation.
That’s the fluency goal, of course. Big difference between functional fluency and the ability to understand and appreciate poetry and novels. Small steps. Pasos pequeños.