Saturday, April 3, 2010

Word from a classicist

This morning I was complaining to the GF about my slow progress. I spent a lot of time yesterday reading two pages.

"Now can you see why I say I don't really know Latin and Greek?" she asked. She explained once again that she was told that you needed a PhD to be really fluent. At that, one only becomes a fluent reader. She has a BA in classics. She also explained that studying both languages meant she couldn't be as good at one or the other. She can read a fair amount of what's posted at the Greek Orthodox church where her sons are in the scouts.

While I doubt I'll be a fluent reader of De eeuw van mijn vader I'm sure I can become a fluent reader of Dutch for the following reasons:

1. Unlike classicists, I can listen. There are lots of broadcasts of various types.

2. As a living language, I can find everything in Dutch, in terms of register. Mainly pompous high-register prose survives in the classics. In Dutch, I can now read a fair amount of ordinary news stories.

I'm wondering if my struggles to read Dutch will be similar to what happened when I started reading Spanish. After failing to read 100 Years of Solitude I got Love in the Time of Cholera. From there, I looked up authors I should read. I read books by Guatemala's Nobel Laureate, Miguel Asturias. Eventually, I got around to Carlos Fuentes. Although he's a great author, he's not Mr. Vocabulary like the others. The experience was amazing. I read his books straight through.

1 comment:

  1. Hey. Not everything in Greek and Latin is pompous and high-register. Greek in particular has an innocence about it that I love. If you read Herodotus in Greek, you get a sense that the father of history must have been smiling as he wrote.

    Learning a language by translating is an uphill battle, a constant struggle though. It's a great mental exercise though. There's no telling what you are preparing yourself to take on...