21 Feb

Reading Harry Potter in Spanish

Canny readers may have noticed a few mentions of Harry Potter on the list of books I read in 2016. Last year, I made it my goal to read the entire Harry Potter series in Spanish. Here I describe why I did it, my methods, and what I got from this exercise.

The Why

Harry Potter is a popular choice for language learners because it’s a popular work generally. It’s translated into a huge number of languages and it’s relatively easy to find. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of popularity. It also, ostensibly, starts with simple language that gets more difficult throughout each book. I liked the idea of reading something that would build up and having a series that I could focus on. It seemed like it would be easier to start building fluency with a lot of young adult works by one author than with many unconnected books.

Aside from the series’ ubiquity, I chose Harry Potter because I had not read it all. My family was an early adopter of the books. I think we got the first novel when I was, perhaps, 13 (for reference, the last book was published in 2007, when I was 21). My sister was the target age for the story. I was just old enough to still be entertained, but not enthralled. I read through the fifth book (of seven) as an adolescent, but never read the last two. Working the release night of book six at Barnes and Noble resulted in me being fully fed up with the Potter phenomenon. But, nearly 10 years later, I was ready to revisit the story.

The How

I knew that reading Harry Potter in Spanish would be an undertaking in vocabulary. When I started reading it, I was using Anki for flashcards. As I read, I looked up words and wrote down the word and the definition in a steno notebook. This is a method I had used in the past and I liked it well enough. After reading, I added the vocabulary to my Anki flashcard deck.

Sometime in the middle of Harry Potter y el prisoner de Azkaban (book 3), I decided to change it up. Looking up words was making the reading too slow—and I was already reading slower than I wanted (the problem with reading fast in English is that it feels terrible to go so slowly in another language). I decided to try underlining words to look up later, which hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it mentioned in Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words. This was a great choice for me because it made me focus on reading without stopping and on decoding meaning based on context. I don’t think it would have gone well for me to read the first book this way, but it was right by the time I was in the third.

I switched flashcard platforms partway through reading as well. On the recommendation of my Icelandic tutor, I began using Memrise. I decided I liked Memrise better so I made a “Harry Potter Spanish” course and started adding new words. I learned a lot of words this way. Unfortunately, I was taking down more vocabulary than I could learn. My vocabulary study was perpetually eight or more chapters behind my reading. It’s not the worst thing, but it would have been nice to keep pace.

All 7 Harry Potter books stacked

My pile of Harry Potter books

About halfway through Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (book 7), I declared lexical bankruptcy. I stopped underlining words to look up later. I hadn’t added any new words to my course since chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the misterio del príncipe (book 6). That said, I had about 2,000 words total in my Memrise course. Plus, I picked up some words and phrases that I didn’t formally study. Although I like learning new vocabulary and there was certainly more I could have learned, I was losing interest in the world of Harry Potter and decided to focus on reading instead of vocabulary for the last leg of the journey.

The Benefits

This seems like a good time for a bulleted list:

  • I learned a lot of vocabulary words.
  • I became familiar with a lot of phrases and bits of common usage. For example, you don’t “shake your head” in Spanish, you negas con la cabeza (literally: refuse with the head).
  • I started reading a lot more smoothly.
  • I accepted the fact that I do not and cannot know all words (which is also true in English!)
  • I read a lot faster now.
  • I can proudly say I read thousands of pages’ worth of writing in Spanish.
  • I am a much more confident reader.

Now What?

I’ve already started my next book in Spanish, La Distancia Entre Nosotros (The Distance Between Us). It seems much easier to read. In some ways, the subject matter is easier because it’s less fanciful. On the other hand, this is a book written for adults. I’m glad that I read Harry Potter, but I am really glad to be onto another book. My enthusiasm was seriously waning towards the end. In my goals for 2017, I said that I wanted to read 6 books in Spanish this year. At this rate, I’ll be able to get through more than that, which is really cool!

One question I have been asked is whether I would do this again. I am learning Icelandic too and Harry Potter in Icelandic is a real thing. At this point, I am not sure. I definitely got a lot out of reading the series in Spanish, but part of the motivation was also that I had not read all the books before. I might be inclined to read books originally written in Icelandic and that are a little more interesting to me (also good arguments for not reading Harry Potter in Spanish, for that matter). I’m at least a year out from being at a level where I would attempt Harry Potter in Icelandic. I need some time and distance before I could say for sure whether this is something I would do again. For now, I’m enjoying the benefits of being a stronger reader in Spanish.

31 Dec

2016: The Year in Books

I read 43 books this year. It’s not a lot compared to last year’s 71, but it was a full year.

  • Page count: 16,413, or 59% of what I read last year.
  • Library use: I read 17 library books and 26 books that I own.
  • Female and male authors: 33 of the books I read were by women. I read books by 26 discrete authors. Twenty of those were women.
  • Digital versus analog: I read 25 dead-tree books and 18 digital books.
  • Fiction versus non-fiction: I read just 3 non-fiction books this year.
  • Favorites: I read a lot of good books this year. I really enjoyed Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin, which combines all my favorite themes: linguistics, aliens, and feminism. I got out of my usual comfort zone of genre fiction and found some things I quite liked, notably My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt. My most favorites were probably The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin. I just love her writing.
  1. The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
  2. God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert
  3. Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
  4. Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV by Jennifer L. Pozner
  5. Chapterhouse Dune by Frank Herbert
  6. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
  7. The Core of the Sun by Johanna Sinisalo
  8. The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  9. A Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta
  10. Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
  11. Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal by J. K. Rowling
  12. The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
  13. A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab
  14. Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer
  15. Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
  16. Harry Potter y la cámara secreta by J. K. Rowling
  17. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
  18. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin
  19. In Other Words Jhumpa Lahiri
  20. The Judas Rose by Sizette Haden Elgin
  21. Harry Potter y el prisionero de Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
  22. Earth Song by Suzette Haden Elgin
  23. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal
  24. Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal
  25. Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiveristy by Steve Silberman
  26. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
  27. Harry Potter y el cáliz de fuego by J. K. Rowling
  28. Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
  29. The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
  30. Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
  31. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
  32. Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
  33. Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer
  34. The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin
  35. Mr. Splitfood by Samantha Hunt
  36. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
  37. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  38. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  39. Harry Potter y la orden del fénix by J. K. Rowling
  40. Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe by J. K. Rowling
  41. Bitch Planet by Deconnick & De Landro
  42. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  43. The Devourers  by Indra Das

 

01 Jan

2015: The Year in Books

I made it through 71 books this year. It’s not as many as last year, but still highly respectable.

  • Page Count: around 27,128, based on statistics from LibraryThing.  This is about 77 percent of what I read last year
  • Library Use: 47 of the 71 books (66 percent) I read were from the library. Thank you, Sacramento Public Library!
  • Female and Male Authors: I read 41 books written by women and 30 written by men. Suck it, men. It takes a conscious effort to read more books by women, but it’s worthwhile, especially if you haven’t done it before.
  • Digital and Analog: I read 38 digital books and 33 analog (aka dead tree) books.
  • Fiction and Non-Fiction: I read 18 non-fiction and 53 fiction books.
  • Favorites: My favorites this year were Kameron Hurley’s books (all of them), Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, Who Fears Death, and Wolf Winter. The book I found most unexpectedly great was All My Puny Sorrows. It’s hard to pick favorites though because everything I read was pretty good this year.
  1.  The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
  2.  The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells
  3.  The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  4.  The Whispering Muse by Sjón
  5.  Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson
  6.  Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap Americaby by Linda Tirado
  7.  Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link
  8.  The Just City by Jo Walton
  9.  The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
  10.  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age by Astra Taylor
  11.  Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio
  12.  The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
  13.  Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Skakur
  14.  Down and Derby: The Insiders Guide to Roller Derby by Jennifer Barbee and Alex Cohen
  15.  Infidel by Kameron Hurley
  16.  The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson
  17.  Rapture by Kameron Hurley
  18.  In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
  19.  2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
  20.  Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer
  21.  The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
  22.  Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
  23.  Captive Paradise: A History of Hawaii by James L. Haley
  24.  An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz
  25.  Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
  26.  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
  27.   A Darker Shade of Magic: A Novel by V. E. Schwab
  28.  Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
  29.  This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb
  30.  The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
  31.  The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
  32.  Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
  33.  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  34.  The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
  35.  The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  36.  Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
  37.  Dune by Frank Herbert
  38.  Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People by Elizabeth A. Fenn
  39.  Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
  40.  The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton
  41.  The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  42.  Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett
  43.  Children of Dune by Frank Herbert
  44.  The Undreground Girls of Kabul: In Search of A Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg
  45.  Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  46.  All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Towes
  47.  Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
  48.  The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu
  49.  Dream London by Tony Ballantyne
  50.  Last First Snow by Max Gladstone
  51.  The Lies of Locke Lamora by Max Gladstone
  52.  Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  53.  Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
  54.  The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
  55.   The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
  56.  Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
  57.  Ivory Vikings by Nancy Marie Brown
  58.  The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
  59.  The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi
  60.  Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  61.  Luna: New Moon by Ian MacDonald
  62.  My Real Children by Jo Walton
  63.  Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
  64.  Butterflies in November by Auður Ava ólafsdóttir
  65.  Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  66.  Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  67.  The Art of Language Invention by David Peterson
  68.  Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
  69.  One of Us: Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seirstad
  70.  Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
  71.  Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby by Margot Atwell
31 Dec

2013: The Year in Books

It’s new year’s eve and it is time for my annual list of the books I read for the year. I read the entire Wheel of Time series this year, which was really quite time consuming. I read 46 books overall–not quite the 50+ I was shooting for, but I think it is still respectable, all things considered. Nineteen of the books were non-fiction.

  1. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 1/20
  2. The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan 2/14
  3. CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One Exam Guide, 8th Edition by Michael Meyers 2/18
  4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain 2/25
  5. Over the Cliff: How Obama’s Election Drove the American Right Insane by John Amato and David Neiwert 3/1
  6. The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan 3/7
  7. The Ordinary Acrobat by Duncan Wall 3/10
  8. The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren & Amelia Warren Tyagi 3/19
  9. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr 4/2
  10. Every Day by David Levithan 4/3
  11. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright 4/9
  12. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 4/27
  13. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou 4/29
  14. Adventures of the Artificial Woman: A Novel by Thomas Berger 5/1
  15. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan 6/10
  16. Dreams and Shadows: A Novel by C. Robert Cargill 6/16
  17. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson 6/28
  18. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo 7/2
  19. I Fired God: My Life Inside—and Escape from—the Secret World of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult by Jocelyn Zichterman 7/4
  20. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 7/10
  21. The Unlikely Disciplie: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose 7/24
  22. Oz Reimagined: New Tales from the Emerald City and Beyond edited by John Joseph Adams & Douglas Cohen 7/30
  23. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes 8/11
  24. Girls of the Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kernan 8/28
  25. Red Shirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi 9/3
  26. The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan 9/4
  27. Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth about Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti 9/10
  28. Asperger’s on the Job: Must-Have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and Advocates by Rudy Simone 9/11
  29. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan 9/17
  30. Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan 10/2
  31. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler 10/11
  32. The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan 10/18
  33. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan 10/23
  34. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan 10/24
  35. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan 10/25
  36. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan 10/29
  37. Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan 11/7
  38. Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan 11/24
  39. The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Lou Schuler, Cassandra Forsthe, Alwyn Cosgrove 11/27
  40. Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown 12/2
  41. Just a Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales of the Search for Life, Love, and Fulfillment Beyond the Starship Enterprise by Wil Wheaton 12/4
  42. Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan 12/6
  43. Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh 12/8
  44. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/13
  45. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/22
  46. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 12/31