Language learning and motivation: Setting reading goals

What is your motivation to learn a language?  For some people, it helps to have a concrete goal like successfully understanding a favourite book in its original language.  Some people choose a famous novel or poem or writer to use as their inspiration for continuing their language study.  As good as translators can be these days, they can never capture exactly the original feeling that the author intended, and it’s a wonderful thing to be able to read and understand the majority of an original piece of writing.

Whether you are learning a language for business or personal reasons, it can be really helpful to have a target like this, especially when it is a book or piece of prose you know you will enjoy.  Of course, for professional reasons you may wish to read material related to your own industry, but the comprehension of this is also rewarding.

If you are new to a language, start with achievable goals, like reading children’s stories, newspaper articles, or simple short stories.  Using a Dostoyevsky epic in its original Russian as your first goal might be a bit ambitious, but you could always use it as a long-term aim.  Also bear in mind that reading classical stories in outdated languages might not help you with your conversational vocabulary.

Some websites and publishers also provide side-by-side translations of books and texts, so you can refer to the translated text whenever you come across something you don’t understand.  Remember that to understand something, you don’t have to know every single word.  Even native speakers stumble on vocabulary sometimes.  Look words up when you need to, but don’t let difficult words interrupt your enjoyment of reading.

I came across an interesting discussion thread about people’s ‘books they’d learn a language for’, which includes suggestions about great books in contributors’ own languages.  Which books do you want to read in their original forms, and which would you recommend to learners of your language?  Have you achieved any of your language goals?

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