Reading texts in foreign languages

A bit misleading, this category, b/c I’m really going to get into details of reading texts in other languages, but, OTOH, it IS what I’m reading.
I have been quite out of sorts recently and when I am I tend to grab books at random. One I grabbed was a 1965 Soviet collection of Russian Sci-Fi. A short story, On the Atoll, caught my attention and I read it. To my delight, I found that this “authentic” item, written by a native speaker for native speakers (and for adults, to clarify for the really ancient among us who think Sci-Fi is a youth literature), was without unknown words except for a couple of specialty items. I have a Russian frequency dictionary of 10,000 words and I check the words I don’t know to see if they are in there; these weren’t. One’s meaning became clear at the end: skafandry turned out to be ‘biohazard suits’. I noted two uses of reduplicated adjectives, recalling their frequent use in Urdu: warm-warm and red-red to indicate intensity. 1800 words approximately and I read the story easily. The funniest epiphany on a word was the capitalized word Friday. In Russian, days of the week aren’t capitalized, so that should have been my first clue; the second? They were on an atoll. The third? And this one finally brought it up for me: not Friday the day but Robinson Crusoe’s My Man Friday……. and it helped to realize Friday was a robot. The word robot is Czech and means worker; the word rabota in Russian, a closely related language, means work. I don’t know if Russian robot for robot came directly from Czech or if it is part of the international voabulary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *