How a French Developer Began to Read in a Foreign Language
Axel de Velp studied film, worked in the publishing industry with a focus on film, and is currently a developer for Bookwitty. A voracious reader, Axel is French, but has been reading in a foreign language—English—for twenty years now. Although he would have loved to read The Raven translated by Charles Baudelaire, he feels as long as he’s able to read a work in its original language, then why not? Of the 25 books or so he reads a year, about half of them are in English, with a decided bent for science fiction and history.
The benefits of learning other languages are evident, but reading in a foreign language further helps consolidate the language you might be studying, whether for pleasure or for your work. As this article on Brainscape says: "Like reading in one’s native language, reading in a foreign language helps us become more comfortable with the words and grammatical rules that enable us to express our own thoughts. Seeing the text of new words and concepts visually helps to reinforce our memory of them, while having the ability to stop, think, or look up words in a dictionary allows for more individualized pace of mental absorption."
It was actually movies that got Axel reading in English. As a teenager he lived in Africa and watched VHS videos in their original version (for the most part in English) without the possibility of subtitles. He asked his sister who was living in France to send him published versions of film scripts in English, the first being Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. He would read the scripts having already seen the films. Another galvanizing reason for reading in English was that he was involved in role-playing games and reached a point playing Deadlands where the next book hadn’t yet been translated into French.
“So I bought some Deadlands books in English to enrich the universe and the roles. It was a good entry point. There was a lot of description. There were some technical terms but that was ok since I was used to that. There was a lot of slang though.”
Axel got around the slang not by using a dictionary, but by trying to grasp the context: “I became more confident in my ability to understand it because of the context. That was really the beginning…”
He moved on to reading books that he had already read in French translation, such as favorites by H.P. Lovecraft including the story "The Call of Cthulhu".
“Then I began to read shorter works of non-fiction by people like Paul Krugman. There was one book that represented the moment when I decided that if a book were written in English, I would only read it in English. My father gave me a book about archeological studies about the bible written by Israeli historians. I assumed it had been written in Hebrew. After I read two or three chapters of it I liked it so much I wanted to buy another copy for my father. I saw that the book had actually been translated from English. So I told my father the copy he gave me was his to keep, and I bought myself the original English version.”
Since then, Axel has never looked back. The number of English-language novels and history books he has under his belt are impressive. Here are some of his favorite books in English, an eclectic mix of fiction preceding non-fiction.
Image courtesy Flashrevista/ Creatures Of Hp Lovecraft Wallpaper