Reading is one of the most enjoyable pastimes known to us. Many people read for pleasure and others do so to develop their knowledge or gain a skill. When you are learning a foreign language, reading books in that language will go a long way towards helping you achieve a decent level of fluency. Obviously, frequent interactions with native speakers are probably the best and quickest way to master a language, but if those are in short supply then reading comes a close second. Whenever I set about learning a new language (and I have quite a few of such experiences under my belt), I would go out and buy a book in that language as soon as I had a basic notion of grammar and a vocabulary substantial enough to be able to read without checking every other word in a dictionary. And trust me, it works wonders. I cannot stress enough the importance of reading in the language-learning process.
The other day I came across an interesting article by Meaghan, published on www.transparent.com. In the article she offers her pick of 8 stories that make for good reading material for language learners. Needless to say, all of those books are classics and are well-known and hugely popular the world over. Moreover, all of the books are among the most translated in the world, which means that regardless of whether you are learning Italian, Turkish or Korean, you will likely have little trouble finding a copy in your target language. Which is quite nice.
I read the first 3 books in the Harry Potter series in Spanish and they are very suitable both for fluent speakers and those who are less proficient but looking to build on the knowledge they already have. They are not overtly difficult to understand, barring a few magical words here and there, and are highly recommendable. I only ever read The Little Prince in English, many years ago, but after perusing a recent article about it in the New Yorker, I feel that re-visiting it in French would be a great idea. According to the article The Adventures of Pinocchio, one of my childhood favourites, has been translated into 260 languages. Very impressive indeed.
I would also add a few much beloved timeless classics such as Cinderella and Winnie The Pooh to the list. As far as adult books are concerned, I think The Catcher in the Rye is worth mentioning too.
One book that is currently very high on my very extensive reading list is One Hundred Years of Solitude by the wonderful Gabriel García Márquez, who sadly passed away last month. I never got around to reading his most famous novel and I will most certainly read it in Spanish. It's probably not suitable for beginners, but it is a fabulous resource for picking up some Colombian words and expressions. I am learning Swedish at the moment, but it´s early days and my only experience of reading in this language has so far been a collection of children´s stories. Perhaps one day I will endeavour to read one of Stieg Larsson´s bestselling novels in Swedish? I would certainly like to try.
It is true that books are best enjoyed in their original language. Some things do get lost in translation. But there is nothing wrong with reading foreign translations of your favourite novels either. Comic books are also a good place to start. It is truly one of the quickest and most fun ways to learn a language. Happy reading.