But I had to study, memorize, and learn word order (this was easier because I had had two years of HS Spanish 15 years before, so there was at least a slight bit of prior knowledge, not to mention my two years in Florida teaching ESOL social studies did lead to some limited language acquisition) before I could read passages without needing to have a dictionary at hand. Within six months, however, I had mastered the language enough that I could read unfamiliar words and learn them based on the words around them. That may be fast, but still involved dozens, if not over a hundred, of hours of labor.
Tonight, I have revived this practice. I am teaching myself how to read Romanian more fluently in order to review Liviu Rebreanu's Pădurea spânzuraților (The Forest of the Hanged) later this year for my new World War I-themed blog, World War I Literature, Art, and Cinema. Below is a picture of the opening paragraphs, followed by my notes of unfamiliar words (some are from the preface, but I skimmed through parts of it in order to have more time to devote to the novel itself). I am currently halfway through the second paragraph and this is after a couple hours' of work reading and re-reading for semantic clues as well as transcribing words and their English counterparts. Just over 160 words (around 70 for the two paragraphs) have been written down:
However, looking up words is only of limited use if the reader/translator cannot connect them to create an approximation of what is transpiring on the printed page. Here is a very rough translation of the first paragraph, one that might edited several times in the months to come as I come to learn the language's nuances a bit better:
Not the greatest to be sure, but I think this paragraph alone promises a rewarding experience if I stick to doing this laborious vocabulary learning/translation. Don't think I have time to write out a draft translation for every single paragraph (if that were the case, I would still be reading this novel well into 2015 at least), but perhaps I'll write more on my language acquisition efforts in the future, provided this was of at least some little interest to those reading this. I just only hope that in the weeks to come, I won't be writing down quite so many words in order to learn the gist of what I am reading.
Under an ashen autumn sky like a huge ball of steamed glass, a new and defiant hangman, stuck on the outskirts of the village, stretched his arm with the noose toward the black field, pricked hither and thither by brass-colored trees. Supervised by a short corporal, dark, and helped by a peasant with his hairy and red-faced daughter, two old soldiers were digging graves, spitting frequently on their palms and huffing in labor after each blow of their pickaxes. From the earth's wounds the gravediggers flung yellow, sticky clay...
So yeah, having reading squirrels is very nice and all, but when it comes to learning how to read a new language, sometimes, a lot of effort is required to make even minimal headway. But the past has taught me that there will come a point where it'll all start to "click" and then I'll have another language whose works I can read without need for a dictionary to make sure that I do get the basic meaning of the texts correct.