Monday, July 10, 2006

My new Polish book




I finished Anielka by Bolesław Prus, and I am rejoicing in that accomplishment. It is the first complete book I have read in Polish, although I have read parts of others (particularly a translation of Anne of Green Gables).

I have already written about the transformation or mental shift that occurred in June, which gave me the "power" (for lack of a better word) to actually read in Polish in a similar manner to the way I read in English (albeit still much slower). I don't remember learning to read the first time around, that is to say, in English. I knew how to read before I went to kindergarten, but I don't remember learning, and so I don't remember a time when I could not read. That heady realization that print makes sense and that I could decipher it is simply not in my memory.

Until now. After our dinner out the other evening, we visited a multi-story bookstore downtown, because I wanted to get a new Polish book to read. I do not want to read books in translation, but rather books written in Polish by Polish authors, so I went directly to that section of the store. I opened book after book and read random paragraphs. And I could. I understood them. Since this has not always been the case, I had an uncanny sense of power--that I could read!--and that there were whole vistas on the horizon that I hadn't seen before. It's difficult to describe, but it occurred to me that a child must feel something like that when the words on the page cease to be phonetic letters to puzzle out and suddenly become words and sentences and stories.

Previously, I would read over a sentence five or six times before it was understandable. It took a long time for me to work through a paragraph, let alone a page. Making myself read a book consistently over the course of weeks finally pushed my brain through a door, and I feel like a little kid who can't wait to demonstrate a new-found skill.

So, I needed a new book, and this is the one I have chosen--W pustyni i w puszczy by Henryk Sienkiewicz. He is a well-known Polish author, best known in English, I think, for Quo Vadis. This book is (again) a book for children; however, it is also a fine example of literature. His longer books are SO long that they seem too daunting right now. As it is, this book is twice as long as Anielka. I believe this book has been translated into English, but I am disappointed in the title. If I were going to translate the title, I would make it In Wilderness and Wasteland instead of In Desert and Wilderness, to preserve the alliteration in the title. But they didn't ask me.

Ja umiem czytać po polsku i dlatego że, dziś się cieszy. (I know how to read in Polish, and that's why I'm happy today.)

6 Comments:

At 5:46 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

I know exactly what you mean about the sudden opening up of things that reading allows--I saw it this spring when Crayons suddenly jumped into almost-fluent reading. All of a sudden the cans in the grocery store, the signs on the stores, the books on her own shelf, the things we wrote on the calendar had meaning that they'd never had for her before.

 
At 3:04 PM , Blogger Debbie V. said...

I so enjoy reading your posts.
I am curious...do students in Poland learn to speak English?

 
At 4:54 PM , Blogger Calamity Jane said...

I've been reluctant to jump back into reading Japanese because it is so very slow and difficult, but you have encouraged me to try again.

Also, I don't remember a time when I did not know how to read, but I do remember the joy I felt when I closed my mouth one day while I was reading aloud to myself and the words kept going without help from sounds. I was so excited I ran around the house.

 
At 5:33 PM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

English is taught in the Polish schools from the beginning, although for many years it's pretty much basic vocabulary such as colors, body parts, and "What time is it?" (I know this because children who try to speak English usually choose one of these topics.)

It's not uncommon for high-schoolers to be able to carry on a (weak) conversation in English. Many of them understand English rather well (thanks to TV and movies), but are reluctant to speak it.

English is the common language of the EU, though, and so it is widely taught. Most people my age studied Russian all throughout their years in school...

 
At 7:18 PM , Blogger Zagubiony said...

Right now i am teaching myself Polish.And its especially daunting.I write my mother in polish because she doesn't understand english,when its written.But reading your blogges great encouragement,its well inspirational.Yeah well later.

 
At 8:39 AM , Blogger Phyllis said...

Oh! I understand exactly what you're saying! I hit the same point in Russian recently. I feel like a child who has had a whole new world opened to me. I can read freely in Russian, and I don't ever want to stop these days.

By the way, I could understand the first part of your Polish sentence, no problem. The second part was a little harder, and my eyes rushed on to the translation.

I'm trying to catch up with your blog, in spite of our computer problems here. :-)

 

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