Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Reading List - Homework

Stories and summer go hand in hand. Teachers assign summer reading, vacationers cradle novels as they bake on the beaches, and airport bookstores offer all sorts of options for passing the time after take-off. It was summertime when I read my first novel in Italian, The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles.

My approach was to sit down with a book and a pencil and underline the words I didn't know. If I could understand the gist of the story without these words, I would continue reading, but if I was missing too much. I would put the book back and get another one. Finally, I found one that was OK. I could understand enough to figure out what was going on.

However, when I started looking for a dictionary, I was appalled! We were staying with my inlaws in a house that belonged to other relatives who did not own any sort of reference books - and this was long before Internet and wifi - so I had to ask the mother-tongue Italians I was with to define words that I didn't know. That turned out to be quite entertaining.

Think about it for a minute. Do you know the true meaning of every single word you read? I've been speaking Italian for almost 30 years now, and I still learn a new word occasionally. That summer, armed with my pencil, I would ask about meanings of obscure words and my father-in-law could answer every question. My husband couldn't though, so just for laughs, I would to to him first. As I worked my way through the book, I learned what a ciuffolotto is and why my closet could be defined as farraginoso, in addition to a thing or two about Italian grammar.

The Italian language has different past tense verbs for the "near past" and the "far away past". In English, I can say I ate a piece of chocolate cake yesterday or that I ate it two years ago, but in Italian I would technically have to use two different words for "ate" that reflect their respective time periods. I say "technically" because people don't often use the far away past tense when speaking. It is always used in writing, though, and that was one of my biggest obstacles in reading The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Now, of course, Italian verbs aren't a problem, as I discovered last year during the Giallo Milanese literary contest (read Coma here on my blog). It's about that time again. The game starts in September!

This summer I'm planning to read one book on Internet marketing (I haven't decided which yet) and to finish How People Change by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp. What are you reading this summer?