What language would you want to master to read an original text? I wish I could speak German. For real. Why? Because I would have loved to read Also Spach Zarathustra understanding all the semantics and psycholinguistics in German. I also had a dream of being like a polyglot that could crack all the ancient Arameic and Hebrew codes from the scrolls. What about you?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Here's a new one for you, ... by greatest desire is to learn Latin!  A dead language, yes, but so many original texts are written in this "dead" language and so much of our own English language is based upon it, I have a grand desire to make it my...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Here's a new one for you, ... by greatest desire is to learn Latin!  A dead language, yes, but so many original texts are written in this "dead" language and so much of our own English language is based upon it, I have a grand desire to make it my own!  In fact, this summer I am going to attempt to teach a bit of Latin to my four-year-old and eight-year-old through a children's program about "Maximus the Mouse."  I truly regret not talking Latin when I had the chance at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.  I always felt that those who took Latin had a wonderful advantage on the SAT and ACT where vocabulary was concerned.  I must say as well that, being Roman Catholic, there is a sense of amazing history attached to Latin and its role in the Mass.  I have always felt a minor sense of loss in not understanding some of the ancient responses that we still use sometimes.  It will be a true blessing to learn Latin right along side my children, ... with the help of a little mouse named Maximus.  Ha!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If I had to choose one it would be ancient Greek Koine. I would love to spend quiet hours translating the Iliad and the classical Greek plays as well as the New Testament in its original form. These works are incredible in their ability to move modern audiences but we continue to miss out on their subtle features because of a the limited translation English provides, but also because of our ignorance about ancient Greek and Hebrew culture.

There is so much to learn and so little time.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Russian, so that I can read Anna Karenina in the original, Spanish so that I can order more than 'cafe solo' in most of the non-English speaking world, French, because it is the language of precision and nuance, German, because it lets you speak to most of Eastern Europe without struglling to learn Polish, Czech, Hungarian or Lithuanian, Swahili, because it sounds so lilting, and Gaelic because my Mum used to speak it when we annoyed her and I never quite knew what she meant.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

My two choices would be French and Italian so that I could read some truly great works of art in their native form. I don't actually like German as a language because it is too guttural and rough for my tastes; however, a close friend is a master in German and thoroughly enjoys original German texts such as Goethe's Faust.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I fervently wish that I could master Latin. It not only would open the classics to me; but many great writers of the past often wrote in Latin, as it was at that time the world's only true Universal Language. Additionally, because Latin is the mother language of the Romance Languages, one could easily adapt those languages and read the classics written therein.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Many of my students would like to master English so that they can read Shakespeare in the original, but that's another story! For myself, I would love to read Neruda's poetry in Spanish, although it is hard to imagine how it could be more beautiful and moving. Also, I've always wanted to read Tartuffe in French; I'm sure there are subtle nuances in humor and social satire that have been lost in translation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Greek would be great to know.  There is, indeed, much that is lost in translation, so reading the classics such as the Odyssey, Oedipus Trilogy would be so interesting. Then, Latin: the Iliad, and the Aenid in the original forms.  Russian--Oh, to read Dostovesky's great works, Pasternak's, Tolstoy's in the original!

Having read some French works in the original has proven to me that one enters the spirit of the country's culture and mentalities when one can read a work in its original form.  I once had a Korean girl who had previously read Great Expectations in Korean.  Thrilled at having read the novel for English class, she remarked that reading it in English made the novel 10 times better for her.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would have to say Spanish.  There are so many great Latin and Latin American authors writing these days and I always wonder what I am missing in translation.  Even some of the books written in English have pieces of the text in Spanish and I would love to know EXACTLY what those passages mean -- consideration of connotation etc.  in the original language.  I loved The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, but wondered what I missed "in translation" of the Spanish passages.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I agree with accessteacher about learning Greek to read the Ancient Greek plays, but I could not ignore wanting to learn the Hebrew language and tackling the Bible.  There are so many words, phrases, passages, etc. that lack the true meaning when translated into modern English text, so this would have to be my first choice.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would like to be fluent enough in Russian to read Zamyatin's We and Chekov's work in their original language. I am fairly sure they will be even better than in translation, but I would like to be able to judge for myself.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interestingly enough, I'd love to learn Arabic fluently. I think there are probably a lot of profound Arabic texts floating around out there written in recent years that could use translation.

I also agree with all above who wish they could read Neruda in Spanish. I can read Spanish marginally, but not to catch the subtle nuances necessary for reading and understanding poetry fluidly.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would love to pick up Latin and Ancient Greek again after leaving it behind aged 16 and be able to fluently read all the histories, plays and comedies in their original language. I had to study a bit of the Odyssey in Latin and it is so much better in the original rather than the pale translations we have!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I love Pablo Nerada, too!  His poetry is gorgeous, but I feel like something is missing in the translation.  When my Spanish-speaking students read it, it is so mellifluous and enticing. 

I think I would love to speak any of the romance languages fluently.  They are so lovely to the ear, and there is much literature out there to dive into in the original language.  Spanish, French, Portugese, Romanian, Italian...any of these languages would suit me.  Go ahead...wave that magic wand!

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Master" is the key word here.  I can speak Spanish functionally, but I would love to be actually fluent so I could read Pablo Neruda in his native language.  Especially with Spanish, but I'm sure it's true for all languages, so much is lost in the translation, and there are expressions and ideas in Spanish that have no words in English.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'm fascinated by all languages, but alas, I don't have a great ear for speaking  them. I think Latin, while no longer a spoken language, is the one language I wish I knew. Second on my list would be one of the biblical languages in order to be able to study those texts. French is the foreign language I know best, and I will one day read Cyrano De Bergerac in French. I will.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I'd actually like to speak every language in the world.  But that's beyond impossible, so the one I'm working on hardest is Japanese.

I'd like to be able to read historical texts (like writings from WWII or sociological texts from the era of the "Japanese miracle" so I could see how exactly they view these things.  In particular, I wish I could find and read accounts of the occupation of the Philippines since my dad was child during that time and wishes he knew more about the events that his parents wouldn't talk about after the war.

I'd also really like to read Shusaku Endo's novels in the original.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team