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...

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
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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!

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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!


valtaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

kimbers-indo eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

howesk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"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.

sboeman eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

psmortimer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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!

kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

sconey | Student

Although this has been highly debated as a language, I would like to master the Black vernacular, also known as slave language. A lot of slave narratives are written in this way because one, being taught standard English was against the law, and two, being taught how to write was against the law.

Many scholars disregard these slave narratives because they can't understand them, which is something I can personally sympathize with. However, these are true gems of our country's history and to discard them is to say that their points of views don't matter.

deannashelor | Student

I would love to read Chinese in the original text and be able to discuss it with other Chinese scholars.  Having done half of my masters thesis on Maxine Hong Kingston, using Amy Tan, Pearl S. Buck and Lisa See for supporting data, I am enthralled with the Chinese sensibility.  I think the calligraphy is beautiful and the actual writing is often touted as being difficult to master, which would be another wonderful challenge.

I'm a white woman from an underprivileged background but I identify with so much of what I read in Chinese American literature.  To be able to delve more deeply into texts all these authors mention and to better understand them with a grasp of the language would be  real treat.

What sparked me on this journey was reading about the silent girl  in Kingston's memoir Woman Warrior.  Being a silent girl myself as a child, I felt I understood this character and Kingston's memoir spoke volumes about the subject of silence and of self expression.

Lisa See uses ancient Chinese texts in much of her work and reading those in the original, as well as making comparisons between those texts and the way See utilizes them would be enlightening and rewarding.


rainscent | Student

i would love to learn latin and hebrew because i found these languages the most interesting and i really want to read myths in hebrew and latin and all the old original stuff that is not yet translated into english or any other modern language.

santis | Student
This is simple for me. If there is one book that I want to read in its original language, it would be "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and the language, Spanish.