I honestly think this is a kind of brilliant idea - at least, I would think so if it hadn't taken me so stinkin' long to come up with it when it's really sort of obvious. In other words, I'd think I was brilliant except for that I'm slow and oblivious. (Also? I'm guessing this has been done before. Which makes me slow, oblivious and behind-the-times.)
Anyway. One of the things I'm doing to work on my Spanish is reading novels in Spanish. At first, I tried El Leon, La Bruja y El Armario, thinking that because I was so familiar with the story, I wouldn't have to resort to the dictionary that often to figure out words I didn't know.
This turned out to be half of a good idea. It did work, to a limited extent.
But I discovered something even better: if you're reading a novel in translation (and I'm hoping to get to Spanish novels actually composed in Spanish eventually, but I'm starting with the training wheels on by reading novels in Spanish that I've read before in English), the simplest way to look up words you don't know isn't to have the dictionary by your side, it's to have the English version of the novel by your side.
So I'm over halfway through Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal, and the way I'm doing it is by reading the Spanish version, but keeping the English one open to the same chapter (see header picture for an example), so that when I come across words I don't know, I can re-read the paragraph in English and figure out what they mean. Then I usually re-read the Spanish paragraph, to cement the unknown words+meanings in my mind.
I do have to be careful to direct myself back to the Spanish version! I read so much more slowly in Spanish than I do in English, and I'm enjoying the story so much that it's tempting to just go for The Sorcerer's Stone instead of La Piedra Filosofal, but the fact that I'm enjoying the story is really what makes this work for me. I'm motivated to find out what happens next (I haven't read the book in about ten years, and I've forgotten a lot of the plot) and that keeps me nose to the grindstone. It's the carrot.
Hope this is helpful to someone else! It's really a low-pain way to get in some extra practice in the foreign language of your choice. To break it down:
1) Pick a novel you've read before and really like. Something fun, so that you'll be willing to keep going when it's hard. Something you haven't read for awhile, so you want to hear it again. And, most importantly, something that's been translated into your target language!
2) Get a copy of the novel in both your target language AND your native language.
3) Read the books side by side. As much as possible, read only in your target language. But when you come across words or phrases you don't know, reread the paragraph in your native language. Then reread it in the target language, so your brain can practice understanding the unfamiliar words.
4) Be a bit hard on yourself. Before you go to the English translation, try really hard to figure out/remember the definition of the target-language phrases. You might surprise yourself.
Anyone else working on a foreign language out there?
Peace of Christ to you,