Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 105: Reading the Same Book in the Original and in Translation

Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @

For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.

This Week's Question

Have you ever read a book written
in a foreign language you might
be fluent in, and then read the
same book in English?

(Submitted  by Maria @ 

My Answer

Since I'm fluent in Spanish as well as English, I can read books in either language. My native language is actually Spanish. Most of the time, I do read in English, but sometimes I'll pick up a book in Spanish. However, I always review in English, whether on this blog or on my other blog. I don't currently have a Spanish-language blog (and I don't have time for one, either).

If I know the original language a book was written in, I prefer to read it in that language, of course. However, if I LOVE a book in either of these two languages, I will read it in BOTH! 

I've only done this with two books so far, though. The first one was Twilight, which is the first book of The Twilight Saga, by Stephenie Meyer.  I have read it a total of FOUR times -- the first three, in English, and the fourth, in Spanish. That's how much I LOVE this novel! I also love the other three novels in the Saga, but the first one is definitely my favorite.

For those who are not that familiar with The Twilight Saga (and very few people aren't, but well, just in case....) it's about a young woman named Bella Swan who decides to go live with her divorced dad in the rainy town of Forks, in the state of Washington. She's really sacrificing herself for the sake of her mother and her new husband, though. She actually HATES Forks. However, ti's there that she meets the love of her life, the mysterious Edward Cullen, who turns out to be....a vampire. 

What I LOVE about this series is that Edward and his family members are strongly committed to not harming humans. Edward and Bella realize that their very unusual relationship has some challenges to overcome, but they just can't help loving each other.  

I was SO crazy about the first book in particular that I wanted to experience the story in Spanish, to see how it came across in that language. Besides, this was just another excuse  for me to get MORE of this story. Lol.

I did the same thing with a literary fiction novel I read some time ago, except in reverse. I read it in Spanish first, as this is the book's original language. The novel is titled, in Spanish, La Isla de los Amores Infinitos. The English title is The Island of Eternal Love. I LOVED this book, so, some time after reading the original, I also read it in English.  The author is Daina Chaviano, a Cuban writer renowned for her science fiction and fantasy works.

This novel is about three different families, from three different ethnic groups, and how they all become one family, in Havana, Cuba. The story begins in the late nineteenth century,in China, and then moves to Spain, Africa,  Cuba, and Miami, Florida, stretching across the years to the start of the Cuban Revolution, and moving on to the present time. One of the families is from China, the second, from Africa, and the third, from Spain. The author has stated that these three groups represent the basic ethnic mixture that makes up the Cuban people. 

This novel includes paranormal elements, as well, which is another reason I love it! There's a haunted house that moves from place to place, and other interesting events.  There's also romance, with some very special stories involving the various descendants of the three families. Besides, the whole story is seen through the eyes of its main character, Cecilia, a Cuban journalist living in Miami. I greatly enjoyed her story, as well, and it fits in seamlessly with the rest of the novel.

Chaviano's novel, which I consider to be a masterpiece, fascinated me so much that I have read it three times -- twice in Spanish, and once in English. I would love it if it were made into a movie!

I think it's very interesting to compare original works with their translated versions. Sometimes, if the reader is very familiar with both of the languages, s/he can pick up any errors made by the translators. 

The two novels I've mentioned have been superbly translated, so I have not come across any egregious errors, thankfully enough. A truly expert translator will ensure that everything in a novel is properly translated. Many times, that means that a LITERAL, word-for-word translation  will not give the true meaning of a phrase in the original language.

I might read the rest of the novels in The Twilight Saga in Spanish. As for Chaviano's other books, I'm not sure if any of them have been translated into English, but I will definitely check! I'm also thinking of reading the Harry Potter novels in Spanish. And, of course, there's La Sombra del Viento, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. The English title is The Shadow of the Wind. I own both the original, in Spanish, and the English translation. Since this novel deals with books, I KNOW I'll fall in love with it, and thus, will want to read it in both languages!  

What are your thoughts on
this topic?
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 


  1. My mother tongue is Dutch so back in the day before I read English I read Twilight in my own language. And it was the first book I read in English. Now I always read books in English. ^_^

    1. Hi, Stephanie!

      Oh, that must be a LOVELY language! I wish i knew more than just two, lol. Well, I did study French in high school, but unfortunately, I've lost most of it....

      And the first book you read in English was "Twilight"? YAAAAAAAAY!!!! How AWESOME is that? :) :) :)

      I have now started to read the first Harry Potter book in Spanish. The translation is based on the British edition.

      Thanks for the nice comment!! Have a wonderful day!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

  2. As I said before, I'm French so.. English in my foreign language ahah. I usually read the book in their original version first but back in the time where I was not fluent enough to read in English, I used to read everything in French (and not by choice). It was okay because at that time, most of the books I read were French books ^^ But then one day... I read Obsidian (by Jennifer L.Armenrtrout) and the book 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 were not available in French yet. Translations take a lot of time and I couldnt wait for years. Fortunately for me, I had reach a sufficient enough level of English to be able to read the books in their original version so I took my leap and since then, I read mainly English books.
    The only series after that that I read in French before the English version is the Shatter me series by Mafi Tahereh because I read in reviews on Goodreads that the English version was quite hard to understand even for English natives (supposedly due to the punctuation but I tried it in English after and I didn't mind anything so... I don't know ?). I also read Twilight in both the language ^^

    1. Hi, Sandrine!

      You know, I studied French in high school, but I have gradually lost all my fluency in the language. I don't have anyone around to practice with.... :( And I studied it for four years, too. Plus I also took one year of French Lit. in college. I can write this, though: C'est dommage, n'est-ce pas? Lol. I do remember little things like that. Plus this VERY necessary question: Ou est la salle de bain? But WAIT!! I have just checked with Google, and have just found that the correct question is: Ou sont les toilettes? According to this article, asking for "la salle de bain" means you want to take a bath, not use the toilet! Lol, lol, lol!! So I'm glad I double-checked! :) :) :)

      Here's the link I found on Google:

      This is fascinating! We learn something new every day, right? :) :)

      It's GREAT that you were able to read the Armentrout books in English! As for the "Shatter Me" series, I haven't even read it in English! Lol. I do wish I could read French well enough to read books in that language....because I LOVE it!! I would need to start studying it again, though.

      And you read "Twilight" in both French and English? AWESOME!! Maybe one day I'll be able to read it in French, aussi!!

      Thanks for the AWESOME comment, Sandrine!! J'espere que tu passe un bon week-end!! <3 <3 3 :) :) :)

    2. LOOOOL ! But don't worry, French is a difficult language.... Like.. You have to conjugate the verb with the time AND with the pronoun before it ._. And then, there are too many exceptions ._.
      And yes, Toilet = toilettes, bathroom = salle de bain x)

      Loool xD I'll chekc the article later *half asleep*

      Maybe ;p

      Merci, toi aussi =p !

  3. I have read books in Spanish and a couple children's book in French when I was studying it, but I have never read the same book in two languages. Great idea, though, and a suggestion I will take up.

    1. Hi, Karen!

      Oh, how AWESOME that you've read books in Spanish and French!! I used to be able to read French myself, as I studied the language all four years of high school. I also took one year of French Lit. in college. Alas, I have forgotten most of my French.... I can't even ATTEMPT to read a book in this beautiful language now.... :( I would need to go back and study it again. So KUDOS to you for being able to read books in French!! :) :)

      If I ADORE a book, I will read it in both English and Spanish. That's my excuse to not let go of the book, haha! Of course, I will read the book in the original language first, whether it's English or Spanish. I'm glad you like this idea! It's great to compare books and their translations into other languages, I think.

      Thanks for the nice comment!! J'espere que tu passe un bon week-end! (That's one of the few phrases I remember, lol.) <3 <3 :) :)

  4. This is a super post Maria.

    The topic is so very interesting. When I am reading a translated work I always wonder how much the translation has changed it.

    Your experience with La Isla de los Amores Infinitos is so interesting. It is good to know that translation was a good one. I have read some fascinating translators’ notes. For instance, I recently read Edith Grossman’s translation of Don Quixote. In her introduction Grossman wrote how the speakers in the work would often shift between formal and informal tenses in Spanish and how it was difficult to translate that into English. I remember reading similar things from other translators of other books.

    I was once fairly good at reading Italian. If I had kept at it I would have reached a point where I could read original works in Italian. Alas I did not keep at it and I have lost much of the proficiency that I had achieved. Otherwise I would be reading original works in Italian.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks for the good word!! :) :) :)

      What I have found out, when reading books in Spanish that were originally written in English, is that certain cultural nuances might be lost in translation. For instance, humor is not easily translated into another language, as it's got a lot to do with the original language's culture.

      One interesting thing I've discovered, when reading these books translated into Spanish, is that they are always translated into Castilian Spanish. This is the version of the language that is spoken in most parts of Spain. Although Spanish is spoken in many countries in Latin America as well, there are some subtle differences. The situation is similar to that between American and British English. We say "elevator", and they say "lift", for example. In Castilian Spanish, the word for "car" is "coche". We Cubans and Cuban-Americans say "carro" instead. In other Latino countries, they say "auto". Also, in Castilian Spanish, the word for "You" (plural) is "Vosotros", whereas in the Spanish spoken among Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and other Latinos, the word used is "Ustedes". Of course, the verb forms are completely different when you use one vs. the other. "You study" (plural) is "Vosotros estudiais" in Castilian Spanish, and in other versions, it's "Ustedes estudian".

      I remember starting "Don Quijote" -- in Spanish -- years ago, and giving up in frustration. There were just too many words I didn't know, plus the book is SOOOOO long! I don't remember much of what I read, so I would have to go back and check the formal and informal tenses.

      Oh, how WONDERFUL that you used to be able to read books in Italian!! You should go back and brush up on it, so you can do so again, Brian. After all, your family background is Italian.

      I used to be able to read books in French. Unfortunately, I didn't keep at it, either, so I have lost most of my fluency in that beautiful language. So we both need to recuperate this fluency; you in Italian, and I in French! Lol.

      Thanks for the AWESOME comment!! Hope your Saturday is going great, and that your Sunday will be great, too!! <3 :)

  5. I enjoy reading books from other parts of the world, many of which are translated into English. I often find myself wondering if a book reads as well (or better) in its native language and what, if anything, has had to be changed. One of my pet peeves is when translated books are "Americanized" just for the U.S. reading population. That goes for books from the U.K. that are "Americanized" was well. I feel like something is lost in the process.

    Anyway, I have a lot of admiration for those (like yourself) who are fluent in multiple languages. I studied Spanish in high school and college, but never got the knack for it. Part of my problem was being too shy to practice it often enough. I've lost most of what I learned, although I can still pick up little things here and there.

    I think it's great that you read books both in Spanish and English. I would too if I was fluent in other languages, I think. I'd want to see how it translates and what, if any differences there are.

    Thank you for your thoughtful response, Maria! I hope you and your husband have a great weekend! School starts up on Monday and there's so much to do before then!

    1. Hi, Wendy!

      I have also read books originally written in other languages, and how I wish I could read them in the original ones! For instance, I would LOVE to be able to read the masterpieces of Hermann Hesse in their original German. And I would also LOVE to be able to read "Crime and Punishment" in Russian! Ditto for Dante's "Divine Comedy", originally written in Italian. I've never read it in English, either, though. Lol.

      You know, if a book is written in British English, I don't see why it would be "Americanized" for American readers. That doesn't make any sense. I remember reading one book published in the UK around Christmastime last year, and yes, there were some words and idioms I was not familiar with. But, so what? I just Googled them! This does seem silly. However, if a book in another language is translated by an American translator, then of course it would contain American usage and idioms. That's a different story. But a book published in the UK being "Americanized"? That's just crazy!

      I have the same problem with French that you have with Spanish. I took four years of it in high school, plus one year of French Lit. in college, but have lost most of my fluency, since I have no one to practice with. :(

      My family came to the US from Cuba when I was 9, so I stopped studying Spanish formally after the third grade. From the fourth grade on, all of my classes were in English. I didn't lose the Spanish, though, because Mom made us girls speak it at home. Plus, all of my previous reading in the language really paid off.

      There are nuances, due to the culture surrounding a language, that will be inevitably lost in translation. And, books translated into Spanish are translated into Castilian Spanish, which is the version used in Spain. So, when I'm reading in Spanish, I will definitely come across some unfamiliar words and idioms. The Spanish spoken in Latin American is not quite the same as that spoken in Spain. As you know, one example is "Vosotros" vs. "Ustedes" for the plural form of "You". And they say "coche" for "car", whereas a Cuban, or a Cuban-American, would say "carro".

      Thanks so much for the compliment, Wendy! and thanks for wishing my husband and me a great weekend! The same to you guys! School started last week for me -- on the 21st. Have fun with your own school preparations! HUGS TO YOU AND MOUSE!!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :)

  6. That is WONDERFUL that you can read books in different languages. I would take FOREVER if I read in a language other than English, but I guess I would recall the Spanish that I was good at for a "slowly spoken" conversation. :)

    I actually was able to translate the title of the book in Spanish. :) Go me!!

    LOVE your post as always - great question too. You always have thought-provoking questions and questions I would have never thought to ask. THANK YOU, Maria.

    Have a great week, and thanks for commenting on my blog.

    Happy Hopping!!

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Blogger Hop

    1. Hi, Elizabeth!

      Yeah, I'm SO happy about that!! And it's thanks to my mom, too!! Our family came to the US when I was 9, so, from the 4th grade on up, all of my classes were in English. I never studied Spanish formally again. My sisters and I didn't lose the language because Mom made us all speak Spanish at home. In addition to that, I've always read a lot, and my first books were in Spanish. However, I do need to look up words and idioms when from to time, when reading in Spanish. That's because books translated into Spanish use the version of the language spoken in Spain, known as "Castilian Spanish". That's probably what you studied in school, too.

      Oh, you were able to translate the title of the book? GO, YOU!!! YAAAAAY!!! :) :)

      You know, I used to be fluent in French. I studied the language all four years of high school, and then took one year in college. But sadly, I'm no longer fluent in it. :( always say such NICE things, Elizabeth!! THANK YOU!! I try, I try!! Lol. And you're very welcome for the questions!

      Hope you're having a SUPER nice weekend, and you're very welcome for my comment on your blog!

      Happy Hopping to you as well!! HUGS!!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

    2. Wonderful your mother had you learn another language.

      My father spoke beautiful Italian, but never taught us. He only spoke it with his parents and siblings. We picked up a few words, though.

      You do have good questions...thanks

      Have a good rest of the weekend.

    3. Yeah, she didn't want us to lose our native Spanish.

      It's too bad your dad didn't teach you and your siblings to speak Italian. But I'm glad you did pick up a few words!

      Thanks again for complimenting my questions! Hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend, too!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

    4. Yes...not sure why he didn't teach us.

      Have a good weekend.

    5. You too!! 💝😝💝😝💝😝💝😝

  7. Reading the book in another language is a great way to reconnect with a favourite read!

    1. Hi, Nicki!

      ABSOLUTELY!! Now I've gotten so enthused, I've started to read the first Harry Potter novel!! Lol.

      Thanks for commenting!! <3 :)

  8. It's great you are able to read books in Spanish! I wish I could do the same too!

    Here’s my Book Blogger Hop!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

    1. Hi, Ronyell!

      Yeah, I'm SO happy about that, as well! It's thanks to my mom, who made us girls speak Spanish at home. Plus, I've always read a lot, and my first books were in English.

      I do wish I knew other languages, too, though.... I used to be fluent in French, but no more....

      Thanks for commenting!! <3 :)

    2. I meant to type, "my first books were in Spanish" LOL.

  9. Did you notice any really glaring problems with the Spanish translation of Twilight? Did all of the phrasing translate well? I'm super curious, since I can only read and speak English.

    1. Hi, Amanda!

      The thing about translating is that, many times, you can't translate LITERALLY or exactly, because it just wouldn't sound right in the target language. For instance, if you say in Spanish, "He's just pulling your leg", it sounds hilarious. So you have to give the equivalent in Spanish, which is "El sólo te está tomando el pelo." This, in English, would be, "He's just taking (or drinking) your hair." LOL. An expert translator will give the EQUIVALENT meaning in the language s/he is translating a book into.

      Here are some examples from "Twilight". The first chapter's heading is "First Sight", which is translated into Spanish as "Primer Encuentro". The word "encuentro" usually means "meeting" or "encounter", while the word "sight" would really be "vista". But the translator apparently felt that, in this case, the word "encuentro" fit better, because Bella was actually encountering Forks for the first time. (Now this makes me wonder why Meyer didn't title her chapter "First Encounter".)

      Here's a comparison of two sentences from that first chapter. The original English: "Charlie had really been fairly nice about the whole thing." Spanish: "Lo cierto es que Charlie había aceptado bastante bien todo aquello." This is not a LITERAL translation, but an EQUIVALENT one, and it carries the meaning of the original perfectly. This translation states that Charlie "had accepted all that pretty well", which carries the meaning of the original.

      In one part of Chapter 4, Bella asks Mike, "Why would you do that?" It seems that, in this case, the translator wasn't sure how to convey Bella's obvious dismay in asking this question. So, the version in Spanish is simply, "¿Por qué?", which is "Why?" in English. Had I translated this, I might have written instead, "¿Por qué diablos harías eso?". In other words, "Why the devil would you do that?" But this would mean adding to the existing text. However, I don't really find just "¿Por qué?" satisfactory, as it doesn't really convey the exasperation in Bella's voice.

      (MORE COMING....)

    2. (CONTINUED)

      Wow, this comment sure got long!! I got carried away! Lol.

      The sentence that follows the question above is as follows, in English: "I let disapproval color my tone, although I was relieved he hadn't given her an absolute 'no'." This is the Spanish version: "Dejé que mi voz reflejara cierta desaprobación, aunque me aliviaba saber que no le había dado a Jessica un ’no’ definitivo." In this case, the phrase, "color my tone" would not make sense in Spanish. So the translator gave an equivalent, which, in English, would be "I allowed my voice to reflect disapproval". This, of course, sounds a bit awkward in English, so you see how the translator is striving to give the equivalent meaning in Spanish. Also, the phrase "I was relieved (that) he..." is rendered, in Spanish, "Me aliviaba saber que él..." The verb "saber" means "to know", so the way the translator worded this would be, in English, "I felt relieved to know that he...." In this case, the translator actually added "to know", which is not in the original. However, they did so because it makes the meaning clearer. They also added the name "Jessica", which is also not in the original.

      All in all, I found this translation of "Twilight" to be excellent! I enjoyed the novel all over again in Spanish! :)

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!! Hope you're having a GREAT weekend!! <3 :)

  10. It's cool that you can read in both Spanish and English. I reading another Blog Hop post (a native Spanish speaker) and she mentioned that the Spanish language can be different in different countries. Did you have any issues understanding the text when you were reading the books in Spanish? My Hop

    1. Hi, Ksymberlee!

      Yeah, I think so too!! It's all thanks to my mom, who made us girls speak Spanish at home. Plus, I've always read a lot, and my first books were in Spanish.

      There are indeed different versions of the Spanish language. Not that the language is ENTIRELY different in each Spanish-speaking country, but there are differences in words and idioms used.

      I've noticed that, when books are translated from other languages into Spanish, it's Castilian Spanish that's used. This is Spanish as spoken in Spain. There are differences in vocabulary and idioms. One example: the word "car", in Castilian Spanish, is "coche". A Cuban or Cuban-American would say "carro" instead. Other Latino countries would say "auto". Here in Miami, where there are many Latinos from different countries, you would hear different words and expressions being used. Another example: the verb "to staple" is "presillar" for us Cubans, and "grapar" or "engrapar" for other Latinos, including those living in Spain.

      Several years ago, when I went down to Colombia to teach English, I had a funny experience. One nice lady asked me, "¿Ya se amañó, pues?" I gave her this blank look, and she laughed. Then she explained that this means "So have you already settled in?" or "So have you already gotten used to things here?" Although I'm fluent in Spanish, this was a phrase used only in Colombia, so I had never heard it before.

      The same thing happens with British English and American English. They say "lift", and we say "elevator". And I'm sure there are other differences in other English-speaking countries.

      So, when I'm reading a book in Spanish, I will sometimes need to Google unfamiliar words that are used in Castilian Spanish. This will also be the case with idioms. Overall, though, I do understand books in Spanish.

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!! Hope you're having a nice weekend!! <3 :)


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