Ask any bibliophile and they’ll tell you: Reading is all about transporting oneself. It’s a learning experience, where we can take our consciousness and drop it somewhere else for a while. With fiction, in particular, we can visit new places or time periods, or experience things that would be otherwise impossible. In the same vein, though, reading can help us experience things that are entirely ordinary and commonplace—to someone else. It’s all about experiencing something new or different, which makes reading a perfect exercise in empathy. So why do we often limit ourselves to reading authors with experiences and culture similar to our own?
Bestsellers in countries like America are often written and published by Americans, if you can believe it. In fact, 9 out of the 10 bestselling fiction authors of all time were either American, British, or English, and their works were originally published in English. (The one oddball was Belgian author Georges Simenon, who wrote in French.) Out of the approximately 6,900 languages listed in SIL International‘s Ethnologue, two languages seems like absolute chump change.
Of course, there are barriers to reading books that were originally written in another language. Not everyone who speaks English also speaks Spanish or French or Korean, but many of the most popular novels in foreign countries receive English translations. You might not speak Spanish, but someone else does, and may have already done the grunt work for you! Translated texts come with their own complications, such as different grammar rules or localizations, but those risks can be outweighed by the content of the novel itself. After all, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, originally published in French, is the fourth best-selling book of all time, followed by Dream of the Red Chamber, written by Cao Xueqin and originally published in eighteenth-century China.
We only get one trip around this great, wide planet of ours, but readers have cashed in on a special coupon—two for the price of one. If we expand our horizons, if we decide to immerse ourselves in a culture unlike our own, maybe we’ll discover that it isn’t so different after all.
To help kick-start your journey into translated novels, here are a few recommendations in Spanish, French, and German.
Sigma Tau Delta
Sigma Tau Delta, International English Honor Society, was founded in 1924 at Dakota Wesleyan University. The Society strives to
- Confer distinction for high achievement in English language and literature in undergraduate, graduate, and professional studies;
- Provide, through its local chapters, cultural stimulation on college campuses and promote interest in literature and the English language in surrounding communities;
- Foster all aspects of the discipline of English, including literature, language, and writing;
- Promote exemplary character and good fellowship among its members;
- Exhibit high standards of academic excellence; and
- Serve society by fostering literacy.
With over 900 active chapters located in the United States and abroad, there are more than 1,000 Faculty Advisors, and approximately 9,000 members inducted annually.
Sigma Tau Delta also recognizes the accomplishments of professional writers who have contributed to the fields of language and literature.
Sigma Tau Delta accepts submissions to our blog, WORDY by Nature, throughout the year from all membership categories (students, Advisors, and alumni). If you are interested in submitting a blog, please read the Suggested Guidelines on our website to check if your topic is a good fit and to verify your article is correctly formatted. Email any questions and all submissions to: [email protected].