I’ve been trying to keep up my German in other ways since I’m not reading German articles/books for my research. [Because of a short-term staffing issue in the department here I happen to be teaching 5 classes this semester (though only 3 preps). It’s not bad, and it does help fund summer travel plans, but it also doesn’t leave any time for writing. We like most teaching focused universities usually run 4/4 loads (i.e., 4 Fall/4 Spring classes, with summers optional). And I’ll return to that schedule in the fall.] Anyhow, for my German my only contact is that most week days I read through (and sometimes listen to) the Deutsche Welle news (with the help of Dict.cc, of course).
I had the goal of being able to read a Harry Potter novel in German when I finished my PhD, but I wasn’t to that point, nor am I really there now, but I thought that I’d give it a go since the only way you get there is by practice. And I don’t want to do something academic at night where I have to think about the content–in that way a novel would be ideal. So I tried to download a German version of HP on our Kindle since I didn’t want to have to have one shipped. To my dismay, I learned that Rowling wouldn’t license the books for e-readers because of her love of actual books–a bit hypocritical since she licensed them for audio books and movies, but that’s beside the point. So, I just looked up free German edition books on the Kindle and found quite a few. I settled on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or rather Huckleberry Finns Abenteuer und Fahrten (German Edition), since I know enough of the story to keep up with the text. Though I probably only get about 1/2 of the sentences and don’t look up most things, I am picking up more vocab and grammar. However, the German translator also keeps true to the poor grammar of Jim and others, and it took me a couple of chapters to figure out why some things didn’t square up.
Since our Kindle (a Kindle 3, in case it matters) has a built in dictionary for English books (just move the cursor and a gloss pops up), I thought that surely I could get a German one as well. It turns out that you can get a German-English one even! This site has Free (as in GPL2) translation dictionaries for the Kindle, and importantly the German-English is the most robust. It doesn’t include inflected forms (though most past-participles are there) and some more colloquial terms, it’s perfect for my goal of just making it through a lot of text where I’m happy to only understand the general story.
I’m about 1/2 way through the story and may shoot for an updated novel for my next try, perhaps Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol or rather Das verlorene Symbol, since I’m planning on writing a paper about it because he pushes the idea of ‘apotheosis’.