I have far too many books, my wife argues. Of course, she is wrong; no one owns too many books. I try not to provoke her, though, so I don’t flash my newly acquired darlings as I pull them out of our mailbox. I get most of my books in the mail, as very few bookstores in Norway offer the volumes I desire. I buy new books from new-book Internet shops, and old books—all the way back to Latin volumes from the 1500s—from antiquarian-book websites. To my delight, I discovered I can save a lot of money by having studied foreign languages.
Our local newspaper ran a captivating article on reporters’ tendency to present biased information about Michael Jackson during his infamous trial. He was acquitted, but, the article argues, slanted media reports were detrimental to Jackson’s reputation. I knew I had to get hold of a book mentioned in the piece, so I powered up my computer to search my favourite secondhand-book website.
I was appalled to learn that the book was only available in hard cover, and that the cheapest one offered cost nearly two hundred dollars! The most expensive among these—in mint condition—cost several hundred dollars more than a complete Rosetta Stone course comprising Levels 1–5. (By the way, I have just completed such a course, all five levels, in French.)
What if there happens to be a French version of the book? I thought. If so, then I might get it for less, with the added benefit of learning more French at the same time! Voilà! Indeed, it was printed in French and in softcover too. The entry price for the French version was about fifteen dollars. Perfect. I reached for my credit card and ordered it promptly.
A question naturally arises: Is it possible to understand such a book with a Level 1–5 background? I say it is. I have to consult a dictionary for many words, but I can readily swallow surprisingly large chunks of text. Another effect is that I more accurately recall what I’ve read since I’ve had to fully focus to extract meaning from the paper.
It does not end there: the other day I boldly purchased a book about a Renaissance painter that is only available in Italian. I love this widening of options. Learning foreign languages is worth it in surprising ways.