English University Interviews - Reading Works in Other Languages
Interview Preparation Specialists
Whilst you’re applying to study English Literature, you will be expected to have read literature originally written in other languages – and many applicants will have read works in their original language as well. The first part of this interview theme to consider is simply whether you study other languages. If you do, how have they impacted your study of English?
You might choose to highlight that learning another language, e.g. French, allowed you to develop your understanding of grammar much more than you would have been able to had you only learnt English, and that as your ability in the language developed you found yourself being encouraged to assess texts on as deep a level as you were assessing texts in English. You could highlight that different languages offer up different experiences (e.g. French opens the gateway to Existentialism and Absurdism from the 20th century, while studying Latin and Greek gives you the opportunity to understand the very basis of literature, something that has been built upon foundations thousands of years old). You could even try to link the different languages together by finding themes in works that you studied in Spanish, for example, that you could trace back to a work from Homer.
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Do you have to read a text in its original language?
You should be open minded here and emphasise that you can find worth in reading a translation, not only in reading a text in its original language. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to defend your point further unless you speak the majority of the world’s languages fluently… You might wish to point out that you do find great joy in reading a text in its original language, and that you’ve found this to be particularly enjoyable in your studies of, for example, Spanish. You might say that you always prefer to read a work in the original language if you can, and that you’ve taken this opportunity wherever possible. However, you should use this as an opportunity to assess what a translation means. You’re not reading the true original meaning, and instead you will receive, to some extent, a re-filtering through the lens of the translator. Subtle choices can have a substantial impact on meaning, hence why some translations are far better reviewed than others, and become the go-to translation of a work. One option open to you is to read multiple translations, and to read criticism that will better highlight the positives and flaws in the translation that you may have chosen.
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