Readers of this blog will know that I'm a bilingual reader. I frequently post about Israeli novels, publishing and news, and will occasionally also post about translated fiction I read in Hebrew that has yet to be published in English. Hebrew has become as natural a part of my reading life as English ever was.
It wasn't always like this. Just until four years ago, the number of books I read in Hebrew per year was two, as opposed to some seventy-eighty books in English. English was, and remains, my dominant language for reading and writing. Yet as the years go by, the gap has narrowed. If in 2008 I read only two Hebrew-language books, in 2009 I read ten, in 2010 thirteen, and in 2011 seventeen. So far in 2012, I'm on my twelfth Hebrew book. This remains mindblowing to me.
I read much slower in Hebrew than in English. I read more precisely and perhaps in a more discriminatory manner. I abandon books more easily. Reading in Hebrew remains a minor difficulty, if only because I cannot rip through the book at the pace I am used to English. It shakes things up. But something has happened since I started reading more books in Hebrew: I've started to slow down my English reading pace as well. I've started to apply many of the same rules I use in Hebrew for books I read in English.
Reading in Hebrew has changed my habits. It couldn't have been any other way. The fact that I spent more time on certain books than others meant that I was appreciating stylistic choices more in Hebrew-language books than English. I realized that a lot of this enjoyment had to do with the more deliberate reading approach, as well as the laid-back pace. Reading in Hebrew has made me appreciate language and an author's writing style a lot more. It's helped me understand what makes certain books better than others. And that is a gift as wonderful as the books themselves.