In an increasingly globalized world national borders mean less than before. Boundaries have grown more porous and the offerings of each nation’s popular culture have found eager consumers in other countries. Consumers have shown their taste to be cosmopolitan and have proven hungry for all flavors international. Americans, on the other hand have remained largely indifferent to trends outside their own borders, preferring instead to stick to their own homegrown literature, music, and movies. As this New York Times article makes clear, Americans have traditionally resisted the pop culture of other nations. But that may be changing:
Among foreign cultural institutes and publishers, the traditional American aversion to literature in translation is known as “the 3 percent problem.” But now, hoping to increase their minuscule share of the American book market – about 3 percent – foreign governments and foundations, especially those on the margins of Europe, are taking matters into their own hands and plunging into the publishing fray in the United States.
While a few international writers have experienced commercial success, it has mostly been an uphill battle for recognition for writers outside the U.S. The Internet, however, may finally be introducing a whole nation of readers to a host of newly-discovered writers. There are currently several sites that specialize in literature translation. Amazon offers AmazonCrossing which attempts to “introduce readers to emerging and established authors from around the world with translations of foreign language books, making award-winning and bestselling books accessible to many readers for the first time.”
One of the benefits to this effort is that foreign titles will now be available in English. In addition to offering American readers exposure to an entire catalog of previously unknown gifted writers, foreign students may now have access to some of their favorite titles in English. We’ve written before on the ascent of the English language. English is now the predominant language of business and science, and students abroad assiduously study the English language as a way to prepare for their entrance exams. One of the primary ways to do that, of course, is through the targeted and sustained reading of English.
MetaMetrics has recently partnered with ETS, creator of the TOEFL Junior test, to provide just such a service for international students (starting with those in Korea) who wish to not only practice their reading, but to practice it at a targeted reading level. According to MetaMetrics President Dr. Malbert Smith, “With Lexile measures and our new book search on the TOEFL Junior site, we are simplifying the process of matching students with books that can help them strengthen their English reading skills and achieve their goals.” It’s our hope that the Lexile Framework for Reading will not only help American students improve their reading level, but also allow ELL students to improve their English ability through the use of Lexile-linked books and articles.
If you haven’t yet seen the new website and service, be sure to check it out.