Media Monday: The Hunger Games

Media Monday is a feature I post every two weeks where I discuss an interesting word or phrase (or sentence or paragraph) from what I’ve been reading or watching.

First things first: I’ve finally finished reading Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch! *cue applause*

I’ve now moved onto reading The Hunger Games – in both German and Spanish. It’s working really well for me because I can use the German to make sense of the Spanish (which I’m miles behind with, but not finding to be a total mystery) and since the book isn’t too long I’m kind of ploughing through it. My phrase today is one that most people have probably read.

–¡Me presento voluntaria! –grito, con voz ahogada–. ¡Me presento voluntaria como tributo! (Los Juegos del Hambre)

“Ich gehe freiwillig!” keuche ich. “Ich gehe freiwillig als Tribut!” (Tödliche Spiele, s. 28)

Basically, this is just a short post to look at the differences between the two translations above. It’s really a matter of vocabulary – what I find interesting is that, in both languages, you can’t simply say ‘I volunteer’, the way we do in English. The Spanish translates, more or less, to ‘I introduce myself as a volunteer,’ whereas the German is more like ‘I go freely’. Both have, of course, the same meaning – but I do find it a little strange that there isn’t a verb for volunteer the way that there is in English.

In German, keuchen is to gasp – just the one word, like in English, but the Spanish translation has a whole phrase, grito con voz ahogada. Gritar is to shout, and voz ahogada is drowned voice, which sounds a little odd in English. The verb from ahogada, ahogar, does mean to drown, but also to suffocate, so similar to the to gasp in German – it’s just shouting something with a strangled voice. It’s interesting to me that there doesn’t seem to be a verb for to gasp in Spanish – or, at least, that that verb wasn’t used here.

The last two sentences are more or less the same, since we’ve already covered the differences with the original phrase. It’s only a short post, but looking at languages that aren’t English side by side is interesting to me, especially when I’m using the German to help me to learn the Spanish. It’s good to see a few similarities between the two, even if they’re not ever-present.

Words (Spanish)
presentar – to introduce, to offer
voluntaria – volunteer (fem.)
gritar – to shout
la voz – voice
ahogado – drowned

Words (German)
keuchen – to gasp

Has anyone else used one foreign language they’ve learnt to learn another? How did that work out for you?


  1. In English, if you refer to awkwardness at dancing, you say “I two left feet.” Recently I’ve learned that, in Spanish you say exactly the same phrase: “Tengo dos pies izquierdos” or “Nació con dos pies izquierdos.” 🙂

    • Really?! Haha, that’s great! I like looking at idioms and seeing the differences between languages because it says something about the cultures. In my translation class at the moment we’ve been looking at idioms in English and Mandarin – some of them are completely different, but some are very similar even though they formed separately. It’s really interesting 🙂

  2. Some years ago I read an English translation of a Russian fantasy book the Night watch. As English isn’t my native language, I found it difficult at first. I couldnt help wondering all the time, how the stuctures were in the original version… Back in that time my Russian skills were too poor to even try and read the original. Even I didn’t learn Russian language by reading it in English, and it was a work of fiction, I found I learned a thing or two about the Russian literature, culture and mentality. There things are also important when learning a language, as language is always part of a culture and not just a separate thing. What do you think?

    • I totally agree! And I think it’s a sign of a really good translation, when you can still absorb some of those cultural elements even though the book is no longer in its original language. (I’m also super impressed you read a book that was originally in Russian in English – which also isn’t your native language. That’s got to take some work!)

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