As usual we brought a stack of books with us this trip. On the plane I was reading طعام…صلاة…حب – that’s Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, in translation. I’ve read it before, of course, but in English, and long before I was married. Generally, it’s right at the edge of my reading level in Arabic: I don’t know every word, but I can comfortably read without a dictionary, and if the environment is quiet, fairly quickly.
The actual act of reading in a language one isn’t quite fluent in prompts acknowledgement of distraction level. There would be a page I’d read while the flight attendant or people nearby were talking, and I’d feel like gosh, I’m just not getting this at all. Then I’d reread it when things were quiet and feel like, Oh! This is so clear, I totally understand it.
Reading in English, to the contrary, is such a smooth, mechanical process that it’s easy to not notice if we are actually comprehending or not. I have no doubt that there are piles of pages I’ve read in English, and processed all those familiar words efficiently, and have not really understood.