Although I enjoy learning and using a new language, somehow, it's never occurred to me to read fiction in anything other than English. I could probably read middle to high school books in Spanish with little difficulty, but the idea doesn't seem appealing to me because I still have to translate everything in to English before I can fully comprehend it. In other words, it takes me a lot longer to finish, not to mention that there are a lot of subtle grammar rules in Spanish that just don't translate well. "Hace frío", for example, translates literally to "He made/did a cold." Of course I can recognize that difference easily, but what about the slang and the idioms? I think those are the hardest and the most important parts of any language, and I suck at them.
Not to mention the difference in stress and inflection. Just imagine if you had seen Star Wars in Spanish first, and instead of hearing James Earl Jones say, "No, Luke, I am your father", you hear some random Spanish man say "No, Luke... YO SOY TU PADRE." Would it have the same effect? I mean come on...no one is better than Mufasa.
My mom occasionally wanders into my room while I'm watching anime, and it baffles her why I watch it in Japanese with subtitles. "Why would you want to read subtitles?" She says. "You're distracted from the movie." Well, it's because I've tried watching it in English, and it's just not the same. Japanese and English are spoken in completely different ways, and when a English voice is dubbed over an animation that was originally in another language, it looks and sounds sloppy. No, I can't understand a word that they're saying, but it still sounds right, somehow. Even if I have to resort to watching subtitles, having some way of accessing the original language helps me understand the intent better. Whenever I read a book that has been translated into English from Spanish or Portuguese or Swedish, it makes me wonder if I'm really getting the same context, and even if I don't know why, the experience feels deficient somehow.
What about you guys? Are you bilingual or multi-lingual? What is your preferred language when reading for pleasure? Do you think a book translated from one language to the other loses something vital in the process? Why or why not?