Language learning

Reading in another language

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn on Flickr

Last week I spoke about watching movies in a foreign language. Today I wanted to discuss reading in another language. Often people tend to skip reading in the rush to speak the language, but this is a mistake. I think it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your second language.

There’s a multitude of reasons why reading in your second language is helpful. They tend to reflect back on how reading in your native language is helpful as a kid and as an adult. Remember how the kids who read a lot always had the answers and seems to know more? It’s the exact same idea, only when you’re doing it to improve your language you don’t seem like such a nerd (I can say that, I was a huge reader as a kid).

While reading (in ay language), chances are you’ll come across a word or two you’re unfamiliar with. So what do you do? Look it up. Bam, your vocabulary just increased. By reading something that interests you (as opposed to just vocab lists or assigned reading you don’t care about) the words you learn are more likely to stick.

As well as the increased vocabulary, you’re exposed to different sentence structures than just the ones in textbooks and the grammar you’re learning in real applications. Seeing these in context and out of the classroom will help solidify what you’ve learnt previously.

There is so much out there for you to read, no matter what language you’re looking for. You just have to look. Second hand book shops or op shops almost always have foreign language sections. They may or may not have the language you’re looking for, but it’s worth a try.

Try a news site from a country where your language is spoken – practice your reading while finding out what’s going on there. This is especially handy if you’re planning to travel there in the near future, as you will be better informed and hopefully able to discuss big news stories.

Children’s books are often recommended for their simple sentences and repetitiveness, but I tend to find them more boring than helpful. That’s just me, though, you might find they work for you.

There’s also books translated into your target language. At the moment I’m reading Harry Potter in Spanish – a popular series to read in other languages. I had a Spanish friend I lived with for awhile and I rarely, if ever, saw him without an English Harry Potter in his bag.

Whatever you pick to read, make sure it’s at an appropriate level. There’s no point trying to read War and Peace in your first months of language study (unless you happen to love that book, perhaps?). Read things you mostly understand, but don’t worry about the occasional unknown word. Wait til the end of the sentence or paragraph before looking it up – you might be able to deduce the meaning from the context.

Above all, find readings you are interested in. If you find it boring, you’ll likely give up quickly and not gain anything from it. That’s the biggest thing to remember. And it totally makes sense. Why wouldn’t you read more and increase your vocab around topics you enjoy? Chances are these areas of interest are thing you would like to talk about as well, so this is a great way to pick up any technical words or jargon in the target language.

What are you guys reading at the moment? Something in your target language, I hope!


5 thoughts on “Reading in another language

  1. Reading in another language also helps you to develop an automatic instinct for when you’re speaking a foreign language correctly, and when you’re not. In German, it’s called “Sprachgefuehl” which translated literally means “language feeling”.

  2. Pingback: Skip what you don’t know for now |

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