One of the best and most enjoyable ways to learn a foreign language is reading. Reading is a useful tool for various reasons. Reading is a no pressure activity where we can start and stop when we want. We can read for simple pleasure or we can read to learn. By reading we become more comfortable with the language and its grammar which in turn helps us to speak and write correctly. Seeing words on paper reinforces them and if we don’t understand them we can stop and look them up. Reading can be individualized to fit your personal goals. If your goal is to become fluent you will have to know how to read. Think of all the things you read in a day: the menu at a restaurant, the map at the subway station or the local newspaper. Reading is essential tp learn a foreign language!
- Choosing what to read:
- Choose reading material that is focused on your level or slightly above for a challenge. If you choose something too difficult you won’t enjoy it and you won’t read anymore.
- Read a variety of materials (short stories, novels, newspapers, blogs, cartoons, children’s stories).
- The more the variety the more vocabulary you will be exposed to.
- Start small. Read children’s stories, short articles or just a passage.
- Read things you’ve already read in your native language.
- Reading things you’ve read in your native language before will help you understand contextual clues and learn new vocabulary and grammar constructions.
When choosing what to read, remember academic writing will follow grammar rules, focus on one specialized area and use specialized vocabulary while this is great tool to learn specific vocabulary it may be too difficult for beginners. It also does not use every day language. Meanwhile non-academic writing will contain more common language and easier vocabulary, but will also have slang and colloquialisms making it a challenge to understand.
- Read articles in your native tongue first.
- If you are reading something difficult or specialized, such as an article on web design which uses specific industry specific terms, read on the subject first in your native language in order to understand the material then read it in your target language.
- Read a synopsis in your native tongue.
- If you are reading a novel try reading a synopsis first to give you a general idea of the story.
- Brainstorm – this means to think about what you are going to read. What problems might the material bring up? How does this material affect you?
- Skim – glance over your reading material and take notes on words you don’t know then look them up.
- Read articles in your native tongue first.
- Complement your reading
- Read books with audio. This will stimulate more of your senses and help you learn not only new words, but how to pronounce them. This will also accustom you to the speed in which native speakers speak. Remember it is ok not to understand everything.
- Read out loud. This will allow you to practice your pronunciation as well as your reading. Get a reading partner and take turns reading to each other.
- Talk about what you read. By doing this you will increase your understanding of the material and you will practice using your new vocabulary. Joining a book club in your target language would be a perfect idea!
- Use devices to aid you in learning new words such as flashcards and mnemonic devices. Remember to contextualize the new vocabulary!
- Look up keywords before you read. Look up words you don’t know. Concentrate on words that are repeated and that appear in headings.
- Use context to understand new words. While you read don’t stop to look up definitions, but continue reading and highlight the words you don’t know. When you are done reading then look up the new vocabulary. This method will help you read more fluently and will force you to use contextual clues which in turns helps you to learn the new words better.
- Look up all highlighted words. When you look up the new words don’t simply put their definition down in your native tongue. It is better to put an explanation of the new vocabulary in the target language or/and use pictures or icons. This will help you think in your target language.
Keep your leisure reading separate from your vocabulary learning reading.
Keep a glossary in the target Language. Remember to use the target language to define new words rather than simply translate the new words.
Highlight/underline new words and review at the end of the week.
Investigate Word Origins. Learn prefixes and suffixes.
Create and use pictures to learn new vocabulary.
childrenslibrary.org – has children’s’ books in many languages for free.
pleco.com – to learn Mandarin Chinese
storyplace.org – has digital stories in English and Spanish for students of pre-school age through elementary school.
readlang.com – has reading material in various languages for many levels. Also has flashcards.
Use your local library – Content is free, and those with e-readers can often access extensive digital archives with just the click of a button!