How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 6


By Denise Doty    

You’ve finished reading. Along the way you encountered new words and phrases, but how how do you retain this new information. The following are some tips to do exactly that.

How to remember all this new vocabulary?

  • Flashcards – 
    • Either use index cards or an online site that creates flashcards for you such as
  • Contextualize – 
    • On your flashcards, write not only the new vocabulary in the target language and in your native language but also write the sentence in which, you found it. Also include a picture that represents the word.
  • Mnemonic devices – 
    • are techniques a person can use to help them improve their ability to remember something.


Extra tidbits to help you get the most out of reading

            Establish a reading routine

            Read out loud

            Choose material where you know approximately 90% of the vocabulary

            Record yourself

            Read to someone


 The most important thing to remember about reading is simple to do it. Read for fun. Read for purpose. Read the same verse over and over again. Just Read it

Check out these posts for more information on how to remember vocabulary:

Simple Tips to Help You Memorize Foreign Language Vocabulary

Mnemonics, A Way to Increase Your Vocabulary


 How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 5

How to read in a foreign language

By Denise Doty

You’ve listed your goals, selected your reading material and followed your pre-reading strategies. Now it is time to dive in and read, so how do you do it?

How do you read in a foreign language?

  • Read the article all the way through, without looking up words.
    •  If it is an article, read it all the way through. If it is a novel, read an entire chapter.
  • Summarize. 
    • Summarize what you just read. List the characters and describe the plot, if it is a novel or list key points if you are reading an academic book, newspaper or magazine.
  • Read again, look up words. 
    • This time reread your material, underline the new words and take the time to research them.
  • Read again, one more time.
    • You’ve looked up words, you’ve read it twice. Now it is time to see how well you understand without looking up any more words.
  • Summarize, again. 
    • When you summarize, this time, be more specific. Did you understand more?
  • Read again and again.
    •  If the article is short and if you have time, I would suggest reading it over a few times throughout the day. This will help you memorize new words and phrases.

How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 4


By Denise Doty

Ok, you’ve decided on what you are going to read, but before you read there are some pre-reading strategies that will you to reap the most benefits out of your reading. Pre-reading strategies will give you context and aid you in understanding your reading material.

How do you prepare to read in a foreign language?

  • Read in your native tongue first. 
    • If your goal is to learn about immigration than read about immigration in your native tongue before reading about immigration in your target language, this will assist in understanding complex concepts and words.
  • Understand what you are reading. 
    • That is, have a general understanding. If you are reading a novel than read a synopsis of the book in your own language first to understand it better.
  • Brainstorm. 
    • Think about the content that you are about to read. What issues will come up?
  • Skim. 
    • Take a look at what you are going to read. Look for any unfamiliar words that may cause you problems in understanding the text. Look up the meanings of the word and jot them down.

What strategies do you use before sitting down and reading?


How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 3

library books

By Denise Doty

Before you dive into a book, article, newspaper or whatever you decide to read give some serious thought to what you should read. Think about your current level of fluency. Think about your reading goals. Think about what you are willing to do to reach your goals. Ask yourself how much time realistically do you have to spend on reading?

What is the best text to read?

  • Children’s books. 
    • Children’s books are easy. They introduce words slowly and repeat often.
  • Newspapers
    • Newspapers are concise and are written with words that are used frequently in everyday life.
  • Novels
    • Novels will teach you slang and idioms. How do people really say that?
  • Academic books. 
    • Here is where you will learn your specific vocabulary on a specific topic. These books tend to follow grammar rules.
  • Magazines
    • This resource offers a variety of topics from fashion to trains. The articles are usually short and contain both industry terms and slang, but are tended for the common person, making them fairly easy to understand.


For additional information on reading check out this post: Read, Read & Read some more

What’s your favorite thing to read?

How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 2

By Denise Doty

reading goals


So now that you have decided to read to improve your target language skills, what do you do first? I would first suggest that you decide on your goals. What do you want to get out of reading?

What are your reading goals?

  • To increase vocabulary. 
    • Be specific. How many words per day do you want to learn? Is there a category in which you need to increase your vocabulary, such as medicine, law or engineering?
  • To increase slang/colloquialisms/idioms. 
    • Is your goal to sound more like a native by using more colorful everyday speech?
  • To read fluently. 
    • Is your goal to be able to read a foreign text for your job?
  • To prepare for an exam. 
    • If you are planning to take a written exam to prove your language ability focus on reading only that information that will help you excel at the test.
  • To read a specific book. 
    • Is there a book you would like to read, but your target language reading ability is not quite at that level? Practice makes perfect. Read less-advance books on the same topic to work your way up to the desired book.


Check out my posting on SMART Goals: How to make them

What are your goals?

How to read in a foreign language and boost your vocabulary, part 1


By Denise Doty  April 13, 2017

What does reading do for you?

  • Reading increases your vocabulary.
    • By reading you are being exposed to lots of words that you may not hear in everyday conversation and even less likely to see in language textbooks.
  • Reading demonstrates different uses of vocabulary. 
    • Reading allows vocabulary to be used in various ways. Some words can mean different things by the way they are used in a sentence.
  • Reading contextualizes meaning.
    • Reading drives you to imagine the meaning behind the words causing you to create a picture in your head. This creative process enhances your memorization skills.
  • Reading teaches you slang/ colloquialisms. 
    • One way to improve your language skills is to add slang to your vocabulary usage.
  • Reading allows you to go at your own pace. 
    • You can skim an article or you can dissect it learning every word, every grammar point, and every nuance there is in the article. It’s up to you to decide.
  • Reading increases your confidence.  
    • When you read a phrase or a word over and over again, you create an understanding and a familiarity with that phrase/word, it is this understanding, this familiarity, which builds confidence and thus will allow you to use it in conversation.
  • Reading teaches you how to tell stories.  
    • Reading stories give you examples to mimic on how to tell stories.
  • Reading forces, you to learn complex words and phrases. 
    • Writers tend to be precise and their word choice is elevated more than the spoken language.
  • Reading teaches you about the culture. 
    • Whether you read about a specific holiday, a story about a family or a travel brochure or even the local newspaper you will learn about the culture.



As you can see, there are many benefits to reading. What do you like to read?

Overcoming Language Plateaus, You can do it!


Language plateaus happen to all of us. We go merrily along just soaking up new words and phrases and then one day, we stop. We hit a plateau that we just can’t get over it. We struggle, we give more effort, but still we are stuck. In economics, they call this a diminishing return, the more you invest, the smaller your returns on your investment. When applied to language learning it means the more effort you put into language learning over time, the smaller your increases in fluency become. Learning plateaus are very common especially when developing a new skill. A major reason for learning plateaus is routine. Language routines are a great way to learn languages, but when you find yourself struggling to learn something new and you’ve been trying to learn it the same way, it is time to shake up your routine and try a new way.


Take a moment to reevaluate the way you practice the target language. Ask yourself questions:

  • Do I find myself bored with this activity or does it keep me engaged?
  • Do I “zone-out” during this activity?
  • Am I passively going through the motions or am I really involved in my learning?
  • Am I too tired or have other things on my mind at this time of day?
  • Is this the best time of day for me to study?
  • Are you dreading studying?
  • Do you have to muster up energy to study?

If you said yes to any of these questions you might be at a language learning plateau, but don’t fret there are ways to overcome it. So, don’t despair, just change what you are doing.

  • Set new goals to keep yourself on track.
    1. Analyze your weaknesses. Take a look at what you do poorly, then work on them using mini-goals. If it is something you don’t enjoy studying, because it is difficult, study it in short spurts. Mini goals will help you stay focus and will give you a sense of accomplishment when you reach them as they will come more frequently.
  • Time to use authentic language materials in your target language.
    1. Read current events.
    2. Fictional materials
    3. Comics and cartoons
    4. Music videos
    5. Films
    6. Books


  • Try writing to move past your plateau and on to the next level.
    1. Try Lang-8 and LingQ. Here you can have your writing corrected by a native speaker.
    2. Writing allows you to walk away and then return to self-edit. You will be able to self-correct your mistakes.
  • Find something your passionate about and learn the target language to describe it.
    1. Identify a real-world application that you can learn about and learn the language in order that you may be able to discuss it.
    2. Challenge yourself. Find something that you’re interested in and push yourself to learn the language.
  • Get up and exercise.
    1. Working out can boost memory and cognitive ability.
  • Get a language instructor to help you move past your goals.
  • Add variety to your routine. Don’t just do the same thing every day it can get booooorrrring!
  • If something isn’t working then don’t use it, get rid of it.

The last tip I have for you is to get rid of your emotional baggage, that is to say, when we reach a plateau, we all tend to get frustrated and even a little angry at ourselves. It is important that we push those emotions aside and start our learning with a fresh new attitude.

What tips do you have to move past a language plateau?