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January 2020

A Strategy for Learning Languages Quickly With Reading

Learn new vocabulary and grammar with books, fast

Many students reach a point in their studies when they know enough words to converse but not enough to read quickly. Reading, while invaluable to language learning, is a practice that can be difficult, because of the many new words being introduced. This difficulty may deter many intermediate students away from reading. Today we’ll offer a strategy that’s relatively painless that can help you use books to learn new words and grammatical structures quickly.

Step 1: Pick the right book

First of all, select a book that interests you. If you like fiction, choose a story that interests you. It may be a good idea to select a novel you’ve already read in your native language. If non-fiction is your preference, choose a subject that isn’t too complicated. Poetic writing should be avoided (unless you’re studying poetry) because the language tends to be more figurative, and this can be confusing for many language learners.

Step 2: Choose your favorite method of using flashcards

What is the best method for using flashcards? It depends on your personal behavior. If you prefer holding something in your hand, making your own paper flashcards may be the way to go. If you’re often attached to your smartphone, a flashcard app may be the better method. The latter is especially good, because flashcard apps often use spaced repetition to smartly introduce additional words, while repeating words you have trouble remembering, in order to help you learn more effectively.

Step 3: Find a comfortable place and set the timer

Find a comfortable place for study, and decide ahead of time how long you’ll devote to your studies. Choosing a place and time beforehand is helpful in keeping you focused on your studies. You can set a timer to establish the start and finish of your study time, avoiding distractions in the meantime. This time that you’ve set is just for your studies.

Step 4: Scan the first page for new words and record them

Before you begin reading, scan the first page for new words (words you don’t understand), and write them onto flashcards. Look up the definitions for these terms, and include them on the opposite sides of the flashcards. Once you have all the definitions, read the page. If you don’t completely understand what you’re reading, don’t fret. You’ll come back to the page later. Repeat this process for each page until you reach the end of the chapter.

Step 5: Test yourself with the flashcards

By now, you ought to have a good number of new words written on flashcards. Once you have 50 or so new words, test yourself with the flashcards (if not, continue on with the next chapter). Spend a few days doing this, or until you feel comfortable remembering the definition for each word.

Step 6: Read the previous section again

After studying the flashcards for some time, go back to the previous section and re-read it. Now that you know all the words you previously did not, you’ll find that reading the section has become much easier! Keep up this procedure until you finish the book. By the time you finish, you’ll understand a whole new set of vocabulary, and the book will no longer be a mystery.

Do you have trouble reading in your target language? What are some tips you have for learning new words? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” telc English for more articles on language learning advice!