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November 2019

Do This; Not That, For Reading

What you should and shouldn’t do while reading in a foreign language

Reading a book in your target language is a great way to build vocabulary and familiarise yourself with grammar. For most students, however, reading can be a difficult activity, especially if their knowledge of vocabulary isn’t yet at an advanced level. With a few good habits, however, students can more effectively approach foreign texts. Today we’ll take a look at some things to do and some things not to do while reading a foreign language book.

Relax; don’t rush

It may be tempting to finish a book as quickly as possible, but that should never be the goal of reading. Whether you’re reading for pleasure or for education, the reading of the book itself is the most important part, not it’s completion. It’s important to turn the reading process into a pleasurable and relaxing experience.

Rather than reading in a formal environment, find someplace comfortable for you. This could even be at home in bed. You could use your smartphone as a dictionary as you read. As you lie down, more of your concentration goes to the text in front of you. On the other hand, if you concentrate better outside in libraries or cafes, opt for those environments instead. The important part is to find the space that’s relaxing for you.

Use time; not page count

Reading is a fundamental part of learning a new language, but it can be a time-consuming activity for many learners. You may find yourself looking up words so often that progress is stymied. This slow progress across pages can make it less appealing to read, and maybe you’ll end up avoiding it all together.

A good option would be to use time as your daily language goal rather than the number of pages. Instead of trying to finish a book as quickly as possible, focus on the intent of why you’re reading: learning new words and improving your language skills. In fact, the longer it takes you to read a book, the better it might be, because it means you’re learning more words and approaching material more advanced than your level, allowing you to progress further as a student.

Setting a time goal to read will compensate for the difficulty of the text. For example, you could choose to read an hour a day. If the book is very hard, you’ll read fewer pages per day. If it’s a simple book, you’ll finish it sooner. Either way, you read each day at an appropriate pace for learning.

Record; don’t forget

It may seem obvious that we ought to record new vocabulary instead of forgetting it, but sometimes we use methods that may not be optimal for remembering. For example, writing down new vocabulary into a list wouldn’t be very useful if you never revisit the list, or if a list makes it harder to test yourself later. Thankfully, we have many tools at our disposal. You could opt for traditional methods like flash cards, however those take time and space.

Online flashcards like Anki are an even better idea because they reside online, meaning they’re accessible wherever you have an Internet connection. This also means you can easily test yourself when you’re on a lunch break at work or when you’re on your daily commute. Online flashcards are also great because you can add words, phrases, and images to your decks as you read your book.

Stay broad; not narrow

It’s good practice to broaden the subjects that you read. While it’s important to choose books that interest you, you’d learn more by approaching book selections covering a wide variety of subjects. For example, if you only read books about football, you’d miss out on vocabulary about food, politics, science, etc.

Subscribing to a newspaper is a good idea for finding material on a multitude of subjects. From world news to sports and weather, newspapers are a great source for widening your vocabulary.

What are some of your tips for reading foreign language books? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” telc English for more articles on language learning tips and tricks!