Reading in a Foreign Language: Key Tips

Reading Student

Probably all language students have encountered this problem when they decide to read in a foreign language, but soon give up as it seems to time-consuming and exhaustive. Many beginners all over the world still think that just by reading their favorite book in a different language, they will be able to become fluent and proficient in it.

However, if you ever tried tackling a new language, you probably know that this is not the case. Nonetheless, it is not a reason to discard reading for other methods. In this article I will provide helpful tips on reading effectively in a foreign language.

Read a Little Every Day

Reading can be taxing per se, regardless of the language. However, the pressure grows exponentially when you choose to do it in a non-native tongue.

Therefore, it is crucial that you read bit by bit every single day, rather than attempting to guzzle the entire novel in one fell swoop during the weekend. If you select the latter option, most likely you will end up being frustrated and unwilling to ever do it again.

Try Different Reading Types

There are two main types of reading: extensive and intensive. It is unfortunate that many language learners are not aware of them, usually sticking only to the intensive one, while ignoring the benefits of the former method.

When you read intensively, you stop all the time looking up all the unknown words in the dictionary. When you employ an extensive approach, you read though the chapter non-stop, and only after finishing it you do allow yourself to find out the meanings of some words.

Alternating between these two types is a holistic perspective on mastering your reading comprehension skills. When reading extensively, you develop language intuition and when intensively – you are mostly focused on vocabulary. Both methods are significant in your overall success as a language learner.

Read till the End

No matter what reading method you select, it is crucial to read the text till the end. This provides you with a sense of achievement and releases dopamine in your brain which leaves you craving for more reading.

The less you finish, regardless of how much vocabulary you learned or how many pages completed, the feeling of growing dissatisfaction is going to haunt you. You will lose inspiration to continue because your brain may decide that there is no point in it.

Don’t Get Stuck on Unknown Words

This tip does not apply to intensive reading where you deal with short articles of passages as whole point of this method is to learn as much vocabulary as you can find and understand the text deeply. However, this is the key advice for the extensive reading aficionados.

Many teachers recommend completing the chapter first, and then reading it again while also marking the unknown words. However, you may not have time or desire to re-read the chapter, as re-reading is deprived of the original “discovery” excitement. In this case, you may want to highlight the unfamiliar vocabulary during the reading, and learn it after finishing the chapter.

It is critical here that you are very picky about your vocabulary. First of all, you may want to underscore the repeated words. Second of all, select those that you understood from the context and want to use in your daily speech. Finally, it may be some terms that you just found pretty. The rule here is to avoid overburdening, as some words may be too literary or too specified to be useful.

Choose the Text Smartly

You need to understand where your interests lie. Choosing an article on the topic you are personally interested in will bring you amusement and inspire you to persevere through it till the end. Moreover, interest provokes a positive emotion which is conducive to language learning.

There are academic and non-academic texts. Here you can be guided by your professional expertise in picking the right material. For instance, if you are a lawyer, it makes sense for you to try some legal texts. However, academic texts tend to abound in specialized vocabulary that is hardly utilized on a daily basis. They are usually hard and intricate, so you might also want to do some preparatory reading in your native language in advance.

Non-academic texts offer spoken vocabulary which, however, may be too colloquial and specific of a particular region or age group for you to use it freely. Moreover, the grammar may be simplified or simply wrong, whereas academic texts adhere to grammatical rules. In my opinion, the best strategy is to vary both types, while also choosing the interesting topics for you.

Don’t Just Read

Well, isn’t the whole purpose of this article is to teach and inspire reading? – you might ask. Of course, the main focus of this article is reading, but it cannot be the main focus of your learning experience.

It is essential to underpin reading with other techniques such as summarizing the material, taking notes, discussing it with your peers or, if you have not found a reading partner yet, recording your own monologues on the topic. Moreover, you may try drawing the unknown words or events in the book to visualize the new information and make it stick.

Praise Yourself

Finally, you have a reason to be proud. Reading in a foreign language is challenging, and only the valiant and hard-working learners will manage to do it right. If you follow the tips in this chapter, you increase your chances to make it an effective and enjoyable experience.

You should praise yourself internally when you understand something from the context or from previous learning. Indulge yourself a little when you finish a chapter or an article, so that reading for you is associated with something pleasant. Certainly, if you do that, you will establish a long-term relationship with reading in a different language.

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