HomeHow to read effectively in a foreign language

How to read effectively in a foreign language

07:06, 25/06/2021

English is one of the most difficult languages to lớn learn to lớn read. From word lớn word, the same sounds in English are often spelled differently, or the same spellings are pronounced differently. Retìm kiếm has shown that English-speaking children take more than twice as long to lớn learn khổng lồ read as children who speak most other European languages.

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But you’re not reading this article because you want khổng lồ bask in the glory of being able lớn read English; you want khổng lồ learn to lớn read a whole other language!

The good news is that reading in whatever foreign language you’re interested in is probably easier than reading in English. The even better news is that reading in a foreign language can actually be the easiest thing you ever learn. With the right strategies, it’ll come much more naturally than getting down all that vocabulary or sharpening up your listening comprehension skills.

With the right techniques, language learning can usually be fun, but this is even more true of learning to lớn read in a foreign language: basically all you have sầu to vị is read whatever you want, và you’ll get better at reading.

Of course, there are a few tricks you want lớn use along the way khổng lồ make your “reading whatever you want” as efficient, effective sầu & painless as possible. Here they are.

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7 Strategies to Make Reading in a Foreign Language the Easiest Thing You Ever Learn

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1. Transfer Your Reading Skills from Your Native Language

If you can read one language, you can read them all—sort of. Studies (like this one) have suggested that to an extent, reading skills transfer from one language to another.

In other words, learning to read in a foreign language is partly just a matter of learning to read in your native language, learning to lớn speak the foreign language and then putting the two together. However, the catch is that your reading skills only start khổng lồ transfer in a serious way once you reach a basic cấp độ of proficiency in your new language.

Therefore, backloading your reading work is the way to lớn go. In the early stages of your language learning, focus on becoming familiar with the language, expanding your vocab và getting a feel for the grammar.

Once you have the fundamentals down, start practicing reading more intensively. With a solid grasp on the basics of the language and reading muscles already toned from a lifetime of putting up with written English, you’ll find it’s not too hard to lớn put two & two together.

2. Split Your Time Between Focused Reading & Relaxed Reading

You might think the fasthử nghiệm way khổng lồ learn khổng lồ read in a foreign language would be to lớn always choose the hardest texts you can find and power through them with a dictionary. It turns out, though, that one of the most important factors in how well you learn lớn read is simply how much you read. And if you’re always trying 110%, you’re not going lớn have sầu the stamimãng cầu to bởi the kind of voracious book-guzzling that you need to lớn polish your reading skills.

Learning to lớn read in a foreign language is definitely a task where the golden rule of language learning applies: Laziness is the mother of all effective sầu language learning strategies. If you’re working too hard, you’re just not going lớn make it through an entire language.

So the trichồng is to divide your time between the kind of intensive, grinding-your-teeth-and-clutching-a-dictionary reading that pushes the limits of your abilities và the kind of Sunday-afternoon-lounging-in-an-armchair-enjoying-a-nice-book reading that lets you put in foreign language reading hours while having a good time.

For the focused reading, pick material that will give sầu you a good challenge, and take the time khổng lồ untangle the bits you don’t underst&. For the relaxed reading, the point is just to lớn read as much as possible, so go for texts that are easier khổng lồ get through and that are about topics you’re interested in.

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You might want lớn plan out in advance how you’re going to split you’re time between focused reading & relaxed reading. For example, you might chill with some no-big-giảm giá reading 80% of the time và going full-blown-language-learner-wielding-flashcards-and-not-afraid-to-use-them with a copy of “War & Peace” the other 20% of the time.

3. Do Group Reading

Reading is fun, but it can get lonely. After all, a recent study showed that librarians are twice as likely as people with any other occupation to lớn danh sách life-kích cỡ blow-up dolls as their primary emergency contacts. (Just kidding.)

Doing group readings is a great way khổng lồ make burying your face in a book a social activity. Just get a group of like-minded (or at least like-languaged) language learners together, and take turns reading aloud while everyone follows along the written text.

There are two big advantages you get from group reading. First, hearing someone read the words và following along visually at the same time connects your aural memory of how words sound with your visual impression of how they look on the page. Second, you can pause every few pages or so and bởi vì a group recap or discussion (in the language you’re learning!) covering what you’ve sầu read so far.

If you want to emphakích cỡ the discussion part of things, another variant on this strategy is lớn havea book club. And if you don’t know anyone learning your language, don’t let that deter you from forming a reading group–this is the Internet age! Go looking on social truyền thông và places where language learners gather online, & there’s a good chance you’ll find people interested in either a real-life or virtual reading group.

4. Re-re-re-read

I’ve already talked about splitting your time between focused reading & relaxed reading, but the question remains: What exactly vày you do when you’re doing focused reading?

One of my favorite strategies for parsing texts that stretch the boundaries of my reading comprehension is re-re-re-reading, which involves reading a text through four times, concentrating on different things each time through. The basic idea is to lớn start off reading for the big picture, then work down khổng lồ the details, then move baông chồng up khổng lồ the big picture. Here’s how it goes:

Round 1: Get the gist of the passage

On the first pass through, read for the gist. Just get a sense of what the text is about and a general feel for what’s happening. Don’t get too hung up on words you don’t know. However,depending on how opaque the passage is, you might have sầu khổng lồ look up words here & there even to get at the overall meaning.

Round 2: Go over in more detail, looking up words you don’t know

Pass two is the bring-out-the-toolbox-and-take-this-thing-apart round. This is when you bởi want to lớn get hung up on the details, looking up all words you don’t know & making sure you underst& how the grammatical structure of the text is working. This is when you break the thing down inlớn its parts & figure out how each of those parts works.

Round 3: Put together all the new details you understand

After breaking the passage down inlớn its details, you now want lớn put those details baông xã together inkhổng lồ a unified whole. This pass through the text is about synthesizing everything you learned in pass two about what individual words mean và how the grammar fits together.

You can think of this stage as reading for the gist, lượt thích in step one, while incorporating all the new information from step two. You want khổng lồ read quickly enough to lớn get a birds eye view of the whole passage, but vị take enough time to integrate most of the new knowledge you gleaned khung step two.

Round 4: Do a final recap, aiming for speed

In the fourth and final run through of the text, speed is the name of the game. Now that you’ve broken down the text và put it bachồng together, the idea is khổng lồ go through grasping the meaning as quickly as possible. Try lớn push yourself on this one, both in terms of holding onlớn the things you learned in step 2 & getting through the passage faster than you thought you could.

5. Read Aloud

When working on reading, it’s helpful lớn keep in mind that reading is really just an extension of speaking và listening. This fact is key to lớn making reading the easiest thing you vì in your foreign language studies.

One way to lớn take advantage of the link between spoken & written language is lớn actually speak & listen while you read. Just speak whatever you’re reading out loud lớn yourself as you read it. When you make connections between listening, reading & speaking, all three will improve sầu.

6. Do “Less Slow” Reading

If you want to lớn keep yourself on your toes and challenge your brain lớn parse the words you’re reading a little more quickly, try some timed reading activities. Speed reading doesn’t need to be your goal, just reading less slowly than you used to lớn and setting new personal bests is the most important thing.

You can vị timed reading either by setting a timer while you read so you can see how long it takes you to lớn get through a given text and calculate your reading tốc độ in words-per-minute, or by giving yourself a predetermined amount of time to lớn complete a passage.

Besides pushing your brain to lớn process the text you’re looking at a little faster, “less slow” reading will add a little excitement to your reading practice—which is never a bad idea, since boredom is the death of language learning.

7. Use Context

Context is the best language teacher you’ll ever have sầu. Think about it: You learned your native language entirely from context.

When you’re reading, always try lớn take advantage of context as much as possible. Whenever you reach a word you aren’t familiar with, force yourself to guess its meaning before reaching for the dictionary, then look it up khổng lồ see if you were right.

This is actually a good tip for all aspects of language learning, but it’s especially important for reading exercises, where you can find yourself reaching instinctively for the dictionary over and over. Forcing yourself lớn guess things from context turns language learning into lớn a puzzle of sorts, & you’ll have a stronger memory for the words you can guess correctly from context than the ones you have sầu to type into lớn Google Translate to underst&.

It can seem intimidating to be confronted with a wall of text in a language you still have sầu a tenuous grasp on, but if you use strategies like transferring your foreign language speaking và native reading skills, balancing relaxed and focused reading, starting a reading group, reading out loud, re-re-re-reading and taking advantage of context, you’ll see that reading in a foreign language is a skill that just naturally gets better with time if you let it.

And if you ever find yourself getting frustrated, just remember—you’ve sầu already learned lớn read English, you can vì anything!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)