When you focus a lot of your time on mastering vocabulary and practicing speaking and listening, it’s easy for your reading skills to fall by the wayside. Even if you currently think that you don’t really need reading skills in another language, improving your reading ability can have fantastic benefits for your overall linguistic ability.
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Below are some of the best strategies you can use to boost your reading skills in another language!
1. Boost Your Native-Language Reading
There’s a considerable body of researchthat shows quite clearly that skills that you develop by reading in your native tongue transfer over very well to when you are learning a foreign language. Therefore, working on reading skills in your native language will have benefits for your reading in a target second or third language.
As it happens, reading in French and Germany is similar in many fundamental ways to reading in Chinese or Korean. There are major differences, of course, but they aren’t as big as you might imagine, and the shared qualities run a lot deeper. From your ability to understand the gist of a selection to your ability to identify and absorb detail, you will find that you can boost those skills quickly in your own language and then enjoy the benefits in your new one.
2. Read Casual
The trouble with a lot of academic reading is that the content is so dry and disconnected from our everyday lives. There’s nothing to say that you can’t develop and practice your reading skills while reading something a little more casual, more humorous or more informal.
For instance, try reading social media feeds or forum threads in your target language. Reading the comments on a video or other social media post alone can provide you with huge amounts of practice while also being quite fun at the same time.
A comments section or forum thread provides you dozens of “mini-articles” all written in different styles and using different vocabulary to push your linguistic skills to the limits. You’ll undoubtedly spot mistakes in spelling, grammar or other language use, and that’s valuable, too. You might even start to understand the “inside jokes” and “running gags” behind popular culture in your target language.
This isn’t to say that your more formal and academic reading is of no use. You should keep up with that reading, too, but don’t be afraid to liven it up with some less formal content now and again.
3. Read a Text Multiple Times
Some people read through a text, don’t really understand what it’s all about, and then give up on trying. It’s actually very normal for readers at any level to not fully understand or appreciate a text when they first read it. Think about some of the novels you’ve read in your own language, and even some of the films you’ve watched. Did you make sense of every chapter? Did you catch every detail in the movie? Or did you read/watch them a second or third time to learn more?
The same applies with your foreign-language reading. You can use the “Four Readings” strategy to help you:
Reading 1: Your aim on the first reading is only to get the gist and understand the main topics and points of the piece.
Reading 2: Your aim here is to build on the gist, and pick up on interesting and new vocabulary that will help boost your language level.
Reading 3: On the third time around, you’ll start to now gather interesting details from the piece. These are the subtle pieces of information, possibly humor and artistry, that you missed before.
Reading 4: Your final reading should be done to try reading the now-understood text at greater speed.
4. Read Aloud
This is a fairly straightforward strategy, truth be told. Reading aloud gives you a chance to simultaneously practice your speaking skills as well as your reading ones. Develop your pronunciation and diction by reading foreign-language material out loud. Beyond that, you’ll also start to appreciate more how words and phrases in your target language go together in larger bodies of text.
5. Try to Understand Words From Context (don’t overuse the dictionary)
You should certainly have your trusty dictionary at your side for at least some of the time, but not for every word you don’t know. Try to limit yourself to a maximum of 3 dictionary look-ups (5 if it’s a long text, or a chapter of a book) and for the rest try to use context instead.
Determining words from the context they used is one of the best language skills you can acquire. Once again, you can practice this fundamentally in your own language. To understand from context, try the following:
Step 1: Read the sentence with the unknown word multiple times.
Step 2: Re-read a sentence or two before and after the target-word sentence.
Step 3: Try to substitute the word for known vocabulary to see if it makes sense.
Step 4: Understand the tone and background subject matter and you should be able to determine with surprising accuracy what that word means.
Step 5: After finishing reading, check those words in the dictionary later on to see if you were right.
Reading Unlocks More Language Skill
You might think you’re only learning a new language to be able to speak it, and thus judge reading skills as unimportant. In the age of online written communication, nothing could be further from the truth. Boost your reading skills and unlock an entirely new level to your understanding of your target language.
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