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How reading helps you to learn a foreign language

Practical use of theoretical knowledge

Update/revision of new words

Enjoyment of the process, visible result (I can do it)

Learning a foreign language is a discovery of a new world. Somebody works for new career opportunities or plans to move to another country. But for most people, a language is a window into another culture. To say hello, to listen to a song, to hear favorite actors in the original language, and, of course, to read. First of all, reading is a way to get by in another country. Even if you don’t understand the language when you hear it at a natural speed, you can deal with current tasks if you understand announcements at the airport, the menu in a restaurant, information in a hotel room, etc.

Reading is an indispensable part of mastering any language. Reading aloud, we train pronunciation and get used to saying unusual clusters of letters and sounds. And when we start to read simple books, we comprehensively update and consolidate all theoretical knowledge we have. Endings of cases, prepositions, use of tenses? When you are reading, pay attention to what you already know, note why specifically this form is used, remember the rules, and choose similar examples. In fact, this is an interactive process, much more effective and interesting than revising some schemes and tables. It makes you to be attentive to every word and doesn’t allow reading to become just a background activity (when you just look through the page and enjoy it when seeing familiar words).

Example: „Маленький (ending of a masculine gender as великий, синій, гарний, сердитий) Вінстон просив (past tense as говорив, любив, читав, їв) батьків (Genitive case plural as братів, друзів, учнів) хоча б інколи приїздити до нього (pronoun in genitive case as до неї, до них, до тебе) “

(Два життя Вінстона з роду Мальборо, Олесь Ільченко).

The main point is that reading helps consolidate new words without infinite revision. You see some words in the context, which can remind you of the meaning of the word you have forgotten. Having come across the same word a few times (for example the word «palace» in the story about Winston Churchill), you will keep it in mind without extra effort. In other words, reading is practicing a language. It also helps to bridge the gap between a book and the real usage of the language, like speaking or listening.

It’s not necessary to understand 100% of the text. It’s ok if you just get the point, notice familiar constructions, and remember in which contexts this or that word is used. However, the maximum result can be achieved if you write down all new words, translate them and try to add them to your active vocabulary. If you can understand what you read when you hear it and then use it independently in your writing or speaking, it’s the biggest achievement you can count on.

Reading as an interesting and active way of learning grammar and updating lexis is only one advantage of this process. For many people reading books in the original is both the main goal and the main pleasure when learning a foreign language. It’s a visual demonstration that your efforts are not in vain, all is possible and a foreign language is not a code without a key and instructions. In fact, it will happily reveal its mysteries to you.

To feel that small triumph of first victories, you should carefully choose the books you are going to read. A grammatically overcomplicated text where each sentence should be translated with a dictionary, will take a lot of energy but won’t give you a sense of fulfillment. Excessive efforts when you are not ready for such a difficult piece of literature just annoy and disappoint. Remember, you are not at the marathon and remember your goal (it is unlikely to be able to read complicated poetry or novels after 2-3 months of learning the language). Your task is to find a type of work - light, funny or interesting personally for you, and make baby steps to move forward. It’s wonderful if somebody mastered English to read Shakespeare in the original but it’s not a competition. Your personal achievement is always a small victory over the previous day.

Look for something exciting, personally for you. Then every new page will be a small miracle.

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