Reading is hard. Even in our own language, it takes children years to learn. And even in our own language, some people love it and some hate it.
Why do people like reading? Most of my Power Speaking students emphasize that reading can develop creativity and imagination. It is also a good way to learn about new places, people, and time periods. For myself, I like to read before I go to bed because I find it relaxing.
Why is it so hard to read in your second language?
A lot of the time, it’s because we try to understand every single word, rather than the overall meaning. If we encounter a new word, we look it up, and think about it, and puzzle over it, and we refuse to keep reading until we understand that sentence. The problem is that when you do this, you lose the flow of your reading – in other words, you stop the story. This experience can be very frustrating, and it makes reading no fun at all.
When I was in France, I got a French novel to read on the bus to work (about 40 minutes). At first, I read with a dictionary, and I looked up new words. I hated it. It was boring, annoying, and a lot of work. So, I left my dictionary at home and read without it. At first, I could only read 2 pages in that 40 minute bus ride. 6 months later, I could read 10-12 pages!
Here are some suggestions for enjoying reading in English:
- Read something you enjoy. It could be a novel, a non-fiction book, a blog, or a newspaper. But the key point is that you must want to read it.
- Make reading a habit. Do it regularly at the same time and in the same place. Then your brain will just know – “oh, it’s reading time. OK!”
- Pick a book that is not too easy and not too difficult. Greg recommends no more than 5-6 new words on a page.
- If you do have to look up a word, prioritize. This means you must decide which words are necessary to look up (words which prevent you from understanding the meaning of the story) and which words you can guess or which aren’t essential (for example, you know it’s some kind of food – that’s enough for now).
- Learn to tolerate ambiguity. This means, learn to accept situations that are unclear or imperfect. Tell yourself, “It’s OK if I can’t understand every word. I can still understand the main points of the story.” If you are confused for a minute, don’t let yourself get stressed out. Just keep reading, and you’ll figure it out!
Come into the school and check out the books we have for you in the student lounge, or visit a local library to choose something good. Happy reading!