Most of our English students say their focus while studying with us is to improve their speaking. This might be because it’s the skill they need to use the most frequently. But it is also clear that without understanding the English language, spoken communication is challenging.
One easy step to help with this wider understanding of English is to read!
If you aren’t used to reading in your first language, even getting reading a second language can be tricky. Here are our top five tips to succeed with reading in English:
1. Find something that interests you!
Think about the films and TV shows you like to watch and pick a book or magazine which reflects this. If you’re not interested, you won’t read it (even if you have bought it!).
|Photo by Ben White on Unsplash|
2. Check the level of language.
Books or magazines which are written for native English speakers can be challenging. If you’re not sure of if its level, take a moment to read the first page. If you understand about 75%, it’s at a great level to push your language while still being understandable. If you’re not sure how to pick the correct level, ask the Academic Team for a recommendation to borrow from our library of graded readers.
3. Don’t panic!
Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word. Firstly, decide why you are reading. Is it to just learn new words or to understand a story? Both are good reasons but require different techniques. In order to best enjoy the story and lose yourself in the book, don’t look up every word you don’t understand. Look at how they are being used and try to guess their meaning within their context. Underline any difficult words and when you’ve finished the chapter, review them. Take a note of any new language, but also think about what you’ve read. Can you summarise what’s happened so far? This is just as important as those tricky words!
4. Decide when you read.
Some people (including me) find reading makes them sleepy, so it’s really important to pick a time when you focus on the texts without being tired or distracted by other things. Sometimes timetabling in when you’re going to read helps. What matters most though is that you read regularly. A little and often is the best pattern, so even if it’s just a chapter or a few pages every day, you’re giving yourself the best chance to progress quickly.
5. Put what you read into practice.
The final tip is to remember the language you see when reading is real language, so try to recycle this whenever you can. Write down a list of ten to twenty words or phrases you have encountered and challenge yourself to use them when communicating in English; this could be in class time, in your homework tasks or when you’re out and about exploring your new city! Soon enough those new words will be part of your active language, and you’ll be ready for even more.
Remember that learning English depends on how much you can give to the process, so find a book you love and read! My personal recommendation? Any books from the Harry Potter series. As a language learner, I read the series in multiple languages and the combination of an engaging story which was familiar, with beautiful language helped me to push my vocabulary and solidify those difficult grammatical rules from classes.