Simple Reading Strategies For Language Learners

Reading in another language is a wonderfully rewarding experience. Developing your second language literacy skills involves time and persistence, however, as you work through piecing together vocabulary, grammar, and meaning.

Here are some tips to help you navigate foreign language texts.

1. Pick material that’s at or just above your level. Reading texts that are too advanced will soon frustrate you. A good rule of thumb is to quickly scan the first few paragraphs for new and unknown vocabulary. If you count 5 or more unknown words, then it’s above your level. Skip it and move on.

2. Get out a pen or pencil and take notes in the margins while you read. When you finish reading a complex sentence or when you arrive at the end of a paragraph, take a moment to summarize what you have just read. Often times learners will go through a passage reading word-for-word. By the time they reach the end of the page, they’ve no idea what the text was actually about. Use this easy summary strategy to force yourself to make sense of the text as you read.

3. Connect to the text on a personal level to make it more memorable. When you’re learning a language, you’re learning to read, not necessarily reading to learn. As such, when you’re done with a passage or chapter, try to connect the ideas and concepts back to your life, personalizing the story as much as possible. Here are some great questions to connect to reading:

  • Have I read this story or something like it in my first language?
  • What would I have done in this situation?
  • How is this story similar to what happens in my own country/culture?

Again, when you take a moment at the end of a reading session to connect the story to your own life, it makes it easier to remember the vocabulary later on. This is as much a memory strategy as it is a reading strategy.

4. Read when you’re feeling alert. When you are struggling through a text in your second language, you’re giving your brain a massive workout. I always find that even after a single page of a difficult text in Spanish that I’m ready for a siesta. Choose a time when you have extra brain cells alert and ready to focus all of your attention on the task of reading. If you find yourself yawning and rubbing your eyes, then it’s time to get up and take a break.

In summary, these are easy strategies all language learners can incorporate to read strategically. Try them the next time you read. When you go back to review the article or vocabulary, you’ll be amazed at how much you’re able to remember!

Invigorate Your Vocabulary – 3 Simple Tips

If you spend all day e-mailing your pals, you may not need a large vocabulary.

But if you are working and socializing in the real world, a good vocabulary is a priceless asset. And if you like to solve word puzzles and games, a good vocabulary is essential. Here are some simple ways you can boost yours.

1. Don’t Dumb Down–Stretch Up

If you are reading this article, you are already thinking that your vocabulary could use a boost. That means you should expose yourself to new words from new sources. If you are currently reading Nancy Drew mysteries, for example, step up to Agatha Christie. If you read only the soap opera updates in the newspaper, try reading some editorial columns.

Try reading short articles, stories and books that are just a bit intimidating. Then keep a dictionary nearby or stay connected to an online dictionary as you read. And remember, just because you haven’t seen a word before does not mean you can’t figure out its meaning. If you reread the word in context, you can often discover its meaning from the words around it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Intellectuals

Just as you may need to stretch yourself on reading materials, it may also be helpful to stretch yourself in conversations with people who have great vocabularies. As you hear others correctly use new words, you will gain confidence in how to use them yourself.

If one of your friends has an amazing command of language, he/she really won’t mind if you ask, “What was that word again? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.” Then ask him/her to expound on it. You will learn something helpful, and your friend will bask in the glow of knowing something that another person values.

3. Don’t Discount the Value of Word Games

  • Reader’s Digest’s quintessential column, Word Power, has run for decades. It provides challenging words on a single theme, along with answers and explanations. If you don’t subscribe the magazine, visit their website or browse through a copy the next time you visit the doctor’s office.
  • Crossword puzzles and other clue-based word games are a great way to increase and practice vocabulary. Sometimes you will learn new meanings for words you already know. While word search puzzles can be fun for some, they usually don’t include word meanings, so their benefit is minimal at best.
  • A great online activity can be found at www.FreeRice.com. Under “options” you can pick a starting level. You are given a vocabulary word with 4 choices of definitions. If you get an answer wrong, you can choose the option to be given the same word again a bit later until you get it right. For every correct definition you choose, the site donates 20 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program to help end hunger.

So cogitate on how best to magnify your lexicon, and soon your confidantes and colleagues will be utterly astounded!