Reading Advice

Tips For Reading In A Foreign Language


Something that I have recently started, and enjoyed, is reading books in Spanish. Therefore, I thought that I would share my tips for reading books in a foreign language!

1. Choose a book that is within your abilities

It is really important that when reading in a foreign language, you are reading books that are within your abilities. For new language learners, there is no shame in returning to childhood books, translated into your chosen language, as this will help you to improve! If you are learning a language at school, why not ask your teacher for suggestions of what books to read? They will know how you are progressing and what books are likely to be suitable for you, and you might find a new favourite book! However, if you are really keen to read a more challenging book, then a bilingual edition might work best for you (see below).

2. Try out different book formats and find out which one you prefer

To my knowledge, there are two main types of foreign language books. There are traditional books (written in the foreign language all the way through), and there are bilingual books (one page in the foreign language, the next page in your native language). Traditional books are good because you can fully immerse yourself in your chosen language, and you will be more likely to look up any words you are unsure of, whilst they can be daunting, and it is easy to get disheartened by them (especially when there’s a sentence that you cannot understand or translate). Meanwhile, bilingual books are good as you can quickly find the meaning of any words you are unsure of, but it is easy to just read the page in your native language. I would suggest that you try both types of book and see which you prefer. Personally, I prefer traditional books if I already know the story, but bilingual books if I know absolutely nothing about the story!

3. Work out what reading method works best for you

I have tried three methods of reading in a foreign language: physically writing out the translation as I read (very time-consuming); mentally translating everything as I read it (again, very time-consuming); and solely reading in the foreign language, without translating. I physically wrote out a translation for El Principito, and I used the other two techniques for Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal. Once you work out which of these three (or any others you can think of) methods work the best for you, you will find it a lot easier to fly through books in your chosen language! Personally, I prefer to solely read in the foreign language, as I understand what is happening, and I am able to read a lot quicker.

4. Have a dictionary on hand to look up any words you are unsure of

If you are unsure of any words, looking them up in a dictionary will really help, as not only will this help the book make more sense, but you will also learn new words in your chosen language! Of course, using a dictionary is not the only way to learn the meaning of new words, you could try to work out what the word means using its sentence, or context around it. Learning new words is one of the best benefits of reading in a foreign language, as you are seeing your chosen language come to life!

5. Enjoy it!

Reading a book in a foreign language is a massive achievement, so you should enjoy it! Even if you are finding it really difficult (which I still do), you are doing amazing, and it is definitely something that you should be proud of!

Have you read, or are you reading, any books in a foreign language? Are you already using any of these tips, or do you use any others? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading this post.


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