Have you ever tried to read something in a foreign language? A short story, a book, or maybe an article? If yes, you will know that it is hard and mostly frustrating. I would often start to read a book in a foreign language and only read a few pages because it is very annoying to look them up all the time. I hated being unable to just read as fluently as I could in my native tongue. But since my childhood I’ve loved to read, and I wanted to learn to read in a foreign language — not only to read pieces in the language they were originally written in but also to learn this new language.

So after some time, I developed a few tips to learn to read in a new language.

1. Start easy.

When you haven´t read a lot in the language you are learning before, don´t try to read extremely difficult things, such as Shakespeare or Goethe. Start off with a children´s book or an easy to read short story or a novel. Don’t pressure yourself into an insuperable task. Start off with Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren or Matilda by Roal Dahl. No one expects you to read Dickens or Tolstoy.

2. Stay focused and concentrated.

It’s also important to stay focused while reading because when you wander from the subject, you won´t understand the meaning of the written piece. Always try to read when you have slept well and have some time to spare. These are the best frame conditions to start reading.

3. Don’t look up every word.

That might sound a bit weird at first, but trust me, you don’t have to know every single word to understand the text. You can often figure out the vocabulary through context and will still be able to understand the meaning of the written piece. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to look up a word because it is essential to the piece. It’s important to learn to tell apart the words you have to look up from those that aren´t essential to the text. A good memory hook is that when a word appears more than five times, look it up.

4. Re-read something.

The thing that helped me the most was to read books I already knew in my native language. This helped to expand my vocabulary immensely. It also helped to develop a feeling for the language. It’s important to choose a book or text that you will enjoy to read a second time. For example, I read the whole Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling in a foreign language because I knew I wouldn’t mind reading the story again.

5. Read what you enjoy.

Probably the most important thing is to read something that you will enjoy. You won´t continue to read if the written piece appears boring to you, so try to find something enjoyable and exciting. It doesn´t matter that it isn´t the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. It can be your favorite blog or Tumblr page as long as you like it, because that is all that really matters. If you enjoy it, you won´t realize that you are learning. It will be a quiet progress, and someday you will read a foreign a text and won´t even realize that it is foreign.


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