Magazine topic: 
Total votes: 636

Reading in a Foreign Language

by : 
Rachel Lewis

If you're reading this magazine, then chances are you're a young learner of English as a Foreign Language, and are probably interested in reading too. So why not go one step further, and read novels in English? As a native English speaker who has learnt French, I have used this tactic to help improve my own language ability, and when done correctly, reading will not just help your comprehension, but your overall language use.

Why will reading in English help your writing and speaking, as well as your reading? It might sound very uncool, but one of my speaking techniques is to read aloud. By myself of course! But reading aloud means I can take as long as I like to get the correct pronunciation, intonation and meaning. I really believe it is one of the best tricks, and I will always be thankful to the friend who put me on to it. Where your writing is concerned, seeing the language in its written form is very helpful. The more you see something, the more you understand, especially as most humans are visual learners. So now, I want to help you choose your literature.

Everybody knows Harry Potter, right? So why not take a story that we all know and love, and read it in English? If you already understand the story, you'll be able to absorb the vocabulary with ease. The beauty of Harry Potter is that you can start with book 1, The Philosopher's Stone, which is short and simple, then you can progress all through the stories, up to book 7 with approximately 600 pages of complicated plot. Perhaps you're too cool for Harry Potter though.

For the girls, how about Twilight? And for the boys, what do you make of Lord of the Rings? Reading sequels provides you with ample material, and all three titles that I've suggested have been made into films. So after reading the book(s) you can watch the films in English too! In my quest for reading material in French, I stumbled across other such examples, like The Devil Wears Prada and The Kite Runner.

Using Amazon's recommended reads is also a great idea. If you run a few searches for books you already like (in English of course), Amazon will throw loads of new titles at you. This is a sneaky trick to get you to buy more from their website, but naturally, you're not obligated to. There's no law against running searches! If any of you have specific interests, feel free to comment on this blog post and I'll try to recommend books for different interests. I love to read, and would encourage young language learners to dive right into the world of foreign literature as soon as possible.


Have you ever read any books in English? If reading a whole book is too much, check out the stories and articles in our Read at your level section. They are written at three different levels to make it easier for you to start reading.


Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 28 January, 2013 - 08:44

Hi b'dudek and other reading fans!

Great to hear that you are all such keen bookworms. Reading is such a pleasure, and a really excellent way to improve your English. There are lots of good graded readers available so that you can read at your level. If you're loooking for authentic novels in English, you could try The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. Or have you read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne? Maybe you saw the film, which will help you to understand the book.

If anyone else has recommendations of good books to read in English, please share them.

Happy reading!

Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)


143 users have voted.
b' dudek's picture
b' dudek 28 January, 2013 - 06:45

hi i love to read loadz of books im of 16 nd i wanna master over the british vocabulary so if u can give me some book suggestions so that i can go along wih it..:)

105 users have voted.
Farid.H's picture
Farid.H 10 January, 2013 - 13:17

i love reading it is part of my life i reading all day !! sometimes i reading different books on english , azerbaijan , russian and sometimes spanish books ! now im reading "Crime and Punishment"

86 users have voted.
sole's picture
sole 5 January, 2013 - 19:07

Hi guys,
I think the most important thing in reading English books (if you're foreign) is patience. Every time that I open a book, hard vocabularies make me cry! :)

99 users have voted.
LightningWraith's picture
LightningWraith 21 December, 2012 - 18:29

I LOVE reading Fantasy & Sci-fi. I've read the Lord of the rings trilogy (All three books), The Silmarillion and The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, and also watched the new "Hobbit" (Which is brilliant). I like the "Harry Potter" and "Eragon" series too. And i found "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" very enjoyable.

100 users have voted.
Hann-y's picture
Hann-y 15 November, 2012 - 16:39

I love reading. Especialy reading fantasy.
But I´m afraid I won´t undrestand the plot or that if i won´t understand the word I can´t like a book so much...
Until now I´ve read one book in english and I don´t like that book so much and I think that it can be because I can´t enjoy the story (or maybe it´s just because of the book) ... but it is just my opininion and in future I want try to read any other book in ebglish.
The other problem is that I don´t remember any new words from books. I don´t know why, but I can read one word for five times and I must always search it in dictionary.
PS: Thanks for this article anyway :)

87 users have voted.
annahedd's picture
annahedd 29 September, 2012 - 19:29

Hi there !:)
I like reading a lot either in my native language or in the two foreign languages I quite know : English and French... I speak French much better than English I actually have read a lot of books in French and indeed it helped me a lot improving my speaking and writing skills but unfortunately I've never read an entire book in English I just read articles and texts and I really want to read a book one day and as you suggested those books I'll tray to read them I'll probably start by harry Potter because I've already watched the movie and I think that I'll find it really easy to understand .
Concerning reading out loud , I'd like to say that's really a useful way to learn the pronunciation and it helped me personally .
I'd like to thank you a lot for this article .

105 users have voted.
Ashfaq Munir's picture
Ashfaq Munir 24 September, 2012 - 07:18

hi everyone i have learnt alot to0 your ample comments.Firstly i would like to thanks everyone.My english is badly week but i have keen intrested in english language and i take a english classes as well.what will you advise me,how can i improve my english language,i have been practicing on bc site for a months....and i love reading but i can't understand properly sometimes!

113 users have voted.
Sizar Torres's picture
Sizar Torres 31 August, 2012 - 20:37

The blog is intresting!as you mentioned many facts..
you know, learning new languages is crucial! and luckily its one of my favorite hobbies in my life,especially learning English and French and Spanish, but unfortunately a big group of problems follows me every where when I want to improve my language skills.
Throughout five days of being a member in LearnEnglishTeens I have learnt many new words aproximately 300 words, but and try to use them and practice them ,but sadly I forget the new words!
I do not know what to do! I think that my english is really simple and basic,apart from these my listening is extremely bad! when I listen to a video and try to understand the words ,I think I can just understand 25% of the video but when I read the transcript I see that I can understand more than 50%.
So I saw that our education wasn't proper, cause our pronunciation was really bad.As a result when I learn a new word before knowing its meaning I listen to its pronunciation.

109 users have voted.
Starlette Lady's picture
Starlette Lady 1 September, 2012 - 16:02

Have you tried writing down the new words to memorize them better? It's really helpful, I do that all the way. You could write them into a special copybook or on the pieces of paper, and then you'll have your own vocabulary.
I agree with you about pronunciation, it's really important to understand the spoken language. Maybe listening to English songs can also help? I mean, that way you'll be able to hear compare different accents and pronunciation.
Well, I'm just trying to advise you the things that help me in language learning. I hope something of this will be useful to you! Thx 4 attention.

102 users have voted.
Sizar Torres's picture
Sizar Torres 2 September, 2012 - 10:17

Hi scarlette lady!
Well, you are write about writing down the new vocabulary, but you know , my mother tongue isn't English and we don't use English !Just in school! and that is actually bad! so the biggest problem is that I cant practice my Engilsh not with my family and nor with my friends.And in University my Engilsh will be written and the vocabulary is all about Medicine ,very different from spoken Language!

I love listening to english songs but not to much!but it is definitely helpful for listening ! I will work on that.
Thanks a lot for your comment and advice !

114 users have voted.
Starlette Lady's picture
Starlette Lady 9 September, 2012 - 15:56

I agree with you that it's difficult to learn a foreign language when you don't have much practice but I think you need to work on spoken English too. Who knows, maybe you will travel to English-speaking countries in the future, and in that case you'll definitely need this knowledge. About ur English in university... maybe try to find some special English literature in the internet (if you know exactly what you need)?
And the most important: don't give up! You'll succeed if you want to :)

114 users have voted.
faical's picture
faical 19 August, 2012 - 21:55

first of all, i would like to thank you alot for for your magnificent website. Actually i do like you to inform me about some novels of adventure, i mean recommended novels, with complex plots.
Looking forwads to hearing from you soon.

123 users have voted.
lady96's picture
lady96 31 July, 2012 - 11:45

I love reading! I've read a lot of books in English, such as "Winnie the pooh", "Pinoccio" and some others. I've also read "Harry Potter and the deathly hallows" in original. That was great! I enjoy reading detective stories such as "The adventures of Sherlock Holmes". My favourite books about Sherlock Holmes are "The spackled band" and "A study in scarlet". I also like "The adventure of the beryl coronet". Last year I read a book called "The Moonstone" by Wilkie Collins. Now it's my favourite book! I've read all these books in English, and I understand almost everything! I'm so proud of myself! But I'd like to read some more. Do you know any interesting books? Thank you. :)

114 users have voted.
Rachel Lewis's picture
Rachel Lewis 13 August, 2012 - 16:02


I found a great tool to help you with this. Amazon has a Reading List tool, so you could go on, enter your favourite books, and it should compile a list of similar books for you to read. Obviously, it wants you to buy from them, but you do not have to do that! Congratulations on reading so many good books, and understanding them. You're right to be proud, because it's a real achievement! Maybe you could read The Hunger Games? Personally I haven't read it, but it sounds like you enjoy adventure stories, and it is supposed to be excellent. To follow it up, you could then watch the movie :).


105 users have voted.
Tweetuntildie's picture
Tweetuntildie 28 June, 2012 - 22:06

Great advice (:

OMG! I love reading! I've been reading Jane Austen's books (sense and sensibility and pride and prejudice). I'm loving those books. But unfortunately in Colombia you can't find many books in foreing languages without paying them! Also the literature is expensive over here!

Can you advice me some humour books? Thank you (;

P.S.: Sorry if I've made a mistake on what I've written, please let me know if I did it!. Lots of love from me (:

111 users have voted.
Rachel Lewis's picture
Rachel Lewis 13 August, 2012 - 15:49

Hi there,

Sorry it took me so long to reply to your message, I haven't been checking my blog very frequently over the summer. I know, books in foreign languages can be very expensive. There are plenty of free internet sites that you could read articles on, while you save up for books though. Obviously there is this magazine. You can also use the BBC website, which has a section for English as a Foreign Language. And you could check out some magazine websites, aimed at teenagers. A good example for a girl could be Miss magazine, or Glamour if you're a bit older. Don't worry about making mistakes when you write in these comments - everybody here is used to teaching English abroad, it's completely natural to make mistakes and you'll only get better with practice. The important thing is that the other person understands what you're saying, and I did, so that's perfect.

So you like humour and comedy. If you've heard of Mr Bean, you could try some storyboards of those stories.

I hope this helps!


104 users have voted.
Little Dragon's picture
Little Dragon 19 June, 2012 - 09:09

I've read a book in English before, and its title is "General Giap : His Youth". It's published by a Vietnames publisher. That's the only English book I've read. I love reading books, but I just like to read the book I can understand whole of it. I prefer read a text in English or a book that gives me knowledges to read a novel.

129 users have voted.
Gabby's picture
Gabby 11 June, 2012 - 15:41

I never read a whole book in english. I'm bought books with lessons of drawing, so I can improve my english and my ability of drawing in any time. I'm reading them, but they have many words that I don't know.
The articles of this sites are helping me a lot! Thank you very much!

124 users have voted.
nathalyoliveira's picture
nathalyoliveira 4 June, 2012 - 17:25

Hello Rachel.

Your article was very good for me. I'm learning English for some time, but I never read a book in English. The vocabulary some books are difficult. I like you talk me about book for beginners, vocabulary more easy. Harry Potter is good, but I don't like Twillight too... What others you indicate for beginners?

And so talk me your tip for watch movies in English. I watch first with subtitles in my language? Or audio in my language an subtitles in English?

Thank you and congratulations for your Blog!

118 users have voted.
Starlette Lady's picture
Starlette Lady 29 May, 2012 - 17:48

As well as you, I LOVE reading. Either in the original or in translations. But surely it's much better 2 read books in the language they were written in, and I've already tried to read books in English. As I'm quite a young learner, I didn't read too much. But anyway, I finished "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte, "The Austere Academy" by Lemony Snicket, "451 Fahrenheit" by Ray Bradbury and some other ones - don't remember them now. I have also watched movies in English. Every summer I and my friend (who comes 2 visit me only once a year, as she's from the US) come together and watch some films in English - e.g. last year it was "Tangled", and before that - the third part of "High School Musical". This year, I started watching a BBC film "My Family And Other Animals" by the contents of Gerald Durrell's book. I also watched online the second season of a popular teenage series - "House of Anubis". I enjoy this show, and I was just too bored to wait for it 2 be shown in my country in Russian, so I just found all the episodes in the Net in English. And it was a lot more fun.

I've got some questions to you Rachel:
Which books in English would you advise me to read (including those facts that I'm a girl, don't like Twilight, like novels about teenagers, science fiction and good humour)?
Which movies in English could I watch (including the same information)?

Thanks beforehand. And good article, by the way!

130 users have voted.
Rachel Lewis's picture
Rachel Lewis 31 May, 2012 - 21:00

Hi there :)

That's great that you're doing all that reading in English already. Wow about Wuthering Heights - I tried to read that (in English!) and gave up after a couple of pages. So to try to answer your questions:

Have you tried reading Jane Austen novels? I'm thinking that if you liked Wuthering Heights, Jane Austen's books are another "classic" period selection. Other good teenage books could include the Sisterhood books (I think the first one is called The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). I enjoyed those, and they're written for teenage girls. Science Fiction is a bit harder, but if you're interested in sci-fi TV shows, I would recommend Doctor Who. If you don't know it, it's a great BBC series dating from years ago, but it has been redone in recent years and is really good fun! All about time travel and different species but with enough of a real plot too. So I've kind of started answering your second question there. Other good films in English could include: The King's Speech, St Trinian's (the new one), Billy Elliot, musicals like Mamma Mia, maybe some Batman for your sci-fi... there's a great wikipedia page under British Film, which I recently used to base a presentation around for my students - you could check that out for more ideas.

I'm glad you liked the article, and I hope I've given you some helpful information!

126 users have voted.
Starlette Lady's picture
Starlette Lady 1 June, 2012 - 09:25

Thank you so much!! I read Jane Austen novels in Russian, they're great, maybe now I'll try reading them in original. The same thing is with The Sisterhood novels, I read them before in translations and enjoyed them a lot. And the Wikipedia page is also exciting, I hope it'll help me.
Thanks again! You gave me A LOT of helpful info!

116 users have voted.