When I was at primary school, summers holidays meant football with friends, countless PlayStation1 (wow I feel old...) sessions and more importantly no homework. Yet admittedly there was one thing I always feared…the book project. For those of you that don’t know what it is, it is a scheme to encourage young people to read, which involves finishing five books during the two months of holidays. Although it wasn’t obligatory, my sister was an avid reader and keen participator, so I was somewhat forced into it to by my parents. At the time of choosing the books I had a rather basic checklist; pictures, very few pages and a large font. Nevertheless, receiving the certificate on completion, which would stand proudly on the table for the first two weeks of term, helped motivate me to start enjoy reading. Now I can safely say that it is a hobby of mine. So, if you also enjoy reading, why not use a hobby to help you learn English?
Okay, so firstly it’s important to choose a book which is the right level for you. This is extremely important. If you are just starting out with English, don’t try to read a 600 page classic novel! Not only may you fall into a coma through boredom but something too difficult will make you feel negative about your own level. The more you read at your level the better you will get, and one day, you will be ready for something more challenging!
Secondly, although having a dictionary at hand to look up words which appear a lot is useful, I would recommend trying not to translate word by word. You will soon get bored of looking through the dictionary and you may end up wanting to throw it out the window! This is more serious if you’re using an online dictionary…Go into the process accepting that you are not going to understand every word. It will often be the case that the words you don’t recognise will be uncommon words that you will never use in your life…hence not as important to learn! Look up the words that you think are important to understand the text or follow the story. This is important, so as to stop the process from becoming boring. If you do learn a new word, as with any new vocabulary, try to use it in a sentence. This will make it more likely that you will remember it in the future.
Finally, perseverance is key. Although at first it may seem that reading has become a chore, you will soon get into the story and you will end up not being able to put the book down! The feeling of finishing a book in a different language is very satisfying. If you finish one, however, don’t stop there! The more you read the more vocabulary you will learn and the more you will start to become familiar with sentence structures and common phrases.
I hope the next time you pick up a book it will be in English!
PS. Picking it up and putting it back on the shelf doesn’t count…
Do you enjoy reading? Do you read a lot in English? Do you think it helps you to improve your language level?
Check out our Easy reading section if you're looking for short texts to read at your level.