Reading is an amazing way to improve your language skills. By doing lots of reading, you’re exposing yourself to new vocabulary and structures in a totally natural way, which helps you gain a better understanding of how the language really works.
And when done alongside a lot of speaking practice, you’ll notice how quickly you start to improve!
Some important things to note when you’re reading in a foreign language:
- You won’t understand everything. Just try and understand as much as you can from context, and look up any key words in a dictionary.
- Write down new words and phrases. If you look something up, write it down!
- Make notes. You can also improve your writing skills and ensure you don’t forget things.
- Enjoy it! If you read something you enjoy, it won’t feel like work 🙂
So what should you read, if you want to improve your skills really quickly?
The classic options – reading novels or newspapers – are of course all excellent practice. But they are also pretty difficult for new learners. Luckily, the internet provides an amazing range of reading resources at all different levels.
If you’re stuck for ideas, here are some great options for getting started on reading in a foreign language!
1. Comic books
Rather than reading novels, which can be a bit overwhelming for beginner learners, track down some interesting comic books or graphic novels. You’ll also have the benefit of being introduced to some great conversational phrases and vocabulary, as much of the text in comic books is dialogue between characters.
Some larger book stores will sell comic books in languages like English, Japanese or Korean, but looking on Ebay or Amazon can uncover second-hand treasures in other languages too.
Here’s a novel idea. Instead of having subtitles in your own language when watching a foreign movie, why not have them in the language you are trying to learn? You’ll be able to understand a lot from the context and it’s a good way to get used to reading in a new language.
3. Longer chats
Ask your Tandem partner to write in a bit of length on a certain topic, and write them a longer message in return. It will still be a relatively short thing to read, but if it’s coming from a friend, you’re likely to find it interesting! Here are a few ideas of things to write about:
- Describe something strange/funny that happened to you recently
- Talk about your earliest memory
- Describe the worst film you have ever seen
4. Write a diary
Writing a diary is often mooted as a great way to improve your writing skills, but did you know it also can be a great help to your reading? Looking over the previous day’s entry will ensure you remember any new vocabulary or phrases.
Best of all, you’ll become an ace editor, as you’ll start to notice and correct any mistakes that you didn’t spot the night before.
5. Forums and microblogging
Enjoy scrolling through Reddit, Tumblr or Twitter in your native language? There are sure to be plenty of subreddits or tags in your target language too. Think of a topic that you’re interested in and search it – you’ll be surprised how many cool things there will be to read about and practice your language skills at the same time.
Bear in mind, though, that the forums that are most popular in your native language may be less popular in your target language. Spend some time researching which sites are most popular with people like you who speak your target language – your Tandem partner is a great person to ask for advice.
If you’re the kind of person who can find themselves stuck in a Wikihole for hours, try switching to your target language. Not only will you be getting some advanced reading practice, but you are also likely to learn something different, as different language versions usually have quite a few differences in the text too.
Smart hack: Wikipedia actually has a “simple English” language setting for many articles as well as a version in normal English.
Recipes are a simple yet effective way to get some short reading practice in. The internet means you can be searching for recipes in your target language in seconds!
Make sure you do some research about which cooking websites are the most reputable before you get started, though. The reading is all well and good, but ultimately you do want something nice to eat at the end of it!
Blogs are a really accessible way of getting into reading in a foreign language. The informal, chatty writing style that bloggers use is a great source of short reading material. And no, you don’t need to read one that is about learning a language (though there are some great language blogs out there if you need some tips!) Rather, find some that focus on your favorite hobby or pastime. Love cooking? Football? Make up? A quick search in your target language should bring up some bloggers writing about something that actually interests you.