Read for pleasure and super‑fast language acquisition
I’m already addicted to reading in my native language of English. As a child I would read computer magazines cover to cover, as a teenager I started reading novels like The Andromeda Strain, and now as a guy who works at a computer all day long, even when working I’m habitually reading blogs, forums, wikipedia articles, news sites, you name it! So when I decided to learn Spanish, it was only natural to make reading the foundation, and reading in Spanish is now my core daily language learning habit. Here are 8 benefits:
Talking with native speakers is the most effective way of learning a language (the HB 2.0 system). But depending on your mood and how much energy you have, this can too stressful or tiring. Reading shouldn’t be a replacement for either written or verbal interaction but it’s a perfect way to continue learning in a more relaxed way.
Unlike other forms of media like podcasts or video, you can read as fast or as slowly as you like.
It’s OK if you don’t understand everything! It’s very gratifying the first time you can even roughly follow a story. A few years ago I was travelling in Latin America with a very low level of Spanish. I picked up a paperback copy of “La Máquina del Tiempo” (“The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells) and read the whole thing with the aid of a pocket dictionary. It was a vastly different experience than reading in English, I had to become a detective and enjoy piecing together the plot as best I could.
For this approach, the simpler the plot the better, and if you’ve read it before in your native language that will help. Other things that may help are parallel texts, or (shameless plug…) a modern language reading tool.
Sometimes you may like to go more thoroughly to really analyse the structure and grammatical nuances. This can be slow going so only works for shorter texts. To be honest, I rarely do this kind of intensive reading since it makes it so difficult to follow a story. But hey, everyone’s different, perhaps you’ll enjoy it!
Once you find a text you enjoy, you’ll be compelled to keep reading. On the flip side, if you aren’t enjoying a text, don’t force yourself! I’ve made this mistake before and it’s not worth it. Switch to something you enjoy and you’ll have more fun and learn faster. The holy grail is to became so engrossed you just can’t stop reading, even if you wanted to! Finding the right material for you is key, which becomes easier as your ability increases, leading to the next point…
The more you read, the more of the language you acquire, the easier and more enjoyable it gets. Basically, the more you read, the more want to continue reading!
Vocabulary isn’t only words, it’s phrases and idioms too, which often don’t make sense when trying to analyse or translate literally, but which will click into place after you’ve encountered them in many different contexts. For beginners, transcribed spoken conversations are great source of practical everyday vocab. For intermediate and advanced learners, novels and other prose forms are an incredibly rich source which will help take you to the next level.
Finally, in the words of the legendary Bill Hicks (WARNING: some profanity in this video!)
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