Tips for Reading in Your Target Language Posted by on Aug 14, 2020 in Archived Posts

One of the most exciting milestones of learning a language is reading a book written in that language for native speakers. Whether it’s a slim volume like Le Petit Prince or a massive epic such as Cien años de Soledad, to start and finish a book in your target language feels like a badge of honor.

In starting a new book, Mademoiselle Christina by Mircea Eliade, I realized quickly I was out of shape in my French reading. This, after all, was not Harry Potter a L’Ecole des Sorciers where I could rely on my previous English reading for plot points. I would have to be a bit more proactive to ensure maximum comprehension. Here are some tips I have found that helped me out with my reading.

  1. Have your dictionary handy. This feels obvious, but it took me quite a bit to cave and dig it out from its dusty sleeping place. I also find it handy to write down words in a steno pad so I can revisit them and add them to my Learned Vocab in Transparent Language Online. (If you’re not familiar, our Learned Vocab Refresh system helped you maintain your vocabulary- and you can now add your own custom vocab!)

2. Take advantage of context clues. In the sentence “C’est one history de vampires dans un monde en proie”, I was able to pinpoint some obvious words and help realize not only the meanings of the other words, but also that there are vampires in this book which was a bit out of left field but I’m into it.

3. You’re not going to understand everything and that’s ok. There will be modern slang and there will be ancient idioms, and sometimes it will all be Greek to you. Make your focus getting to the end of the chapter. Once you’ve gotten there, test yourself on the contents. If you feel confident you know what’s going on, keep going. Otherwise, reread the chapter.

4. Only on the second reading is it advised you dig deep into the language and grammar. The first reading should always be devoted to enjoying and understanding as you would in your native language. If you decide to reread the chapter, this is the time to dig into specifics.

5. Read out loud. I’ve found this helpful as it slows me down and makes me devote 100% of my brain to the book.

6. Between reading times, keep brushing up on your language. I always find that spending some time on Transparent Language Online reviewing my Learned Vocab or brushing up on some fundamentals helps keep my brain tuned to French and makes getting back into the book much easier.

7. Enjoy! This is an exciting time in your language learning. It might be slow-going, but you should be proud that you’ve gotten this far! Even if things get a little frustrating, try to remember how far you’ve come to get to this point.

Now that I’ve reinforced those tips, it’s time for me to get back to those vampires. Happy reading!



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  1. Thomas Kopf:

    Reading out loud is really good practice. I’m more attentive when I read aloud.
    And yes, very often I read the text two (or more) times. The first is introductory, where I understand the meaning more from the context. The second is with the dictionary and attention to grammar. This kind of reading of course is exhausting, but it’s incredibly effective for language learning.

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