Spotlight on Language Skills: Reading

Reading is a passive language learning skill, and one of the best ways to understand how the grammar and vocabulary of a language is used in a range of contexts at our own leisure, with no pressure of time. 

If, like me, you’re a bit of a bookworm, reading might just be your favourite part of language learning and you’ll know it can be a really enjoyable way to develop your second language skills in other areas, such as writing.

However, if it’s not a natural hobby of yours, we’ve shared some ways to make it varied and embed it in your everyday life. We’ve also collated a range of second language reading resources for you in our Lingua Centra Language Resources hub.

There are two types of reading for language learning:

Extensive reading – also known as reading for pleasure, it’s usually longer and you should expect to understand 95% of the text (Laufer, 1989), so it’s important to pick a book / document / item that is enjoyable and something that suits your level of language study.

Intensive reading – shorter bursts of reading where you understand the majority of the text, but not every single word, so don’t be discouraged, keep going!

Below are our top tips and techniques for getting reading practice:

  1. Newspapers / magazines – for formal and informal language online, through an app or in print. If there’s a magazine you’re particularly keen on, could you get a subscription to nudge you to read more regularly?
  2. Books & novels – children’s, language learner, dual language bilingual publications, fiction and non-fiction. May highlight other tenses that aren’t used in speech (e.g. passé simple)
  3. Poems – creative use of language, flow of language and syntax. Fun, possibly more archaic use of language
  4. Music lyrics – sociolinguistic diversity, try reading a range of styles e.g. pop songs, rap lyrics
  5. Theatre and play Scripts – more conversational language.
  6. Subtitles – why not watch your favourite Netflix series or films with language subtitles on. Or with YouTube or videos shared on social media channels, flick on the subtitles to read along as you watch videos in a foreign language.
  7. Formal letters / emails – could you volunteer or work in the environment of the language you’re learning? If so, you’re more likely to be exposed to formal register language through emails and letters in a business style
  8. Social media – change your language input so you’re forced to read it. informal language, follow groups on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
  9. Change your phone language so you’re forced to read it on a daily basis
  10. Change machine language options – for example, when taking out cash at a cashpoint or purchasing a digital ticket at a train station and the machine offers language options, select the language you’re learning to navigate its functionality and follow instructions in the language. You’re likely to see more imperative, formal forms of language in this setting.
  11. Change your web browser language or search in another language for example switch to www.yandex.ru for searches in Russian (also change your keyboard input language to conduct your search)
  12. Use a monolingual dictionary when looking for definitions and synonyms (either online or print)
  13. Read instructions or cooking recipes in the language online or in a book
  14. Museums and tourist guides in the language – pick up a leaflet in the language you’re learning rather than your native language. Or pick up both to help with translations!
  15. Blogs and Vlogs – find a blog online, vlog on YouTube or influencer on Instagram that you can follow in a hobby or topic that interests you, then subscribe and follow them so you can keep up with you hobbies whilst being exposed to language in this area
  16. Change your gaming habits – switch up your gaming experience to set the language you’re playing in. Or even go retro and purchase a board game in the language you’re learning!

You can find a range of resources in our Lingua Centra Language Resources hub.

We hope you find these top tips useful – let us know if you give any of them a go and how you get on! We’d also love to hear your own tips and techniques – share them with us in the comments below!

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