Want to learn more vocabulary, improve your language skills, or immerse yourself in a foreign language? We’ve got a simple and effective solution for you: read in a foreign language. If you want to expand your vocabulary and learn it in a natural setting, whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, this is a great method. Reading has many advantages, and Luca shares a few in this article. So pick up your favorite book or magazine and let’s get to it! And don’t forget the golden rule: have fun!
Why Is It So Important to Read in a Foreign Language?
Reading in a foreign language is one of my many hobbies. I never really wondered if reading was a good idea or not, because I like books and I love languages. So the good news for me is, reading is a great way to improve your language skills. I’m going to show you that you benefit in at least 7 ways when you read in a foreign language.
1. Expand your vocabulary
This is one of the most obvious benefits about reading in your target language. Reading is a good way to learn new words. Books, articles or any other reading materials are unlimited sources of words to learn and new phrases to remember. Depending on what kind of vocabulary you’re interested in learning, you can choose to read books from different genres, levels, and with different target audiences, authors and even years of publication. The more you read, the more you enrich your vocabulary. And as you probably know, this is one of the most important tasks for any language learner.
2. Put vocabulary into context
Whenever you read, you contextualize! Another benefit of reading is that it allows you to practice your target language in context. That’s because words and phrases are never isolated in books and articles. New vocabulary is always surrounded by other words and ideas that help you understand it, build connections to it in your brain and remember it more easily. Learning vocabulary in context is far more effective than trying to remember word lists (like the kind you used to cram for quizzes in school). And this makes reading a powerful tool for coming across new vocabulary in its “natural habitat” and remembering it.
3. Get exposure to useful and natural language
Reading allows you to get exposure to useful and natural language. The same terms will keep coming up over and over in many different books, magazines, and articles. (And those are probably the ones you’ll realize you really need to know.) According to the Latin phrase “repetita iuvant” (= “repetition pleases“), frequent exposure to language is the key to memorization.
Of course, you should not limit yourself just to reading, because audio resources are also extremely important for building the core of your language skills. But the most important thing is that you need a lot of exposure to a language if you want to master it. A lot! It would be a shame not to take advantage of all the repeated experience that books and articles can provide.
4. Read in a foreign language anywhere, and everywhere!
I’ll be the first one to say that you have to speak to learn languages, but let’s be honest: that’s not always possible. Of course, you can talk to yourself in your head. This is something to try, even if it sounds strange… But to have meaningful and interesting discussions, you need a partner. And sometimes, talking is not an option because it would disturb others around you, like when you take public transport to get back from work.
On the other hand, you can almost always read. It’s easy to open a book, turn on a tablet, or flip through a magazine, no matter where, no matter when, to immerse yourself in your target language. And if you are a little introverted, reading will definitely suit you better than speaking, and help you on your language learning journey.
5. Reach a higher level
Speaking of your language journey, you will almost definitely experience the so-called “intermediate plateau” at some point. Many learners remain stuck because they feel they are not improving enough. And that can happen no matter how long you’ve been learning a language. So my next tip is: read in a foreign language a lot. Read on various topics. This is one of the most powerful strategies for overcoming the intermediate plateau.
I remember when I was learning French, how quickly I progressed just by reading French newspapers every day. Articles are good because they are often very repetitive. They talk about more or less the same subjects, and use the same words and expressions. But the disadvantage is that you will not come across that many subjects, and newspapers tend to be written at an advanced level. Whereas when we read other materials, we can expose ourselves to all kinds of topics and vocabulary, including the most specialized words which would not necessarily come out in a conversation.
6. Improve your language skills
When you learn a language, you need to learn four main skills. You need to understand what you hear. You need to be able to speak. Of course, you should understand what you read. And you should be able to write. It goes without saying that the more you read, the better you will understand what you are reading. So it’s not surprising that when you read a lot, you improve your writing. Whenever you read something, you are passively learning the structure of the language, the ideas conveyed and the rules of grammar.
When you think about it, these activities are also extremely beneficial for your speaking and listening skills. As mentioned above, reading helps you enrich your passive and active vocabulary. Therefore, the time you spend reading contributes not only directly to your reading skills, but also to your language skills in general.
7. Immerse yourself in the language and connect with the culture
The last benefit I would like to mention is immersion in the language. Today, we are fortunate to have access to the online editions of many foreign newspapers and various other reading tools in foreign languages. So it’s very easy to immerse yourself in your target language even if you never leave your home. Reading for just 10 minutes a day can not only allow you to immerse yourself in the language, but will also help you connect with the culture surrounding the language.
I often hear people say, “I can’t learn this language because I won’t have the opportunity to use it in everyday life.” But if these people read a little bit every day, they would think differently and build a real connection to their target language, almost as if you were getting to know a friend.
So, are you ready to get started? I hope I’ve convinced you that reading is a good way to learn a language and improve your language skills. One more thing before I go: in this article, I only answered the question, “Why read in a foreign language?” In the article “How to Learn to Read in Another Language,” Cédric gives you tips on how to read a book in a foreign language.
We also recommend these two articles on how to find the best books to read in a foreign language:
- How to Choose and Read Your First Book in English: This article does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s for anyone who wants to read in a foreign language, not just for English learners. If you’re learning Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, or any other language and you want to find a good book in your target language, this article is for you, too.
- The Best Books to Read if you want to improve your English, Spanish, German, etc. This article gives you some advice on choosing your first book to read, and the genre might surprise you!
Video: Read in a Foreign Language and See What It Can Do for You
If you learn better by hearing info than by reading it, Luca recorded a video with all of this useful information about reading in a foreign language for you. It contains all the advantages we’ve talked about above for those who read in a foreign language. The video is in English, but you can turn on the subtitles in different languages (English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Italian). To turn them on, simply click the gear in the lower right and choose the language you want.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel for plenty of other video tips!
See you soon and happy learning!
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