Blog of Sara Jakša

Language Learning Techniques - Extensive reading

In the language learning process, having the power to read can boost the process of language learning by a lot. Since people are be able to read quicker than listen, the units of language processed in the time unit increase. If I remember correctly, the normal speaking speed is about 175 words per minute, and the average reading speed is 250 words per minute.

But some of you are like me, that have even better reading speed. Mine is moderate, with average reading speed at 400-500 words per minute range. Some of you are a lot better than that.

This is where extensive reading comes in place.

The extensive reading simply means, reading as much as possible. It usually does not involves rereading, but some people reread after a certain interval, in order to get encouragement, about how much better they had become.

When doing an extensive reading, I never look any words. I just read and try to get as much meaning as possible. It does not matter, if the texts is completely integrable and I don’t understand anything. The only time this would be a problem, is if a person would get discouraged, that they will never understand that.

I sometimes get discouraged by it, but then I usually remember, how much progress did I already made. I usually return to something, I had read a month or two ago and compare the ease back there, when I read it for the first time and now.

There are two ways to approach the extensive reading.

The first approach is doing the extensive reading in incrementing stepps. Starting with the simplest texts, a person can find. Like the picture books. As one level becomes easier, they the next one came. Like simplified novels, one at the time, than literature for children, than young adults novels, then newspaper and then the real literature. Depending on the language, newspaper might be easier than young adult novels, and there are also a lot of texts on the internet, that can be thrown to the mix.

The second approach is to start with native level material. In this case, the starting point is usually the book, that was already read in more understood language. Simply trying to read it and understand it from the contextual clues.

The second approach is only for really patient or really stubborn learner. This way can get most people discourage. I know it did get me discouraged from learning French.

I use the hybrid approach. I do not look at the level of the text, but if the text is too difficult, I will probably stop reading it and found something simpler. That does not mean, I go to simple text at every difficulty. I just don't read the texts, I can not understand anything from.

But sometimes, just for fun, I pick the random book and try to read it. Or one of the free newspapers, that are in every major city, I had visited so far. I just try to read anything that captures my eye. It is interesting, that some articles are completely understandable, and for some I can’t even get a gist of what they are talking about.

It is a technique, that helps mostly with the fluency of the reading, but the lower the level, the more it helps with the knowledge of the language as well.