Recently i started reading a novel in German called, “Der Besuch Der Alten Dame“, and it got me thinking about how important reading is in language learning. It is apart learning a language, alongside listening, speaking and writing, but is reading that efficient and can you learn a lot from reading in your target language?
Like i said, last month, i found myself purchasing a book in German which i had been recommended by numerous friends and fellow language enthusiasts online. The story tests us as we read through each chapter and makes the reader question their morals and what they would do, if it meant that they received a lot of money. I found the plot extremely interesting and after i heard that it was written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, i knew straight away that this book had to be purchased! After the first few pages, it was evident that even for me, a speaker of German (somewhere in the C levels), had difficulty at times. I then began to question what one can get out of reading, how reading can be used in a way which will benefit the reader for the good. What you will read next are my own beliefs and self discoveries so please do let me know what works for you!
After much discussion with fellow friends and language students we came to a few conclusions and ideas. For me, i think it is extremely useless for a beginner of German to pick up a book such as, “Der Besuch Der Alten Dame“, and work through it, page by page, word by word, because that is a long process which makes it hard to keep on top of and keep yourself motivated. I am a firm believer that if you are a beginner, one should look for reading materials which have been written for children. This way, you learn simple language and it is likely that there will be more repetition in terms of vocabulary. The reading material will be much easier to follow along and more understandable than that of a novel written for an older age range. Of course this is achievable, but it is really important to be realistic.
I also think that it is important to take a step back and prioritise what is a priority in your language learning. Is reading really your main goal as a beginner? Perhaps if you are anything like me, speaking and listening may be your first goals opposed to reading. If reading is a priority for you right now, then take a look at your general level in your target language and go from there. There is literature in novels and newspapers, but also in our constantly evolving world, blogs and other websites. Once again, you will find that some language constantly appears repetitively, making it easy to solidify new pieces of vocabulary. For German, i recommend, Deutschland Funk, Deutsche Welle and Tagesschau for news, and there are so many personal blogs that have been made that write about topics you’re interested in.
If you really want to get somewhere successful when reading, you need to find resources and materials that genuinely interest you. I love to cook so a few years back, i bought a cookbook in Japanese, making the learning relevant to me, as well as me being able to put what i know into practice. If you have a book in your native language which you thoroughly enjoy, why not pick up the same book, in your target language? This way you know the story and you can get pleasure from reading the book. The more you enjoy the literature you’re reading, the more success you will get out of reading. I have definitely found that recently when reading in languages such as Russian, Polish and French. If you wouldn’t usually read something in your native language, why would you read it in your target language?
So to summarise what i have learnt, reading is only as important as you make it. If reading is a large priority, make sure you spend time each day reading and taking notes. Just make sure you don’t tire yourself out and loose track of the plot behind the words. It is also important that literature you read should be tailored to your interests, making it easier to keep up motivation. And most importantly, make sure that you don’t overwhelm yourself by reading literature far beyond your current level because this can set you back in terms of motivation. I have been there and done that so if you’re going to learn anything today, please don’t overwhelm yourself and begin small, all while gradually building your knowledge of a language up.
Personally, i enjoy having audio while reading in a foreign language as that personally helps me but this is a tip for another day.
Let me know, how important is reading to you? Do you read often? What do you do when reading? I would love to hear from you!