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Reading can teach you how to use a language

2 min read

I remember my days of school when we had grammar classes. We didn’t know what all those names were for. Every type of sentence, adverb, adjective, noun, even verb tenses had a name. And they didn’t mean anything.

Not until the reading was added to the equation.

We often underestimate the power of reading. It’s so automatic that most people don’t do it mindfully anymore. But the awareness of reading as a way to improve any language you’re learning — including your own — feels like finding a hidden treasure.

Here are some things I do, when I’m reading to study a language.

Take Notes

This might sound a bit obvious but it’s forgotten sometimes. Taking notes is not just useful for future reference but also to reinforce your learning process.

Take notes of,

  1. Words — When I find a word I don’t know or don’t remember the meaning, I write it down. Then I look it up in the dictionary.
  2. Context or usage — A word alone is just a word, but when it’s used in a sentence, it may change the meaning.
  3. Collocations, idioms, and fixed expressions — See what the word brings with it. It’s not just about meaning and usage, some verbs and prepositions go with specific words in English for example. There are idioms and fixed expressions, or expressions that lose their meaning if you only change a word.

Read it like a proofreader

I don’t know about you but sometimes, when the text is really good, I dive into it and the words blur to form scenes and visual representations of what’s written. Like a movie. In other words, I don’t look at symbols printed on paper anymore, I see what’s being said.

But when you’re reading to learn a language, I think you should turn your imagination mode off and focus on the text as if you were a proofreader.

Not to find mistakes, no. But to use an eagle eye of a proofreader to find patterns.

You’re looking for word usage, sentence structures, connections to what you’ve learned so far. And when you find patterns in the text, there’s where you find great language lessons.

In the future, when you have to write or speak, you’ll remember those patterns and language usage and repeat them.

go beyond

You took notes, you found patterns. Now go beyond that. Explore what you’ve learned. The cultural aspects behind a word, its synonyms, the meanings the same can word can have in other contexts.

I’d suggest you create a learning journal. It will hugely improve your learning process.

Now, for the comments…

Do you agree with what I said? What am I missing? What would you add?

One Comment

  • Magdalena

    Completely agree 🙂 I learn a lot from reading English articles online – when I face the word that’s new for me (or I forgot it’s meaning) I just press on it a click “translate”.
    Thanks for the tips – I have to give the learning journal a try!

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