Reading in English

Reading in English can help with comprehension skills

Reading in English can be very useful if you would like to improve your vocabulary and overall comprehension skills. The key is to be consistent and not get discouraged. Here we look at some tips and ideas:

Put aside some time during the day and make it a regular habit

To improve your comprehension you need to focus and study. You should aim to do at least 30 minutes of focused reading per day.

Set aside some time and create a nice space where you feel relaxed and comfortable. Think about what you might need, like a pen and notepad and perhaps a drink. Decide how long you will read for and either turn your devices off or put them on silent mode.

If you have a specific process then your brain will know that you are going to work on comprehension and it will help you to be more focused.

Give yourself a word limit for new words per page or chapter

When you read in another language it can be annoying to continuously look up words. It interrupts your flow and can make the whole experience less enjoyable. Give yourself a small target per page, perhaps two to five words and try to work out other words you don’t know by the context.

Use a dictionary that gives detailed definitions

Using a dictionary in the language that you are learning can be an ideal tool, especially if it gives example sentences. When language learning I find is very useful and covers most languages with detailed definitions and clear example sentences.

Make sure you enjoy the writing style

It can be a good idea to read a book that you have read before in your own language. That way you know you like the author’s style and already know the story. Although it doesn’t have to be a book you have read before but if you find it difficult to get into a book then think about the style or whether it could be a comprehension issue.

Check the difficulty level

Checking the difficulty level can be easy if you get a book which is for English learners. You can then choose a book that’s at your level. Alternatively, think about what kind of reader the book is aimed at. Don’t be afraid to read books that are for teenagers or young adults as this can be a good starting point. It will also help you build your confidence.

Focus on repeated words

It’s important to be a bit clever about the words you look up when you read. Look up words that are repeated more than three times in a passage or words that look key to the understanding of the text. When you read it for the first time then underline the words and look them up later on. Read the text again to see if it reads more clearly.

Look for clues to “get the gist”

If you firstly read the text for general meaning or “gist” then there are some clues you can look for which can make reading quicker and more effective. Highlight main ideas or identify important information with a highlighter pen. Look out for verb tenses, that way you can understand the timeline of the story. Take a look at any images that accompany the text as they can hold vital information and help your understanding.

Break up reading into chunks

Reading can be tiring so break a text up into manageable pieces. Aim for one to three paragraphs at the beginning. A good idea is to read for 25 minutes and then take a break for five minutes to give your brain a rest.

Do reading comprehension exercises

If your book has a section where you can be tested then this can be great to evaluate your understanding. Usually there is a short extract and there will be multiple choice questions, fill in the blanks or a longer written response about the text. You can find some useful resources by searching for “ESL comprehension quiz” online.

Read many kinds of texts

Try reading a text you wouldn’t normally read. Perhaps something you are not sure about, you might surprise yourself. Don’t just stick to books and newspapers, read blogs, emails, tweets and chats. This can not only give you a wider vocabulary but give you the opportunity to read about subjects you wouldn’t normally think about.

We hope this gets you into the habit of reading in English!

Reading in another language is never easy but hopefully this blog post has inspired you to give it a go. Try to make it a habit and you will see your language skills improve from there!

Why not listen to our podcast?

On our podcast we have covered a couple of topics related to reading in English. We did an episode on British literature on one of our British culture episodes and one on a short extract from Pride and Prejudice. You can find all our episodes through our website or on Spotify and Apple podcasts.