Extensive reading is a great way to get lots of input in your target language. In light of this, we’ll look at eight tips on how to find interesting reading materials.
So, why do you need lots of input in the first place? Well, when it comes to language learning, the more input you have, the easier it will become to produce output. Reading, watching and listening to a lot of material in your target language will give you interesting subjects to talk about with your tutor or language partner, and will help you to consolidate what you’re studying and absorb much more.
However, in this article, we will focus more on reading. The eight resources below are applicable to any language, and they are listed roughly in order of difficulty.
So let’s begin. The first resource we are going to talk about is something you might already have handy…
Resource #1: Reader books for foreign learners
If you’re studying with a grammar book series, it might also have companion readers or a workbook containing short passages for reading practice. If you’re a beginner, these should be your first resource, as they’re tailored to your current level.
In addition, be sure to check out independent graded reader series created for language learners. You can buy these online, either in physical, app or ebook formats.
Finally, there are also free digital alternatives. You can try searching online for “readings in _____ language,” both using English search terms and terms in your target language.
Besides readings created for foreign learners, let’s not forget about the books native speakers used themselves to learn to read…
Resource #2: Children’s books
You might have very fond memories of your own children’s books, so why not recapture that feeling in your target language? Children’s books often offer a window into the values instilled into native speakers from a very early age, and thus are also valuable from a cultural standpoint.
If you’re in a country where your target language is spoken, go to a book store (or used book store) and ask for books for elementary and high school students. Your tutor can tell you what titles might be good to look for. You might also find them for sale online.
Similarly, you might also be able to find these books in online archives of scanned books, or in app form complete with glossaries. Make sure to search both with English terms and target language terms.
However, once you left school and your children’s books behind, perhaps you retained a little guilty reading pleasure well into adulthood…
Resource #3: Comic books
Comic books are cheap and entertaining and give graphical context that makes it easier to deduce the meaning of unknown words in your target language. This is made even easier if the comic is already a favorite of yours, which is why I always recommend translated comics.
So, try to find your favorite comics in translated form. The names of your favorite characters might be completely different in your target language, so ask your tutor.
Now let’s look at one more type of book that we have all enjoyed…
Resource #4: Works of fiction
Chances are, you can find translated works of your favorite authors, so if you already enjoy reading Agatha Christie or Jane Austen, you can turn this into another opportunity to do some extensive reading in your target language. Look for them online.
Also, have a look at your favorite ebook store, such as iBooks or Kindle. Switch your store country to see what’s selling in your target language. If the book you’re looking for is a classic by a long dead author, you’re likely to find a translated version for free or for a very low price.
Wikisource also has a few of these classics in translated versions. To find them, go to Wikisource, switch to your target language in the left column and hit the search box.
Project Gutenberg also has classic works by native authors in all major languages, so if you’re very advanced and want to delve deeper into the classic literature of your target language, look no further.
Of course, in addition to this, you can also take advantage of your existing reading routine…
Resource #5: Things you have already read
If you’re a student or teacher of pretty much any subject, you should be able find textbooks in your target language. Maths, music or biology; everything is likely to be available in your target language, unless you’re studying Klingon.
If you belong to any kind of international organization, be it religious, social or intellectual, your reading materials are also likely to be available in your target language. Sacred texts are among the most translated books in the world. If you don’t know where to find them, ask your foreign friends who belong to the same organization.
The advantage of going down this route is that the subject is already familiar to you, so you’ll be able to infer a lot of the vocabulary as a result. Plus, you’ll be reading things you had to read anyway, so you’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
We’re now finished with print/ebook resources, but there’s still more…
Resource #6: Your favorite websites
Your favorite internet portal, news site, technology blog or general time-wasting site might have a version in your target language, or a similar site might exist.
Portals such as Yahoo! and MSN and hugely popular blogs such as Engadget, have multiple localized versions. Just search “Engadget in _____” or something similar if you can’t find them.
Furthermore, if you want to read the news in your target language, try an international news source first: AFP, Reuters and the BBC all have pages in multiple languages on their websites. You should keep in mind though that international news agencies write their articles with an international audience in mind. Local newspapers, on the other hand, tend to count on you being up-to-date with local and recent events.
Moreover, since you’re likely learning a language for travel, you might like to know that user review aggregators such as Tripadvisor and Yelp have several localized versions, and it’s a good idea to switch between them when you’re checking out a place. You’ll see different reviews by different people in different languages, and will be able to pick up restaurant and hotel-related vocabulary.
Finally, personal travel blogs make for some more intimate, personal reading, and you’ll also gain more insights into the places you’ll visit. To find these, go to Blog Search Engine, and type in the the verb “travel” and the name of the country or city you want to visit, both in your target language.
Of course, a lot of the time you don’t simply go straight to your favorite websites…
Resource #7: Your web searches
Your searches are a good reflection of what interests you, so you can do this:
Every time you’re going to search for something, stop and think about how you’d say it in your target language. Use a dictionary or an online translation service, if necessary.
And finally, let’s not forget about the ultimate resource…
Resource #8: Native speakers
Beyond the comfort of authors, websites and comic books that you already know, there’s an unknown universe: things that are only popular among native speakers.
Your tutor or partner might have their own favorite books, magazines, websites, etc. You can ask them. If they have trouble coming up with something, you can jog their memory by pointing them to this article.
Working your way through an interesting read and then asking your tutor or partner about the difficult parts makes for a much more productive and goal-oriented class time. And you’ll have a lot more to talk about than just the weather.
Something else you can do with your tutor or partner is to ask them to record themselves reading a portion of text in a correct, but natural way. You can then use this recording to practice “shadowing” until your rhythm and intonation match that of the native speaker. This will do wonders for your fluency!
We have looked at a few ways you can find interesting reads in your target language. You don’t have to try every one of them; they’re just ideas of where to start looking, and eventually you’ll discover your own methods of finding interesting reads.
So, keep in mind that reading is how you obtained a large part of your vocabulary and knowledge in your first language, and you can do the same in your second one. In fact, reading large amounts of material is how I aquired most of my own English skills. Remember, you need lots of input in order to produce good output. So, start reading today in your target language!
There are several dictionaries that can help you instantly look up any word you see on a webpage, and thus make your target language input more comprehensible.
- For learners of any language: on the Chrome web store, serach for Google Dictionary. After you install it, click on its icon and choose the extension options. Here you can choose your native language and choose a way to trigger the pop-up. For example, you can set it so you have to keep a certain key pressed while you select a word or phrase.
- On iOS devices, select any word and choose “define.” If you still haven’t downloaded the dictionary for that language, you’ll see an option to manage dictionaries.
- The Kindle reader app also has useful pop-up dictionary options for learners of any language.
- Here is a very good website on the importance of input.
- Here is a very long blog post that has, at its core, this idea of reading massive amounts of content in order to gain fluency.
- You can read just the relevant bits of the above-mentioned post over here.
- Here is an introduction to the shadowing technique, which you can use if you find recordings of your reading materials or if your tutor can record him or herself speaking.
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