Reading is an essential part of learning a foreign language. Here are three tips that I wished I had known when I first started learning languages to help you find your perfect first book.
1. Start with a comic book
As a language coach who speaks four different languages at a fluent level, I often get questions like "Hey Yeop any tips for leaning a new language?" and my response is usually “Start with comic books.” However, whenever I tell them to start with comic books they give me this weird look. Some of the most common comments I hear are:
-Really? I mean all the PAAAA PEWWW BAM?
-The vocabulary and expressions are far from being useful in daily life.
-You should take it more seriously.
The list goes on and on.
Their claim is not pure BS. It is true that a great text book can help students learn more given that they spend lots of time on it. But can you actually spend that significant amount of time reading text books?
No one has a gun pointed to their head to motivate them to read the text books.
On the other hand, comic books are flat out fun and interesting. If they aren't, they don't make any money so it is almost insured that most of the comic books that have been recommended by many people will be fun to read. Reading comic books leads to much longer exposure to the target language.
The difference between the amounts of time you could spend on a comic book compared to the time you could spend on a textbook is mind blowing.
In addition to this, the comic books are all in the form of 'Dialogue'. It is much easier to understand and contributes more directly to speaking as well. The New York Times best selling author and the host of the Number one podcast on iTunes, Tim Ferris also has emphasized how comic books can be a game changer for language learning on various media.
"I read comic books under my desk in Japanese, with an electronic dictionary, and that's how I learned Japanese."
One more thing, the pictures help you A LOT to actually get into the story even if you lack grammar knowledge at the beginning.
(You don't need much Japanese to understand the context of the story above)
2. Read something that you haven't read before.
Sir/Madam, please put that Japanese version Harry potter right back on the shelf. Some people say they loved reading a book in their mother tongue so they will read it in their target language 'again'. I suggest you don't do this.
I used to love this Japanese comic called 'Inuyasha'. I had no doubt that if I am going to read something in Japanese it is going to be Inuyasha. I bought the first five books and guess what? I never made it to the end of the first book. I also made the same mistake with the Harry Potter and twilight books. Sorry dad.. I know it cost you quite a lot but I couldn't read them. Reading something in a foreign language is a challenging quest.
The most important aspect of the first book you choose to read is that it has to be really interesting and new for you so that it can push you reach the next page. If you know what is going to happen in the next page of the book your chances of reading the whole book in your target language are very very low.
3. Get yourself a kindle or download an e-book app.
If you are not located in a place where your target language is the official language it will be hard for you to find the books in the language you want. Devices or apps like Kindle come really handy.
The price is better, you have so many more options to choose from plus now you can simply check the vocabulary that you want to study with a simple tap on the screen and go over them later without hustling through the paper books looking for the exact word that you checked.
Looking up every word that you don't know while studying a foreign language is one of the fastest ways to give up. Lots of people get all enthusiastic and start looking up every single new vocabulary which leads to nowhere but not reading.
Enjoy the book. Don’t try to look up new vocabulary unless it is showing up so frequently that it bothers you too much. Check the ones that you don’t know and come back after you finish the whole book or the chapter and then start ‘studying’ the words that overlap.
Hope this article helped you with choosing the very first book in your target language. My fingers are crossed for all of you to find that book that will light up the fire to the whole learning process.
Links for comics:
Web toon in Korea became a cultural phenomenon. After people started pirating all the comics the whole industry seemed to vanish in Korea. However, the two biggest search engine websites in Korea (Naver, daum) started introducing web-toon a few years ago and it is just amazing. In addition most of the contents are for free. Enjoy!
Hero image by Lena Orwig on Unsplash