It doesn’t matter whether you read The Times of London, the New York Times, the Boston Globe or the The Guardian. If you want to learn English twice as fast, do it by reading the Sunday paper.
Reading the Sunday edition of an English newspaper is a wonderful lesson you can do on your own or with another ESL student. That’s because you get the chance to read, discuss authentic (real) English texts, and just enjoy a local or an international newspaper in English. And, when you enjoy something, you’ll learn a lot faster.
Here’s what you can gain by reading the Sunday paper:
1. Pick up news-related and general vocabulary.
2. Select your own vocabulary to learn from the articles you choose, rather than learn vocabulary from a textbook.
3. Learn how to skim (look for the gist or main point) and scan (look for details) news and feature articles.
4. Find and practice various grammar structures in the paper.
5. Increase your reading and handling of common, moderate-to-difficult material.
6. Increase your confidence in reading and discussing native-English reading material.
How to read the newspaper:
You could just pick up the newspaper and start reading. But, you’ll improve your English much faster if you follow these guidelines:
1. Think about the different sections of the newspaper and which ones are your favorite(s).
The sections may include:
• International news
• Letters to the Editor
• Classifieds (advertisements in categories -- cars for sale, job opening, rentals)
• Local news
• Arts and Entertainment
• Obituaries (deaths)
2. Learn newspaper vocabulary
If you want to discuss an English newspaper, learn the terms associated with newspapers. The good news is that these terms are not restricted to English newspapers. The vocabulary also applies to the newspapers in your own country.
The title of the article, the headline is often a play on words, and its meaning is not always apparent.
Under the headline, the subhead more often tells what the story is about.
This is a description of what is in a photo or picture.
This tells who wrote the article.
freelance writer / journalist
This is the job title for someone who is in his/her own business of writing for different publications
This is a person who writes at the company or for that paper; “staff” also describes employees in all kinds of organizations e.g. school, hospital, or office.
wire or press service -- signified by an abbreviation such as “UPI”
This is an organization that newspapers subscribe to for news articles they can print in the paper; it saves them time from writing their own.
ads/ advertisements (also classifieds)
This refers to promotion of products or services in written or online publications.
This refers to promotion of products on broadcast media, like radio and TV.
The person(s) in charge of the newspaper content.
The person(s) who finances the newspaper.
The section in the newspaper where an editor can express his or her own opinio. When reading, it is important to differentiate between objective and subjective content.
3. Look at these guideline questions before you read the paper.
Rather than just reading an article and then asking yourself what to do next, read these questions before you read your article. Then, try to answer them. If you’re doing this with another ESL student, take turns answering the questions about your articles.
• What is the title (headline) of your article?
• Is there a subhead?
• Is there a photo with a caption?
• Which section of the paper is your article from?
• Who wrote the article? Is that person a staff writer or a freelancer?
• Please summarize the article in one sentence.
• What are two or three interesting facts about the article?
• Find one good direct quote, if there are any.
• What is your opinion about the topic?
• Find vocabulary (a word, phrase, idiom, expression) that is new to you.
4. Review all you’ve learned.
After you finish your article, answer the guideline questions and discuss the article with another ESL student (if you are with one). Go over all you’ve gotten out of (learned from) the article. I bet it’s at least twice as much as you learn from a regular textbook lesson.
Ilene Springer is an italki teacher from the US. She’s found that the newspaper lesson is a relaxing activity for a Monday morning for her ESL students.