Friday, March 11, 2011

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Reading: The Boring Part of Learning English?

Reading in another language is boring and it takes a lot of time!

Well, that is how I felt at secondary school learning French and German. Using a dictionary to find every word I didn’t understand and trying to translate word for word – at the end, I would understand almost nothing. Now that is exactly how I would NOT teach reading and how I do NOT read or learn Spanish.

So that is why I like this little cartoon I found.  Today we read more than in the past. We have text messages and emails, we are on the internet everyday reading the news or a blog or our wall on Facebook. But I think we also read less. Twitter is limited to 140 characters (characters = letters or numbers), and nearly the same for text messages. My posts on Facebook are usually shorter than a ‘tweet’ (the noun and verb for Twitter). A lot of my emails are only one or two paragraphs.

But I think that is perfect for English learning. Short pieces of reading which are not very difficult, just a little difficult, or we could say, ‘challenging’.

Obviously, some people need reading skills more than others. A lot of people learn a language to communicate by speaking and listening. For them, reading and writing are not very important.

So I have several questions this week.
  • Was your experience of English reading similar to my experiences French and German class?
  • How did you practise English reading in classes and how do you practise it now? 
  • Do you think you got enough reading practice at school/university/language school? 
  • What were your favourite topics to read and what were the most boring? 
  • What were your favourite learning activities connected to reading? 
  • What worked and what didn't work? 
Answer all of the questions or answer just one of the questions. As always, I look forward to your opinions.


P.S. Here’s another couple of cartoons I liked!

P.P.S.  Just so I am clear - I really like reading now - even in Spanish!


  1. Most of my friends started reading English because of Harry potter. It was too long to wait for the translation.
    And myself I probably started to show off when I was a teen. And partly because I wanted to read Edgar Allan Poe and the only French translation existing were by Baudelaire. I didn't like his manering of rewriting, and since his master there were no other traduction available.

    I've always read a lot even as a kid so reading English, Spanish came as a natural thing. What I never liked reading was the compulsory school reading, usually on boring subject that we were asked then to comment. Even the easiest of text became incredibly difficult if asked this way.

    English learning book have a knack for finding the most un-interesting subjects or if the subject is interesting, the author with the worst possible style.

    Most of the people I know who proceeded as you did for English reading (dictionary word for word), never enjoyed reading in a foreign language. I worked differently. Being too lazy to bother look in a dictionary, I tried and read a text in it's globality. Giving a meaning possible to unknown words. It often worked, and that's probably why I carried on reading English.

  2. Wow. Your friends STARTED reading in English with Harry Potter? That's quite an achievement, both for your friends and for J.K. Rowling in a way.

    What was the problem with the texts in class? That they were boring or that you had to read them? Or was it the activities connected with the reading that really made you dislike it?

    I think one of the problems with the "style" you talk about is that style usually means a wider range of vocabulary than a lot of learners can manage. Certainly when you think about poetry, style usually means that a lot of grammatical rules are ignored or broken. Therefore, not good examples to give learners of the language.

    The way that you learned to read in English, ignoring or guessing the words you didn't know, is exactly how we learn our first language. You don't generally see a lot of British children walking around with English dictionaries to check every new word they read or hear. It is a much more natural way to acquire a language and I'm glad to hear that it still really works with higher age groups.

    P.S. No. I'm not calling you old. :-)


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