So you’re about to read in English, great! Here are some tips on maximising your learning. We use online news articles as examples here, but you can use our tips for reading books too.
Don’t obsess about understanding everything
It’s important to realise that you might not understand absolutely everything. Your first goal should be to understand the global meaning of what you’re reading. In the example of a news article, first use the headline (and subheading if there is one) to prepare yourself for the main article.
This might seem obvious, but taking a few minutes to think about the title can really help.
It might be necessary to use a dictionary for the phrasal verb ‘take off’:
We can already make some predictions about the content of this article:
- It’s about a singer
- She lost her voice
- She isn’t famous because of this
We can also ask the questions:
- Did she have a problem in her throat?
- Can she speak?
- How did she react to losing her voice?
It is likely the text will explain the answers to these questions.
The first time you read the content of the text, focus on understanding the main points. You should try to scan read (scan reading means finding the main information, not reading in detail) to understand the main details.
Now you can be more confident that you understand the general meaning of the text.
Find and write down useful vocabulary
At this point, you can use your dictionary to find some of the vocabulary you don’t understand. Write down words or short phrases that you think are useful. We recommend no more than 5 or 6 words.
When you note the words, you might want to write a sentence for context as well as a translation in your language. Writing some context helps you to remember the word(s) later.
Here is an example:
Now you can create flashcards of this vocabulary to revise and learn.
If you are reading an article online it’s likely there is a comments section. If you’re feeling confident, you can leave a comment on the article with your opinion. If you do, this is a great opportunity to use a phrase or two that you found useful from the article. ‘Recycling’ vocabulary that you want to remember is a great way to help you learn.
General tips when you are reading on your phone/computer
Use ‘Reader Mode’ for distraction-free reading
Don’t get distracted by other images or titles when you are trying to read something. Focus only on the text/article you want.
In Firefox, press ‘F9’ or click the icon in the right of your address bar to activate ‘Reader Mode’. In Chrome, we like this extension.
Here is the article we used in our example in original form:
And here is the same article with ‘Reader Mode’ in Firefox:
Screen size and practicality
If you are comfortable reading on your phone, then great. However, if you need to reread sentences multiple times and use a dictionary to look up words, it is probably more practical to use a computer where it is easier to read the text and open a dictionary in another tab.
It’s up to you which device you use, but prioritise being comfortable.
Stay relaxed and feel comfortable
Reading in a foreign language can be difficult, so maximise your productivity by being relaxed and comfortable. Here is some advice:
- Time: Make sure you have a bit of free time when you won’t be disturbed or need to do something else.
- Location: Choose a place where you are comfortable and distractions are minimal. At home at your desk or on the sofa. Whichever you prefer. On public transport, if you can concentrate, that’s also good.
- Being British, we recommend a nice cup of tea. That always helps to feel comfortable 🙂
Once or twice a week is a good frequency, but reading regularly is the most important thing. The more you read, the easier it becomes. It is true of any skill: the more you practise, the better you become. Try to build a habit.
The article used in the examples is: Meet Gracey: The pop star who lost her voice as her career took off
What do you think? Do you have any more tips for reading in English? Let us know in the comments below.