Listen and reading are the two main (most important) ways to improve your English.
Listening is important, but reading is also VERY powerful!
Reading will actually improve your English listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing.
To get the most out of (to take maximum advantage of) your reading, you need to
(a) pick English books or magazines that you mostly understand (more than 90%) AND
(b) pick books that you actually like reading, that you enjoy.
How do you do this? Here are two simple tips to help you:
TIP 1: Read the types of things you already read in your own language and on topics you’re already familiar with.
Knowing something about a topic will it make much easier to read about it in English.
For example, I read the news in English every day. You could call me a news junkie (someone who likes something a lot, perhaps too much).
When I read the news in French, especially on topics I already know something about, the French is much easier to understand.
If I read a story in French (or Italian or Spanish) about the United States, I can understand it very easily, since I already know something about the topic or subject.
And because I have read the news nearly every day of my adult life, I’m familiar with the format (organization) of newspapers. I know how news stories are organized. This experience makes reading the news in another language much easier.
If you don’t like to read in your own language, no problem. Consider what kinds of things you like to do instead.
Like soccer? Read books and articles about soccer.
Like playing video games? Read books and magazines about video games.
Like watching romantic comedies? Read romances in English!
TIP 2: Read what needs improving.
Here’s what I mean by that: If your goal is to improve your English conversation, read a lot of conversational English.
Pick fiction (made-up stories) that have a lot of dialogue rather than long descriptions.
The additional advantage of reading dialogue is that it is easier to understand, making it easier to read.
(Hint: Reading our lesson transcripts would be a good way to get that conversational English, of course!)
If you want to improve your English on a more specialized (on a smaller or more limited subject) topic, read things on that subject.
For example, if you want to do better business presentations, read more business books.
This type of reading is called “narrow reading,” reading on a limited topic.
Narrow reading will help you get the style and language you need.
Narrow reading works especially well for fiction books that are part of a series (books with the same characters), such as Harry Potter or Twilight or The Hunger Games.
I’m reading right now a series of young-adult novels (written for 8-12 year-olds) with a mystery and spy theme in French. The main characters in each book of the series are the same, so I already know something about them (see Tip 1).
If you read one Harry Potter book, the next one will be much easier to understand.
But remember that *all* reading on whatever topic is helpful, as long as you can understand 90%+ and you enjoy it.
If you pick your reading materials according to these tips, you are more likely to stick with it (continue) and not get bored, discouraged, and give up (stop trying).
So what are you waiting for? Start reading today!
P.S. It’s okay to “give up on” or stop reading a certain book if, after 20 pages or so, it seems too difficult or too boring. Just find another book!
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