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Most teachers, or at least language teachers, will have told you throughout your whole student life that reading is an essential part of learning a language, or learning anything, for that matter. As a student, you might have nodded carelessly and forgotten all about it the second you stepped out of the classroom. You might have even thought “who’s got the time for reading?”, or “I can’t understand anything in another language!”. But hey! what you don’t realise is how effective reading is for learning a foreign language or even for improving your own.Maybe you could spend less time memorising lists of vocabulary and more time reading, and if you think you can’t understand a word of the book, you should try a graded reader which suits your level. I can assure you there are tons of great graded readers out there for you to make use of. If you’re still not convinced, take a look at the seven benefits below and you’ll see how awesome reading can be!
1. Reading is fun
Watching a film, a series, or playing video games can be fun, right? Well, reading can be awesome, too! You simply need to find the right story or topic and start reading. If you’re not sure what to read, just ask some friends or go online to find out what a particular book is about. If you enjoy what you are reading, you are far more likely to learn from it. And once you get hooked on a particular story, you’ll see how hard it is to put the book down for a while when you have to do other apparently unimportant things like… I dunno…. eating!?!
2. Global Learning
Every single sentence you read contains and conveys a message. Imagine reading a whole book full of chapters, paragraphs and sentences; or reading an article on a subject you are passionate about! You will be amazed at the amount of things you’ll learn about the world or about specific topics. Imagine you’re learning English; if you like science, why not go on to a site like IFL Science and read about what’s going on in the scientific world. Or if you like current affairs, why not check out The Atlantic or an English language newspaper? Also, there are great English learning magazines you can subscribe to, like Yes Magazine or Speak Up. They usually publish awesome articles about a range of topics and they are adapted for learners to make the most of them. Go check ’em out if you’re learning English! If not, look for interesting reading sources in the language you’re learning, as I’m sure there must be tons! In fact, if you already know some, why don’t you write a comment below and let us know all about them?
3. Integrated Communicative Skills
Reading is what linguists and teachers call a “receptive written skill”; that is, a skill which involves the reception of language in written form. However, you should know that the benefits of any language skill are not limited to that specific skill, but extend to others. For instance, when reading you can improve the following skills, among many others:
- Writing: apart from writing, reading is the best way to learn how to write. There’s probably not a single writer who isn’t an avid reader! By reading, you learn different ways of expressing yourself, various writing styles, specific writing formulas, etc. In fact, according to the guys over at Grammarly, copying, or rather imitating, is a great way to improve your writing.
- Language in use: the input of language you receive has a huge impact on how you yourself use a language. This affects your grammar skills, your vocabulary, etc. If you are studying for a Cambridge English exam, reading can save you from flunking the Use of English section. How else do you think you will become familiar with all the different prepositions and idioms if not from listening or reading?
- Spelling: the language input is also widely responsible for your spelling skills, especially if it’s a language like English, given how irregular it can seem to be. Double consonants, silent consonants, consonant clusters, etc., will become a lot easier to remember if you read them often. Notice that repetitive exposure to a particular word or combination of letters will help you memorise everything better.
Besides improving language skills, reading will also affect your social skills, as it will give you a lot more to talk about with friends and family! 😉
4. Mother Tongue
It has long been proven that reading in a foreign language will increase the knowledge of your own first language. Imagine you come across a word that you don’t understand and you check it out in the dictionary or translator. You may find out you didn’t know the word in your own language. How cool is that!? Read one word, learn one free! Besides, reading in a foreign language can make you realise how words are phrased, or the structure that sentences follow, which can help you identify similarities or differences between your language and the target language. On a personal level, I must say that teaching/learning English has helped me understand Spanish grammar far better than studying it in high school (despite my teachers’ great efforts!).
So you’ve had a rough day at the office, or had an argument with your partner and need to clear your mind a little. Sometimes it’s impossible to do so without a little help, so grab a book and start reading. I promise you will easily keep your thoughts away from the problems you might have. In fact, after a while reading, you will probably see everything with a little more perspective, you know? So you’ll be in a better situation to make decisions once you have cooled down a bit. And even if you haven’t had a rough day, but you still want to put your mind at ease, pick a book and chillax in your favourite armchair. It’s fun and relaxing! In fact, I love to readlax! (Yeah, okay, I just made up that word… xD)
6. Your Brain
In the same way that reading improves your communication skills, it will certainly boost a series of brain skills as well. The simple fact of following a plot or an idea that is developed throughout an article helps you get your analytical skills going. Similarly, sitting down and focusing your attention on a piece of writing for a certain period of time will obviously work on your concentration skills. In my case, for instance, after taking up fiction reading when I was given an e-book for Christmas 2014, I have realised that I can now read relatively well even when the environment is not particularly suitable, like when the TV is on, or when there are people talking around me, and so on. And finally, well, this might seem obvious but it’s still worth mentioning: reading improves your memory. As simple as that! And this clearly has a lot to do with what I mentioned earlier about spelling and vocabulary.
7. It’s (almost) free!
Yes, it’s true! Reading, just like language exchange sessions, is cheap, probably as cheap as it gets. It is true that getting a brand new bestseller at your local bookshop might seem a little expensive, as they can go for over 20€. But think about the hours you spend reading a book. If you work it out, you’ll probably end up paying less than a euro per reading hour. Isn’t that great? On the other hand, there are certainly cheaper ways of getting hold of books. You have e-formats (.epub, .mobi, etc.) for e-readers like Kindle and so on. Purchasing electronic formats is a lot cheaper and more environmentally friendly. Also, books that were published over a number of years ago are free to download. These include awesome classics. Finally, there are second-hand stores which sell paperbacks for next to nothing. If you find yourself in a country like the UK, you can go into what we call charity shops, where there are usually a range of books that you can buy at a bargain.
So what are you waiting for? Reading is fun, it fosters your communication skills, helps your brain function better, and it’s virtually free. You name one leisure activity that is as wholesome as reading… name it! See? You can’t!
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