12 Tips for Reading in a Foreign Language

by Mary Whitman

Why I should learn a foreign language? Learning a new language takes a lot of self-discipline, dedication and time. Some of the more popular reasons include for study: maybe you've got a scholarship in a foreign country or working in a new country.

You may also have friends who live abroad, and you want to reconnect with, you could just be challenging yourself, have a special linguistic interest or even want to join a new religion. Everyone is motivated differently. Regardless of your reason, having one is usually the greatest motivating factor for pushing you forward. So, how challenging could it be?

Benefits of learning a foreign language

Knowing more than one language and looking cool while doing it aside, learning a new language can be very beneficial psychologically. Studies carried out in the recent past suggest people who speak more than one language have different brains than those who don't.

This comes with several perks: you become better at recognizing patterns, essentially meaning you're now smarter; you will improve your memory; fight off dementia and Alzheimer's; and will be more perceptive.

Tips for reading in a foreign language

1. Learn from context

How do children learn the meaning of words without picking up a dictionary? That's right. Context. When reading, try to force yourself to guess the meaning of a word without looking it up.

2. Group reading

Having like-minded people do the same thing as they help a lot with motivation. The two biggest advantage of this is group discussion helps exchange different ideas and hearing words spoken helps connect how the words look with how they sound.

3. Read your favorite English book

Many popular books like Harry Potter have been translated into different languages. Reading them in your new language is a great opportunity to transfer your knowledge over.

4. Reach the end of the book

There's little to no chance you'll understand every single word in a book on your first read. At first, your main goal should be to reach the end of the book.

5. You won't understand everything

Not at first, anyway. It's important to accept that there's no way your brain can accept such a barrage of input in such a short time.

6. Look for short stories in the new language

Instead of reading Alessandro Volta's 1200 dissertation on electricity and power to learn Italian, it would be better to look for short stories in the destination language. Most languages, in fact have books designed just for beginners.

7. Read comics

Again, comics often have simpler language patterns than novels and provide visual context.

8. Make notes

After all, you are studying. And what's studying without noting down what you've learnt?

9. Have a language diary

After the day's done, try writing down how it was in the language you're learning.

10. Microblogging

If you're a fan of forum-like chats like Reddit or Tumblr, browse subreddits or tumblrs in your foreign language to give you a feel.

11. Read recipes

If you like cooking, look up your favorite recipe in a foreign language!

12. Re-read

Since you won't understand everything on the first read, it would be greatly beneficial to have a second, third, fourth… and so on, read to gauge your progress.

Difficulties in learning a new language

Some difficulties you're going to have in learning a new language will be making faux pas: for instance, exquisito in Spanish means strange, not exquisite. This can be learned by making use of context. Distractions are another barrier, which you can avoid by studying in a library or in a group; shallowness: unwillingness to dig deeper - always be curious; and laziness - again, group reading can help.


Reading in or a foreign language can be quite a task. However, as long as you're willing to put in the effort and time, the benefits are going to be astounding. These tips are meant to ease you into the process as effortlessly as possible.

A photo of Mary Whitman

About the writer

Mary Whitman is a writer and editor at AssignmentGeek. In her spare time she likes to talk about Art and Sustainable Development. Find Mary on Twitter.


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