Reading can be a real blessing on the path to learning English. Books, online articles, magazines, and most forms of written English will show you the language in its most correct and precise form. The authors have had the time to write, edit, and refine a written piece of work until it is ideal. The language in a piece of writing will contain far more varieties of language than most spoken forms ever will. You will learn more vocabulary, both new words and synonyms of words you already know, and sentence types than you could just learning through spoken language.
Reading also gives you the time to make sense of the language at your own pace. There is no pressure to understand and think of a reply immediately. You can read and re-read to ensure that you are getting the general gist of a piece and that you understand the more particular elements of it too. When you encounter colloquialisms or idioms in reading, you can take the time to look them up, and understand how they relate to the context in which they occurred. Reading in English will help reinforce the grammar in a natural and flowing way, without trying to memorize rules. It’s best to learn language in chunks such as collocations or words that go together through habit of use. Reading can give you terrific exposure to chunks of correct language which can both prepare the ground for, and reinforce, your speaking practice.
Think before you speak. Read before you think.
Reading also helps you understand the culture in which the language is rooted. It’s a world full of unspoken assumptions and cultural references. Becoming familiar with it can help you make sense of how speakers of another language think.
There are two types of reading you can be doing:
- Reading at the level you are at. You will strengthen the language you know, helping it to become more automatic, rather than having to struggle to think of how to say something.
- Reading that is above your level. This reading is challenging and will help you advance in your English level.
Here are some tips to help you get more English reading into your life:
- Start small. Children’s books are good. Beware of fairy tales, though. They often contain very old-fashioned and low frequency vocabulary.
- Pick something that interests you.
- Choose a book you’ve already read in your first language and read it in English.
- Read with an audiobook.
- Switch your online shopping to English.
One of the benefits of learning English is that there are so many options for ESL learners when it comes to reading. There is an amazing array of books that are written specifically for people who are at different stages of learning English.
Here is a list of just some of them that are readily available throughout the EU:
Pearson English Readers
Cambridge English Readers
MacMillan English Readers
Collins English Readers
Oxford Bookworms English Readers
Garnet Oracle Readers
Helbling English Readers
These levelled resources are available for free online:
http://esl-bits.net/ (these are not levelled but also have audio tracks with them)
The great thing about reading is that you can do it whenever and wherever you want to. Keep a book on your phone or in your backpack, and whenever you have a few moments, read!