NEW! Lisa’s weekly tips provide answers to the most common student questions.
THIS WEEK – How can I find suitable reading material?
In the past, my students have often said to me, “I want to read English books/magazines/newspapers but I can’t understand everything? What can I use to practise reading outside of class?”
The answer in my experience is simple. Understand that there are two type of material: 1. Authentic material written for native speakers and 2. Adapted material written for language learners. You can read both of these at any level of English as long as you understand the difference between the two.
1. Reading Authentic Material
Yes, you can and should try to read authentic material. This includes newspapers, magazines, websites, menus, books, information leaflets, advertising information, cereal packets – basically anything and everything. The trick is to simply try to understand the main ideas while accepting that you won’t understand everything. When you meet unknown vocab, ignore it. Don’t look up every new word in your dictionary. Trust me, if it’s a word you need to know you’ll keep meeting it again and again and will soon understand its meaning anyway.
Reading authentic material is a great way to build your vocabulary and increase your accuracy, so don’t make it a chore. It’s better to read lightly and often than to spend all day on one article making a note of every new word in your notebook.
2. Reading Adapted Material
Of course, sometimes, it’s nice to be able to understand everything. This is when you need adapted material. The readings in your student books, for example, are changed to suit your level. At the school we also have “Readers”. These are classic books such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” which have been adapted to suit different levels of English. Go to GIL (Room 1 2-3pm) if you want to borrow one to take home and read. In addition, the internet is a great source of adapted material. Try http://iteslj.org/links/ESL/Reading/ for a long list of links.
The most important thing is to keep reading. If you think about how you learnt your mother tongue, you probably met a lot of new words through reading. Reading is also an excellent way to get used to English grammatical structures and collocations.
So to summarise this week’s Tip – Try to read a variety of authentic and adapted reading material and relax and enjoy it rather than struggling to understand every word.