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Strategies to improve foreign text reading

Are you a good reader in your first language? You might be frustrated because reading ability in English does not match that of your first language. The following ideas could give you some transferable reading strategies that you might have already used when you read in your first language.

The structure of writing
The structure used to present and explain ideas could be different from what you are familiar with in your first language.

You need to be aware of the overall structure of an English language academic text. For example:

  • The introduction tells readers what to expect.
  • The body presents a number of ideas which support or are directly related to the introduction. 
  • These ideas are then supported by explanations and/or evidence.
  • The conclusion reminds readers of what to expect.

Efficient reading
Have a purpose for reading.

Seek answers to questions.
Don't panic if the answers are wrong - look for other likelihoods and adapt to new perceptions.

Don't waste time. Try reading the conclusion first, look for summaries and abstracts. Scan the text to see if you can find and understand main ideas.

Take risks
Being correct is not always important: understanding the message is what counts.

Before you read make predictions. If the predictions are wrong you will need to make new predictions.

Take control
Some ideas are difficult to understand. Don't be alarmed if you don't understand some of the new concepts in the university texts.

Decide what you MUST read. You can't read everything on the reading list. The reality is that not even texts expect you to read everything.

Be discriminating about what you read and know your own style.

  • Do you like knowledge to be presented with a minimum of words? 
  • Do graphics help you to follow the written information? 
  • Some students need to read many words in order to process information and absorb ideas.
  • Do you know what your style is?

Adjust the attention you give to the words you are reading. Some words need to be understood. Some words reveal the connections between ideas and so can be important in a certain context. At the same time, there are words whose presence adds little to the message. Active readers decide not to give much attention to these words.

Reading every word slowly and carefully is exhausting. Don't tax your short term memory by reading too slowly; sometimes reading quickly helps to maintain concentration. Good readers are confident about their own judgment and decide when to read quickly and when to read carefully and slowly.

How long will I take to complete the Speed reading software?

If you practice comfortably for about an hour a day, about 2 weeks.



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Foreign language speed reading

My first language is French, I learn German in high school and English mostly in math and computer science books, so I learn reading and writing English a long time before I actually spoke it. I never vocalize.

I am curious about people's experiences with sub vocalization of foreign languages. I realized that when conversing in French I am unable to comprehend what I have heard until I sub vocalize an English translation. Is this common? Are there methods similar to the ones Jupon tried for speed reading that could help me break this habit? Perhaps it is simply a matter of familiarity. It would be interesting to see if there is a connection between the two.

I propose another shift to the phenomenon of subvocalising one's own language into another language so as not to understand it. Try to reading in a foreign language and subvocalising a translation in the native language.

I suspect, and this is more or less wild speculation here, that for a lot of people who don't subvocalize, spoken English and written English are quite different languages as far as the brain is concerned. It's hard to learn a new language when one you already know is so conveniently available as a fallback (I know that watching, e.g., French movies with English subtitles does absolutely nothing for my comprehension of French). So it seems like the problem for someone trying to cease subvocalization is to find a way to make subvocalising an unavailable option, while allowing yourself to go slowly enough to comprehend things through written English. Beyond that I don't have a lot of ideas.

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