Active Reading: A Way to Improve Your Language Skills

As soon as you’re able to understand sentences, you can substantially increase your learning experience by being actively engaged in the reading process. That just means using a pen, colors and read a passage several times, paying attention to specific points. Really, it isn’t much extra work.

Choose an article, a dialogue, any text that attracts your attention. Focus on 2-3 paragraphs at a time. Print this, then get ready to mark it – underlining, circling, using colors.

Start by reading the text once, to get a sense of it, marking the unknown vocabulary, but ideally find and write the translation later. Note also interesting, funny expressions, and language idiosyncrasies. Underline them for example.

Then do another pass and circle tenses, and next to them add Pe (Present), Cp (Compound Past), Ip (Imperfect Past), F (Future), etc. Read the text again and get a sense of why certain tenses are used depending on the context or the story line.

On the third pass use colors and mark all grammatical points you are currently working on: partitives (du, de la, des); articles (le, la, les); possessives (mon, ma, mes); relative pronouns (qui, que, dont); forms of negations; etc.

Finish with the pronunciation. Focus on that only, without concern for text meaning. Read out loud, marking where you have difficulties. Ideally, you have an audio version of the text so you can compare. Otherwise, go over the text again next time you have a session with your teacher.

Do this type of reading exercise as often as you can. The benefits of feedback reading-writing-speaking(-audio) will play a tremendous role in cementing your knowledge. By highlighting difficult or unknown points in the context of a story, you will gain valuable insight into the workings of a language, and the way its native speakers ‘see’ the world.

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