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Learn advanced English: Improve your English by reading!

By Dr Norman

You can use reading to improve all aspects of English. This includes improving your vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing, speaking and even your listening.  Below is a 6 step process to reading that will help you improve your English by reading. However, to be successful, you will need to get yourself ready.

Start to improve your English by reading at the right level for learning. Texts at the right level for learning are those in which you can understand 90 – 95% of what is written.

Also make sure that you have some way of hearing what is written. Some readings and books come with audio. These could be good choices for learning. They can also show natural speech if they are read by a real person. Otherwise, you can use a text-to-speech reader. Choose carefully to find a natural sounding reader. Of course, there is the ‘narrator’ app supplied as part of the Windows Ease of Access tools that you could also use.

Finally, make sure that you have some way of recording your voice. You can do this using your phone, tablet or computer. Once you are ready with the right materials and tools, you can get started using the following 6 step process.

1.      improve your English by reading to understand

The first step improve your English by reading is to understand the text.  Use your background knowledge and all the clues you have around you to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases. There are many strategies for improving comprehension. To find out more about these, read my blog article ‘How to improve your reading comprehension’.

Once you have understood the text, you can start using it to develop other aspects of your English.

2.      Improve your English by reading to analyse

Now go back and read again, but this time read to analyse what the writer has done. Look at the overall structure of the text. What did the writer do in the introduction, the body and the conclusion? Can you draw a chart showing how the author organised his/her ideas?

Look carefully at the grammar. Go through and underline all the verbs. Identify the tenses used. Try and work out why the writer chose those tenses.  Work out the impact of the tenses on the meaning of the text.  Note how doing this will help improve your grammar and your understanding.

3.      Listen to the audio

Now, you can listen to the audio. Read along as you listen. Pay particular attention to the intonation. Audio, particularly when read by a real speaker, will help improve your understanding even further as certain words and phrases are emphasised. Note how words and phrases are pronounced. Listen carefully and see how the reader pronounces all the small words such as ‘a’, ‘the’ and ‘of’. Can you hear them?

Then, replay the audio again, but this time only listen. Do not read. Try to hear and understand each word.

4.      Improve your English by reading the text aloud

Now you will be ready for the fourth part of the process: speaking aloud. Find a quiet place where you feel comfortable reading aloud. Record yourself. Then listen back to the recording. Compare what you said to what is written in the text. Did you get every word? Then, compare your recording to the audio. Did you get the pronunciation correct? Try reading aloud again and improving.

5.     Improve your English by writing it in your own words

Now you are ready for the fifth step: to write in your own words.  Following the four steps above will already have improved your vocabulary, grammar, understanding, reading, listening and pronunciation. Now take that learning and make it your own! There are all sorts of things you could write: a summary, your opinion of the piece or even your response to the ideas in the piece. Remember to edit your work, when you have finished. If you are able, ask a native speaker to go through what you have written to give you some feedback.

6.      Tell someone about what you read

Everything you have done thus far will have prepared you well for this final step in the process. Find someone you can talk to in English. Tell them about what you have read and what you thought of this piece. Again, if you can speak to a native speaker, then you will also be able to get useful feedback.

This process takes time, but it is worth it. When you put in the time and the effort on a regular basis, then you will improve your English by reading.

17th October 2016

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