How to Read in English

english-readingHow much do you read per day in your native language?

Some of us read more than others. Some people just plain enjoy reading.

Others only do it when it’s necessary.

Either way, we all read every day—be it the morning newspaper, comics, facebook posts, tweets, books, or blogs like RealLife English (if you’re reading this you obviously enjoy reading…).

We’ve recently written articles on the other main areas of English, too. It’s important to master all of these in order to be an exceptional English learner. Check those out here:

Reading is a FANTASTIC way to improve your English, no matter what level you’re at. And for many more reasons than you might think.

Whatever level you are, you should be reading something in English.

This article will give you some reasons WHY you should be reading EVERY DAY in English. And some tips (recommendations) on how to improve your reading experience.

The many, many benefits to improving your reading skills in English include:

Alright, let’s GO…

Learn New Vocabulary and Expression

a reader lives a thousand livesThis might be obvious to you.

If you read, you’ll encounter new words and expressions. The more you read the more words and expressions you’ll learn.

But you need a smart way to go about reading. Otherwise, it won’t be fun.

And I GUARANTEE you, the best way to learn a language is by having fun.

Most people who start reading in a foreign language open a book and have a dictionary next to them. Every time they run into a new word, they look it up. It goes something like this…

Page one. A word you don’t know…

Grab the dictionary…

“Oh ok, that’s what that means.”

Start the sentence over. Another new word. Look it up…

“Ok, now I understand.” Next sentence.

Another word you’ve never seen. Look it up…

Do you see how SLOW reading like this can be? This was my process the first time I tried to read a book in German and it was BORING. I could read one page every five minutes, when I was fast.

The solution? Isn’t it obvious?

DON’T read with a dictionary. As soon as you sit down to read something, know that you’re NOT going to understand Every. Single. Word.

It doesn’t matter. You’ll understand enough to get the big picture (understand the main point or argument).

Try this: read with a pencil. Every time you see a word, phrase, or expression that you don’t know, underline it. Then later, go over a few pages or a chapter and write down the words in your vocabulary journal (don’t have a vocabulary journal? Then you need to read this).

You can then practice these new words and expressions with a program like Anki or Quizlet.

Through this method, first you’ll understand the big picture, and then later you can worry about understanding everything.

In a language that I know well, like Spanish or Portuguese, I don’t even look up the words anymore because I understand the majority of them through the context. Once you get better at reading, your English will be AWESOME and you’ll understand through context, too.

What should I read?

Read what you like to read anyway.

If you read the news everyday, then try the New York Times. Or, my favorite, the Economist.

If you’re just starting to read, then my recommendation is for you is to REREAD a book you already like. If you know the story, then it’s much easier to get through the text without needing to understand EVERY word. And to understand by context.

Just get in the habit of reading EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes.

It will make a huge difference in how much English you know.

At the time of writing this article, I was reading two books in Portuguese. The first is a book on business called the Four Hour Workweek (Trabalhe 4 Horas Por Semana). I also was reading a series called a Song of Ice and Fire, in English, but I finished the third book. Because it’s such an addicting series, I started reading the fourth book in Portuguese, A Feast for Crows (or Festim dos Corvos in Portuguese). Now I’m reading a book in Catalan called la Plaça del Diamant.

If I can do this, I guarantee you can find a great book for your level, too!

Want more tips on what to read? Look here.

Improve Your Grammar EASILY

ReadGrammar? Easy? What are you talking about?

The best way to learn grammar is not by memorizing the nitpicky (overly specific) rules.

The truth is that native speakers don’t always follow the grammar you learn in school. So there is a better way to learn real English.

Speaking and listening to English are two great ways to do this.

But so is reading.

By reading you can learn English innately (naturally).

The more you read, the more it will be absorbed into your brain. You learn to observe and imitate.

When I lived in Spain, I read A LOT in Spanish. I read for classes, I read the news in Spanish, I read street signs and advertisements. But most importantly I read for FUN.

The materials that you will be most involved in reading are the things that you enjoy reading either because they are interesting, funny, or leisurely.

The more I read in Spanish, the more I noticed that I spoke better, too. I sometimes would say words or expressions, and not even remember where I’d learned them.

I learned them INNATELY by Reading.

My grammar got better, too. I conjugated without needing to think about it. I knew the syntax and structure of sentences without hurting my brain remembering what the rule that I learned in Spanish class was.

Most importantly, I was learning the Spanish that people actually spoke.

Don’t you want to learn the English that we native speakers really speak?

You don’t need to live abroad to read. You can find TONS to read online. And books in English are available in any city. Also, Amazon ships internationally, and might even be available in your country.

Learn More About How to Make English a Part of Your Life in our FREE Mini-Course

Improve Your Writing

WriteJust as your speech will improve, so will your writing.

What’s the biggest advice given to aspiring writers?

READ. And read. And read some more.

This is how you learn good style.

You read successful authors’ works. You see why they are successful (they use powerful similes, foreshadowing, creative imagery, etc.).

Just like how if you want to be a great painter, you have to study the style of other painters in order to improve your own style.

It is all observation, imitation, and repetition.

So what should you do if you want to improve your writing in English?


And read.

And read some more.

You’ll learn how to EXPRESS yourself in English. You can change your writing from shoddy sentences filled with errors and doubt into a beautiful expression of your inner thoughts.

It’s your second language, so it might not be PERFECT. It’s not important,  you can still write wonderfully in English. Last, I want to recommend you check out Lang-8, where you can have other people correct your writing.

Do not fear your mistakes. Aim first to improve your style, and the errors will soon disappear.

Click here for more tips on how to improve your writing

Gain Access to a Wide Variety of Information

Some of the best, most non-biased information is found only in English.

Many countries are famous for having one-sided media.

Although this does exist in English speaking countries (there is A LOT of it in fact), there is also a lot of wonderful news and information sources.

If you want a great publication, the Economist, which I mentioned before, is one of the BEST.

Blogs are also an awesome source of information about ANYTHING. And there are more in English than in any other language.

Whatever you have an interest in (business, gardening, technology, languages, self-improvement, meditation, etc., etc., etc.) there are a dozen blogs about that.

Some that I enjoy are Fluent in Three Months, Mark Manson, and I Will Teach You a Language.

Or just do a Google search (type in something on Google, click more, and then click blogs).

Just find something to read and START reading today. Not tomorrow. Not this weekend. TODAY.

Sooner is better than later.

In Conclusion

Keep calm and readReading is a huge part of improving in any language you learn.

Just make sure you don’t become an inward English learner. By this I mean: remember to practice listening and speaking.

To be EXCEPTIONAL at English you must read, write, speak and listen to the language every day.

You must STOP making the excuse that you don’t have time.

I don’t believe you. When my students tell me that they don’t have time to practice their English outside of class, what I really hear is, “learning English isn’t a priority for me.”

Do you really want to speak English fluently? Then MAKE TIME.

Want to know how to make time? Check out this article.

I challenge you to find something to read in English (I don’t care if it’s a book, a magazine, a blog, or a newspaper) and spend 15 minutes reading it. Underline any words and expressions that you don’t know and look them up later.

Find at least 15 minutes EACH DAY when you can read—while you’re eating breakfast in the morning, while you’re on the bus, on your coffee break, or before you go to sleep.

Just not while you’re in your car in traffic… I won’t be held responsible for a car accident.

Make a commitment. Say, “I will read something in English every day while I eat breakfast.” Or even try a 30-day challenge.

You’re doing great already by reading this blog, but challenge yourself to read more.

And more.

And more.

And read different types of text (blogs, news, novels, nonfiction, wikipedia, how to train your puppy).

You can be fluent in English. But it’s UP TO YOU to make it a part of your daily life.

Now, please take a moment and answer this question:

What you are going to read this week? Write it in the COMMENT box below.

I would LOVE to hear from you.

  • […] is how to practice speaking. It’s easy to obtain access to resources to improve our listening, reading, grammar, and […]

  • julien says:

    i will keep on reading Harry potter and the order of the phoenix

  • julien says:

    i will keep on reading Harry potter and the order of the phoenix

  • […] show (and the books) is great for anyone that likes action, passion, fantasy, history, and great plot twists [something […]

  • misty says:


  • Jonathan says:

    Firstly this article, this is done ! Secondly some other textes about english improvement and finally at least 15 minutes an english bible, because i’m pastor.

    Thank you for this page !

  • Sunny says:

    time Management

  • Laura Cavi says:

    Thank you for all the great tips!
    I realized that I need to read more than I currently do in order to become a fluent English speaker. I actually feel that I haven’t reached my personal english Plateau yet, but that all the sources that I oftenly use to refresh my english skills don’t challenge me anymore. So from starting this next week I commit to reading at least one Economist’s article per week.
    I’m catalan and it put a smile on my face to hear that you read La plaça del diamant. I myself haven’t had the pleasure to read it though 🙂

  • Jose says:

    Tomorrow I will read a book about Object Oriented Programming, I’m a web developer. Reading about technology is something that i love.

  • jesus says:

    I am going to read cnn news and the economist

  • Ganesh says:

    I am going to read some articles online just like yours.

  • Christian says:

    Thank you Ethan for this valuable information.

    I’m going to read magazines online about economy, renewable energy, science, space, and technology. Moreover, I’m going to read books written by Jules Verne because I love his Sci-Fi stories.

  • Daljit Singh says:

    I am reading a book

  • Bnb bx says:

    This a fantastic blog, keep going this great deal!!!

  • Jesús Luis says:

    I am reading your blog every day for almost 20 minutes per day, but I will take your advice and I will read a novel that I read before in Spanish because liked that idea

    • Agnieszka Tkacz says:

      Aww yeah! Let us know how it goes, Jesus!

  • Ayben says:

    I read a few fiction books and some articles this week. Also, I read news about kpop or drama every day. Thanks for your article…

    • Agnieszka from RealLife English says:

      Good job, Ayben! Keep it up!