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:
- Learning new vocabulary and expressions,
- Improving your grammar naturally,
- Improving your writing skills, and
- Gaining access to a wide variety of information
Alright, let’s GO…
Learn New Vocabulary and Expression
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).
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’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
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.
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.
Improve 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.