Can you read fluently without being a fluent speaker?

I’d like to get people’s thoughts on this. Does being able to actively produce the language have a significant effect on your ability to read at a high speed, with fluency? I wonder, having myself never been to a non-English speaking country (yet), whether I will be able to develop reading abilities comparable to my native language without actually being a fluent speaker of the language. Perhaps some consider speaking and reading to be unrelated in this regard, but I have read comments from some successful linguists/polyglots who believe that speaking a language is their basis for being able to read it well. Do you find this to be the case?

Good question. My girlfriend can speak English fairly well, she is able to express herself clearly and almost fluently. However, she claims she can’t read well at all, she struggles when reading. This in part could be due to the fact that English spelling is quite difficult.

In my own case, I’d say somewhat. When reading more colloquial texts, e.g. blogs and books, I can certainly read things much quicker when I know how to say a similar sentence. I don’t have to think about the grammar, I just know what it means. In fact, with such texts you don’t need to read the full sentence to understand what’s going on, kind of like the way you read in your own language.

With official texts, newspaper articles etc, because I can’t produce similar sentences from the top of my head, I find them harder to read. But to be honest, I only concentrate and read what I enjoy, and newspaper articles about politics don’t really cut it for me

Actually, I cannot speak Japanese “fluently,” but I can read contemporary Japanese text very fast. Many of us Japanese can practice fast or speed reading, but if we read aloud we cannot read fast. English is a foreign language for me, and I try to read as fast as possible, but I suppose I cannot read faster than I speak, or pronounce the same text.

I think the two strongly correlate to one another. Reading is certainly easier as an imput method than listening in many cases (you can do it at your own pace, there is no mumbled or slurred speech etc). As you develop your reading ability it seems likely that words will come to you more easily. This has been my experience, at least. I don’t know if it’s the same the other way around.

That said, as we all know there is usually a gap between what we understand and what we can produce. But I imagine you would get used to speaking pretty quickly if you already have the foundation.

tora3, I didn’t quite get you. If you read aloud you obviously cannot read faster than you speak, is that what you meant? Or is it that the writing system poses problems for you when reading Japanese?

Many scholars contend that you can “read” faster than you speak because 漢字 is ideographic.

If we use Kana letters only, we cannot read fast.

I listen and speak better than I read and write, in all of my languages.

Needless to say, I’m not a strong reader and I’m not a brilliant writer. But I’m confident that, with practice, these skills would improve. It’s just a question of motivation and using your time to do things that you like.

If you can speak, that means you can understand the spoken word. That usually means that you have a fair vocabulary. That means you should be able to learn to read well if you want to. It does not necessarily mean are able to do so.

If you can read, that means you can understand the written word. That usually means that you have a fair vocabulary. That means you should be able to learn to speak well if you want to. It does not necessarily mean are able to do so.

Language learning, to me, is about learning words, what they mean, and how they sound. To get better at speaking you eventually have to speak a lot, and to get better at reading you eventually have to read a lot.

Long before I was able to speak fluently I was a fluent reader of English. I seem to be going the same way with French and Spanish. (Even if I don’t understand as much of the Spanish novels I am reading, I am a pretty fast reader with a good grasp of what is going on.)

I tend to be a far more fluent reader than listener. And a more fluent listener than writer. And a more fluent writer than speaker.
I think it really depends on what skills you focus on.

Krashen has an example in one of his books…
To quote a post over on antimoon.com Great output skills without output practice? | Antimoon

“Richard Boydell was a disabled child who couldn’t speak or write (most of his body was paralyzed). He was intelligent and he could understand other people. When he was 30 years old, he got a special typewriter. He could type on the typewriter with his feet. In this way, he could communicate with others.”

Here is what he wrote:

I acquired an understanding of language by listening to those around me. Later, thanks to my mother’s tireless, patient work I began learning to read and so became familiar with written as well as spoken language. As my interest developed, particularly in the field of science, I read books and listened to educational programs on radio and, later, television which were at a level that was normal, or sometimes rather above, for my age. Also when people visited us … I enjoyed listening to the conversation even though I could only play a passive role and could not take an active part in any discussion … As well as reading books and listening to radio and television … I read the newspaper every day to keep in touch with current events. (from Fourcin’s article, cited in Krashen’s book)

“As you can see, Richard Boydell’s writing was excellent, although he had never written anything before. He could use advanced grammar and vocabulary, because he had been reading books, newspapers, listening to the radio and people’s conversations. It seems that input — and nothing more — gave him good English.”

Richard Boydell did not speak at all yet he mastered the language pretty well. So no you don’t have to speak to learn to read a language.

bobafruit

Thank you for your post. Very interesting.

I believe that reading aloud texts is their basis for being able to read it silently in order to learn foreign languages. But it is unnecessary to learn by heart all the texts. As for me, I listen to and read aloud texts when learning languages.

I must say that it is unnecessary to simply learn by heart (which are unrelated to daily life) such as literary works. However fluently I read them, I can not be the autour of this text. And there are many resources to read in the world. I prefer to read many things rather than spending much time to learn a few text by heart.

But it is quite useful to learn commonly-used words and phrases by heart. When it comes to conversation, we can use them due to a variety of circumstances.

autour -->>author or auteur

Sorry, I forgot to add a word it the message.

I must say that it is unnecessary to simply learn by heart the ones (which are unrelated to daily life) such as literary works, etc. However fluently I read them, I can not become the autour who written them. And there are many resources to read in the world. I prefer to read many things rather than spending much time to learn a few text by heart.

But it is quite useful to learn commonly-used words and phrases by heart. When it comes to conversation, we can use them due to a variety of circumstances.

it–>>in