How Do I Go About Reading My First Book?


I’m currently about 1/3 of the way through ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’ in Spanish, and I was wondering about what I should be doing with the new words/verbs etc I come across?

I’m probably a strong A2 at the moment, and I’m encountering probably 10 new words per page, some of them are obscure and I don’t worry too much about them, others are more important.

What should I be doing with the new nouns, adjectives and verbs I encounter (probably 10 per page)?

At the moment I just look them up to continue my understanding of the story but I’m not writing them down or trying to memorise them. Some of them will doubtless come up again and again and I’m not too concerned about memorising them as that should happen naturally I guess, but some, like, for instance, ‘tree bark’ or the word for ‘caterpillar’ or ‘beetle’ or ‘bowl’ etc, should I be trying to “memorise” or at least revise them, and if so, how frequently? After each page? Chapter?

My biggest problem at the moment is a lack of verbs, yet there seems to be so many to learn and I’m not sure how to go about it once I’ve encountered yet another new verb I don’t know.

I guess my question is: How do you guys go about leaning verbs etc that aren’t “the MOST frequent” but are used quite commonly?

For example, I just came across the verb ‘to squash’ and yesterday I came across another “to grasp, grab hold of.” Both seem like fairly common verbs, should I be studying these to learn them? I’m not sure they’d crop up frequently enough for me to acquire them naturally, yet they don’t quite seem like they’re worth “memorising.”

As we’re on Lingq, I was wondering how the ‘listen & read’ method deals with the somewhat less frequent but somewhat important words? (I realise that’s a bit of an oxymoron, haha).

Sorry, this question turned into an essay.


Long time no see.

I’ve tested various methods over the last few years.

For me, writing words down is the most efficient method but it’s tedious and time consuming. I don’t really like it and don’t do it anymore.

Looking up every single unknown word without writing them down or trying to memorise them has proven totally useless in my case.

What I do now is:
I read my book without looking up words. I try to spend some time trying to guess their meaning. When I have come across a word several times (enough to remember it and to have a decent idea of its meaning), I look it up to confirm my guess.

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Congratulations on your progress, Hellion.
You can just keep on reading. Don’t fear, you’ll eventually master the vocabulary, it’s really not necessary to try to memorise explicitly. You’ll find that many words that you find “important but rare” are in fact not rare at all and you’ll encounter them more often than you think, as long as you tackle rich content. I’m completely sure that “corteza” and “escarabajo” belong in that group. This is a concern that I had myself
Having said that, here are a few ideas to speed up the learning of some key words/expressions
It all comes down to motivation, just do whatever you find interesting at this stage. The main thing is that you keep on exposing yourself to the language.

  1. Most of the time I personally just read/listen to material. When it comes to reading books I just keep on reading, but I make “mental notes” or pay special attention to “interesting” words. During the day , I sometimes I think of words that I “should” know (because I know I’ve encountered them before or because they seem to be very important or both) and look them up in a dictionary.
  2. If you find it interesting, you an always use some spaced repetition program to memorize important words, my advice would be to learn whole sentences. Add sentences that seem interesting either because of their vocabulary or their grammar
  3. As for verbs, the nice thing about them is that you can go very far just knowing a few. Steve mentioned once that he sometimes browse lists with the most frequent 500 verbs in a given language. I remember re-reading lists with irregular English verbs, long time ago. You can either read those lists or parts of them from time to time or, again, use spaced repetition software to memorize them. You’ll easily find such lists and even pre-made flashcards online.

Yes, I think you’re right regarding writing things down by hand. Like you though, I’m worried about how time consuming that can be and if it’s time better spent just reading more. Thanks for your input.

Thanks ftornay, you’re so very helpful on here.

I know it’s a semi-kid’s book, but I’m surprised you have less than 3,000 LingQs, less than 1500 known words and yet are seeing only 10 new blue words a page per page. I would think there would be more. Maybe because I didn’t go after books until later. Or is it because you are reading the book in hard copy version and then entering in the new words?

Anyway, here’s what I do (and I thought everyone else), but I realize people have their own method.

  1. Import text you are reading (or select material from the LingQ library. You will see “new” blue words, lingqed yellow words, and white “known” words.

  2. Clear all the blue words by going through each one on the computer and either selecting it as known or looking it up and making a yellow lingq.

  3. Read the text, tapping on lingq to get the definition when you hit a word you don’t know. If you come across a lingq you DO know, move it to known.

  4. Repeat step 3 or steps 1-3, depending on how eager you are to get to new material/how confortable you are. In other words, you decide whether you will continue reading an already read/lingqed up lesson, or import a new one.

  5. When you know the text fairly well, listen to the audio, or do so while reading after.

  6. You can also look at flash cards, cloze tests, or other lingq activities too, but it’s not critical.

  7. Periodically go through and look at your grammar book, lesson, etc.

The more material you go through, the fewer “new” blue words you will encounter and you’ll find yourself gradually finding fewer and fewer yellow lingqs as you move them to known/white. the words are learned in context as you are increasingly exposed to the words. The only thing I write down are confusing concepts or issues that I need to google or otherwise consult a grammar book or ask someone about.

Lastly, if you see the words a lot, they are important. If not, not so much, unless YOU need them for something (to use or hear). My Spanish is pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I can’t think of the words for ‘tree bark’ or the word for ‘caterpillar’ or ‘beetle.’ However, I do know a few words for ‘bowl’ So, no, don’t try to “memorise” or at least revise them.

The same is true for verbs. FYI. For example, “to grasp, grab hold of” is fairly important, and thus fairly common, and thus you will learn it by exposure. “To Squash” is less so.


“My Spanish is pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I can’t think of the words for ‘tree bark’ or the word for ‘caterpillar’ or ‘beetle.’ However, I do know a few words for ‘bowl’ So, no, don’t try to “memorise” or at least revise them.”

Thank you so much. This particular passage is a big help since I’ve been confused about which kind of words someone who is proficient in the language would know. This has made that clearer, so thanks.

FWIW The book is indeed a hard copy, I probably “know” 3-4k words or so. I don’t use Lingq for most of my learning.

10 unknown words per page is a fantastic stage!
I personally have no method, if I can understand the book I am reading, I just carry on and enjoy it :). I don’t stop, I don’t look up words, I don’t write anything down or try to remember. I’ve read hundreds of books in German, and the words just start to stick the more you see them. So my opinion would be to relax, and just read as much and as widely as you can for a loooong time! :slight_smile:

Let me weigh in on this, if you don’t mind, since you seem to be interested.

As you progress in the language, you go through different stages. Your vocabulary changes accordingly. What you consider “fluent” is of course subjective and you must set your own goals and adjust them if you feel like it.
LILinguist seems to have acquired a good conversational level of Spanish. That is very impressive and a wonderful place to be, it may very well your goal now. At that level you typically can talk about most topics and understand what people tell you but you do stumble on vocabulary that’s a bit more specific. If you keep at it you gradually feel holes either by reading more challenging content or through interaction with native speakers or, in the best case, through both.

Beyond simple conversational “fluency”, however, there are other levels. There is the level at which you can read literature freely, which is also a good predictor of you being able to understand lectures, films, complex media content, etc. At that level you do know a second layer of the language that certainly includes “bark tree”, “beetle” and so on.

As an example, I don’t consider myself (yet!) incredibly proficient in my current target language (Russian) but I can make myself be understood and I could, from the top of my head, remember the words for “bark tree”, “beetle” and “worm” (not “caterpillar” specifically)
and you can see that I do understand and can use all those words in English, for example.

The bottomline is that the words that “fluent” speakers know is a slippery concept that depends on many variables.
My advice is “don’t sweat it”. You goal now is to reach conversational ability. At that stage you know all basic vocabulary plus some more specific words here and there. It’s a good level to be at. Once you reach it (and I’m sure you’re not very far) you may decide to stop formal learning and stay there or go for the next level. It’s not magical and it’s not unattainable. The recipe is the same: keep getting exposed to increasingly challenging (but especially interesting) content. You’ll be surprised at how large your vocabulary and overall skill at the language will become.

At that stage, I would just look up unknown words that interest me when I see them or words that cause me not to understand a passage.

Reading a book is great for the method of moving on without going back for repetition. Any author has a preferred set of words and phrases which he will repeat, and if the whole book is a single story rather than a collection, the vocabulary that is key to the story will repeat.

I’m on my third or fourth Russian novel. I think if i repeated chapters I could learn better, but then my progress through the story would be interminably slow. I rely for motivation on the fact that the book I’m reading now is a real page-turner, so I just keep making Lingqs and turning pages, moving words to known status (or back) as appropriate.

How many years have you been reading German books :)?

I have been laerning for just over 3 years, and I have been reading books for about 3 years lol. After a month or two, I read a few small “Goosebumps” by RL Stine, which are small books for teenagers. Then I just took the Harry Potter series, which I knew very well in English, and just read and listened to those twice each (since I found matching audiobook lol). Then after that, I could now pick up a novel and read pretty easily! So over the years now, I have read tons of books (mostly novels), since reading is one of my biggest passions :).

Thank you my friend. I actually want to focus only on reading, from your experience, if I do 4 hours a day reading, where do you think should I reach after 8 months? Thank you again.

4 hours is a lot of time :). If you are dedicating it just to reading, and you have good material and strategies, then I would say you can get very far in terms of building up your vocabulary, and becoming more comfortable in reading!

The biggest mountain is the first novel, where you have not read in any other language, so completely fresh and new. Once you have done this, which I think you can achieve after maybe 2/3 months of 4 hours a day, then after that, it is basically downhill (in terms of mental effort when you pick up the next novel).

At least that is my experience :slight_smile:

Thank you very much. Can you give me titles I follow, for example, now read this, then read this etc…

I appreciate that. I now know around 500 german words.

Sure! Obviously I would choose it based on my interest, but I would start with these (you can import the text to lingq, and listen to the audio)

After that, I would take lots of books that you have read in other languages, and that you enjoy, and just read them :slight_smile: (and listen if you can find an audiobook)