One Thing I AVOID When Learning a Language - Steve Kaufmann

Do you enjoy answering comprehension questions about content in your target language? Many teachers and writers of language learning textbooks seem to think these questions are vital. I couldn’t disagree more.

1 Like

Asking the question regarding what we’ve just read is very powerful thing. Trying remember the text about yesterday stimulate the memory and you also train a speaking skill beside listening and reading. This is a very effective thing, but it is necessary that there is a desire to do it and not to impose it by force.


Responding to mundane questions about the content with 5 Ws and 1 H seems unappealing. On the other hand, think about thought-provoking questions you may want to ask and to be answered as we work along with the text to improve different core abilities in the language, such as speaking and writing. Some questions undoubtedly deepen the reader’s connection with the language and the culture, and they may be something other than information-seeking based on the content. Questions like the following are worth exploring, IMHO.

  1. Where is the exact place I might derive the meaning of certain words in the context or by the storyline?
  2. What is with the writer’s word choice in some sentences considering the historical background?
  3. How does the writer’s or main character’s sentimental shift take place in the story?
  4. What is the origin of some idioms presented in the content? , etc.

I couldn’t agree more about the importance of building up momentum in reading, especially at a fair early stage of learning a language. As we variate the content in the light of “repetition and novelty” for our brain to better absorb during the learning process, so does our approach to the learning method. Some other activities can also supplement the core activity, which may generate fantastic results.

We tend to perform better if we learn and interact with the language with greater interest and intention. One quote about reading by Jorge Luis Borges resonates much with me and certainly deserves a place in my language-learning journey. Hopefully, Spanish learners would enjoy reading it as much as I always do in reading the original.

“El verbo leer, como el verbo amar y el verbo soñar, no soporta ‘el modo imperativo’. Yo siempre les aconsejé a mis estudiantes que si un libro los aburre lo dejen; que no lo lean porque es famoso, que no lean un libro porque es moderno, que no lean un libro porque es antiguo. La lectura debe ser una de las formas de la felicidad y no se puede obligar a nadie a ser feliz.

The verb reading, like the verb to love and the verb dreaming, doesn’t bear the imperative mode. I always advised to my students that if a book bores them leave it; That they don’t read it because it’s famous, that they don’t read a book because it’s modern, that they don’t read a book because it’s antique. The reading should be one of the ways of happiness and nobody can be obliged to be happy.”

― Jorge Luis Borges