Reading Skills

I have come to realize there are reading skills.

I knew there were dictionary skills, and I am slowly building those. However, as a language learner (10 months now), I still can’t read. I slowly, painfully look up each word and can’t piece together how a sentence is made. I have learned some vocabulary and grammar, but the act of reading is torment. I do not know what to look for when I am reading. I do not know how to read thru something when there are words I do not understand or grammar structures I haven’t met before.

As often as I have heard Steve talk about comprehensible input and read a lot, and some day a miracle will happen, that miracle hasn’t happened to me yet.

I think the key is reading skills.

I need to be taught how to use readings.

This is my blog post about the video that made me think about reading skills and my lack …

I have friends with no map skills. To someone who can naturally read maps, it is puzzling that these skills have to be taught to others.

A good question to ask is … when a polyglot reads, WHAT ARE THEY DOING? How do they use what they are reading? It is more than just absorbing vocabulary and learning how to pronounce words, which is all I have done with reading so far.

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This is what my teacher wrote about how to study.

By writing the “reading” out by hand, I finally started to get a clue what we are suppose to be doing in readings.

Reading technique is probably very personal. I don’t like the sound of your teacher’s method, but that isn’t to say it wouldn’t work or that it isn’t enjoyable. It just doesn’t sound much fun to me.

Your Korean is much more advanced than my Kichwa so this suggestion may not apply, but the key to enjoying reading for me is having a parallel text. It would be very frustrating indeed to try and understand every word and phrase of a text, and it would slow me down and stop me from enjoying reading. But rather than trying to nail each word, or reach 100% comprehension, or even be able to memorise the text or a list of words, I just glance at the translation and add some more detail to my LingQs.

This sounds like cheating, but when you do it inside LingQ it becomes quite effective. Gradually you start noticing more and more, as your mind gets to see lots and lots of examples. So my main approach when it comes to reading is minimise frustration, maximise enjoyment and go for quantity of reading over quality of translating.


There’s a difference between when you know 50% of words (or less), 70% of words, and 95+% of words (as examples).

What do you do if you are at 50%, or less, in comprehension?

Massed sentences, are ok, but I’d rather just get a large bunch of basic (reasonably natural) dialogues and just listen and read intensively (100s of times each), and “take shots” at native content when I am up for it. TTMIK dialogues mixed up with “train your ears” dialogues would be an example. The key skills are - finding a few hours a day, attention, and continuous attention - and these are not really reading specific.

Jumping from one what one polyglot recommends to another would only be useful for finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

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… I do think this thing about language learning being personal is the key. The more I learn about my most effective techniques I realise they mirror how I learnt English. This makes perfect sense: your mind has adapted to certain ways of learning and you’ve developed certain habits and things you enjoy. Stick to those, put the time in, and you can’t go far wrong. And this means taking all advice about the way to learn languages with a pinch of salt. Including, ahem, this one.

No offense, but judging from your Progress Snapshot, I think your skills aree right where you should expect them to be. You don’t seem to be very far along yet. Maybe more Korean and fewer tutorials and polyglots?

What about your reading materials? How difficult are they? Are you trying to read stuff that is too difficult? Try to keep your unknown words to 5% or less. Note that the “New Words” each lesson gives can be devilishly misleading. Depending on how many Lingqed words in the passage you know, the unknown words can vary from as little as 0% to as much as 100%. This means that you have to inspect the passage yourself to determine the percentage of unknown words. Anyway, that’s my two cents. Find easier reading material.

You may be overthinking this a bit. Reading is reading. Comprehensible input means that you can understand what you’re reading and listening to. If you’re not understanding what you’re reading, then it’s not comprehensible. If it’s not comprehensible, then you should read something easier. You don’t need to understand 100%, but it should be fairly high. But if unknown words and grammatical structures are preventing you from reading, then you definitely need to read something easier.

There’s nothing wrong with using a dictionary to help you understand a reading. A dictionary is a tool which can make input more comprehensible. However, there’s an opportunity cost. Time spent looking up new words is time that could have been spent reading. This is why reading on LingQ is great - the time lost looking up new words is relatively minimal.

Your only goal when reading is to understand (and hopefully enjoy) what you’re reading. Different people have different levels of tolerance for ambiguity. Steve seems comfortably reading things with 40% new words. He gets a rough idea of the meaning of the text and then moves on. Some people wouldn’t enjoy that. I don’t think there’s any special secret or trick. The key is just to read things that are more or less at your level.

Buy textbooks and just read the stories/dialogues in them. Try to find graded readers if they exist for Korean. You can also use bilingual books. Or you can find Korean videos with both English and Korean subtitles. Watch once with English subtitles, then again with Korean subtitles.

If you read a lot, you will see words and structures again and again. The more you see them, the more familiar you will become with them. But it only works if the input is comprehensible. And it works much better if the input is also very interesting.


Hi ! =)))

You ARE an adult, after all, and you still believe in miracles, or nicie, cornie fairy tales? :wink:

That’s exactly why the miracle hasn’t happened yet and it will never happen! The reason is, no miraculous learning methods ever existed and they will never exist, no matter how hard and enthusiastically they will keep on persuading you they do! :wink:

The reason for this is very simple. We are adults, thus capable of understanding much more complicated concepts than children. That’s why if you really want to master a language it’s inevitably necessary that you understand the concept of how the sentnces in the language you study are built, i.e. you necessarily have to understand the concepts of grammar of this language!

And, please, do not either lie to yourself, or listen to anybody else’s lies about grammar as being something acquired either subconsciously or instinctively! No! It doesn’t work and never will ! Just don’t waste your time believing in this blah-blah!

And one more, just as I said the other day, it’s way more important to have just a handful of words in the language and an understanding of grammatical principles (not the rules!), than to have a 1000 or 2000 words and no idea of how grammar works in the language you study! =)))

It the latter case you will ONLY be able to reproduce these 1000 or 2000 words, in succession, if you happen to have a compluter hard-disk-drive-like memory, which is obviously not my case! :wink:

In a word, learning a language is ALWAYS a process, and a long one! And what’s more, you never have to be frustrated if this process goes WAAAAY slower than you expected! Just don’t! Don’t get frustrated because of this, 'cause it’s a language learning, not the easiest task, at all ! But, nevertheless, quite a feasible one, no doubt!

And, again, don’t believe in this lies that there is this or that method that just works miracles! =)))) Eventually, you will see that all these methods boil down to one and the same, a process! And a very long one!

Just from my own experience, you know when I stopped learning English? :wink: The answer is, NEVER! It’s a life-long process, and I’m still learning it now, and will keep on learning! :wink: So, do not get frustrated, you just have to realize what you’re in ! :wink:


I agree for 150% with Pauler and Bortrun!
In’s not enough to know a lot of words, you have to get accustomed gradually with the basic grammar to use correctly these words.
You need to choose the podcasts of your level and not to jump from the Beginner to the advanced level.
And iif you start any language, you have to be very patient because the language study is a very long and mayne long-life process which is not always simple but which is always interesting and useful.

As Steve once said “We are always not quite there, but in fact we have achieved a lot in the meantime”.

lol, 150% agreement

Can I agree with you 25% evgueny? :slight_smile:

I think jumping from easy/natural dialogues to native content is the best way.

Bouncing between the two is fine, and getting to native as soon as possible is the real goal.

I think the most inefficient approach is to try to have 90-95+% known words for most of your learning. Better to have 70-80% for a long period of time, and even 50% or less is fine, particularly if you are interested in the content.

So maybe a good thread would be how do I best read when the content is 50-80% known, or less?


Hi ! =)))

Well, actually we were talking about the utmost importance of grammar, in any language, for both speaking and understanding what is said or written, not about the “known” words indicator here or any wordstock at all ! :wink:

The reason is very simple, unless you know the grammar of the language you study, even if you have 1 000 000 or even 2 000 000 wordstock of “known” words, belive me, you will not be able to understand anything AT ALL ! =)))

Sure, I do agree, the grammar of Chinese is WAAAY more simple than the Russian, or, say, Korean grammar, hence this illusion! :wink:

Besides, strangely enough, for learning any language, the content does not necessarily have to be interesting, it’s a process, rather a hard one, a process of language acquisition, not a leisure trip, after all ! :wink:

Oh completely and utterly this! 369% agreement!

Move away from 5% comprehensibility, get wonderfully relaxed about understanding less, definitely explore material up and beyond your level. And avoid any material that bores or frustrates you, which is not the same as avoiding easy or hard material. After all this is supposed to be enjoyable.


Ooooh maybe we can disagree here Pauler? :wink: Not a leisure trip maybe, but I think it definitely has to be interesting and a pleasurable experience. I know I learn best when I’m enjoying the process. I definitely don’t subscribe to the no pain no gain school of language learning :stuck_out_tongue:

Hi ! =)))

As for ‘get wonderfully relaxed about understanding less’, this is an aspect which is very well known to experts involved with teaching any language for adults. It’s a well-known fact that it’s much much harder for adults to learn a new language than it is for children.

The reason is purely psychological. We are all adults here and quite a highly skilled and proficient experts each in their field of knowledge or workmanship. And we know that we can do and understand a huge lot of various concepts, including the most sophisticated ones, no doubt.

But then, suddenly, when we start learning an absolutely new language, we feel as if we were just a 4-5 year old kids that can not connect even two words, let alone explain something more abstract and complex in a new language.

Sure enough, there is always a feeling of frustration that emerges in adults at this stage, and it’s very important to prepare oneself in advance to expect exactly this feeling of frustration as just a normal period during this very hard language acquisition process, i.e. not even try to expect much of oneself at this stage, being even more than satisfied if I can just say, “My name is Pavel,” and just have enjoyable time trying to understand the very system of the language under study, rather than immediately start using this language at a level we normally use our native one and become frustrated of doesn’t it work at all ! :wink:

That, sure, I’m 100% agree with you, in NO way does it have to be a torture, no! =))) But, on the other hand, taking material beyond my level will definitely be the cause of my total absence of comprehension, as I may just not be able to undestand the complicated grammar used! :wink:

Of course, it’s always better when the material used for language learning is really interesting, true that! =))) But, unfortunately, this is not always the case, and one also has to be ready for this, as well ! =)))

An option of free choice of material is only possible at a later stage, as, for example, me, I would watch such movies in English, that I’ll NEVER watch, should they be translated into Russian! :wink:


If I happen to encounter difficult or interesting phrases, I read them orally. If it feels like I am reading with proper intonation, I notice I can understand what the writer wanted to convey.
I do not always read books or newspapers aloud.

So much emotion in pauler’s posts! I wish I could see it as a video post… all these winks and smiles!


I do most of my French reading on Lingq (except for the occasional paper book from the public library).
I truly believe that I absorb the info that is at my level and I will have plenty of opportunity to encounter the more complex structures/words later on.
No matter how much I am missing from the details, I move forward. While reading my first books here I was moving slowly - 1-1500 words per hour. Now, my rate is about 4-5000 words per hour. I tried reading some kids literature but it was not really interesting. Then I hit the jackpot with a few adventure novels for adolescents. Now I try to read the contemporary stuff I would normally read in my native language but I read it in French instead, here at Lingq.
My experience is that whenever I try to look for magic or extra motivation, the material I am reading is not attractive enough. When I find an enjoyable read - I can’t put it down: it’s the first thing I do in the morning, the last thing I do in the evening + whenever I have a free minute.

I bet that you just need to identify topic and materials which will trigger such an interest in you that you won’t notice you’re indeed reading in L2…
Good luck!!


This is just my view:

Reading is just the spoken word, written down. Reading & Writing came along thousands of years after speech. I do read, but the big improvement in my language comes from listening. After listening , my reading improves because I now understand the rhythm and cadence of the language.

So for me, reading is important but listening is the real driver. After constantly reading/listening to beginner lessons, I watch soap operas without subtitles; my understanding improves immensely.

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It’s interesting that the discussion about the Reading Skills transformed into the discussion about the main methods of the language learning.
Of course, we have 4 aspects of the language study: listening+ reading+ speaking+ writing
In depends on our taste but also on our possibilities which of these aspects would be the main ones for us.
For example, I learn first of all with my eyes and my sister learns mostly with her ears - that’s why reading or at least reading+listening is the most important for me by learning, and listening+ speaking is more preferable for my sister.
And in my opinion, ‘step by step’ method is also the best method.
Of course, our goal is to understand and use natural, ‘native’ language - but this transition is not so rapid like some learners think, and this transition must be gradual and natural as well.
And finally, without learning some basic grammar we won’t be able to use all words that we have learned, or at least in every our ‘natural phrase’ we will make several mistakes - and not every native speaker will be happy to speak with us.