22.3.15

Cheap Novels and Their Value When Learning A Foreign Language


There are two main blocks in a language – vocabulary and grammar. Put in another way, when learning a foreign language you are building a house, and the grammar you are dealing with is like the metal and concrete structure, and the vocabulary are the bricks you put into that structure. This post is concerned with the bricks, the words you have to learn.

You are eager to start talking in that foreign language – but you feel that you don’t know enough words.

Let me help you by telling you about my personal experience. The second foreign language I learned was English (and I seem to have done well LOL). I was exactly in that position, feeling like chatting away with my friends, but always groping for words. Until I started reading English books…….

Now, I obviously didn’t start with Shakespeare, but I got hold of some cheap novel about Adolf Hitler (of all people…). Somehow, in this novel, they deep-froze his head and surgically put in on another, younger body back in the eighties – total crap, obviously, but can you imagine how I felt when I finished the book? Absolutely on top of the world, because it was my FIRST English book, and I understood the story.

Remember, at that time I didn’t understand half the words – BUT IT DIDN’T MATTER, I got the story, I understood the plot, and I had fun.

And, something very important, I didn’t TRY to understand every word. I didn’t read the book with a dictionary at my side, looking up a word every 5 minutes – that would have taken the fun out of it, and it is important that you have fun. Again, I understood the story line.

But here is what happens if you do the same. You might come across a word you don’t understand at this point, in a specific context. You continue reading, and a couple of pages later you find the same word BUT IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT. You are beginning to get the idea, and, after a couple of pages, you find it again, yet again in a different context. See what I’m getting at?

Applying this technique you will learn new vocabulary without being aware of it. It’s kind of contextual learning, very akin to total immersion. And, as in total immersion, do not translate into your mother language unless it’s absolutely necessary. More than anything, it would slow down your efforts.

So, go and grab yourself some cheap paperback and have some fun.

1 comment:

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was my first book in Spanish, and it was awesome. It helped that I already knew the plot, but it definitely improved my grammar and vocabulary.

    ReplyDelete