3 Benefits of Extensive Reading in a Foreign Language


In order to improve my Spanish language skills, I have been reading a Spanish novel. I can’t believe it, but I actually finished my first Spanish novel. I read the whole thing and understood what was going on in the story.

I admit that I did use the dictionary from time to time, in order to understand some of the words that I didn’t know. Nevertheless, the use of the dictionary didn’t hamper my ability to enjoy the book, and I really got great enjoyment and pleasure from reading in Spanish.

The first novel that I read in Spanish was called El Alquimista.

After having finished the book, here are 3 benefits that I have discovered from extensive reading in a foreign language.

1) Increase your vocabulary in the foreign language

As I read the book, I did understand most of the words, which I was very happy about. However, there were still many non-frequent words in Spanish that I didn’t know. So I had to look them up in a Spanish dictionary, and I found that I automatically acquired some of those new words in my long-term memory as those words were very relevant to the text, and they just kept coming up again and again.

For instance, I learned the word “oveja” which means sheep, since the main character of the book is a shepherd. I also learned the word “rebaño” which means herd or flock of sheep. Additionally, I learned the phrase “Leyenda Personal”, which was a recurring theme in the book, as the boy goes in search to fins his own Personal Legend.

Many of these words are not very frequent in other books and contexts, but reading this book forced me to get exposed and to value the meaning of these new words.

2) Reinforce the foreign language words you already know

Reading a novel also helps you remember and train your knowledge of the words you already know. You also encounter variations of the vocabulary you know, such as plurals, different conjugations of verbs as well as combinations of words that I know, such as compound words.

3) Enjoy the material for its own sake

Another benefit that I’ve found with extensive reading is the enjoyment of the material itself. Once I get involved and get going with a book, I forget that I’m trying to learn a foreign language, and I simply immerse myself in the content which I find fascinating, engaging and relevant to my life.

This I have found to be a really great benefit, and one that has helped me to continue reading novels every day in Spanish, even after reading my first Spanish book.

I strongly suggest extensive reading of books in a foreign language, especially if you already love reading in your native language. And I strongly suggest to find books in a foreign language that you normally would read anyway in your native language, or at least books that interest you or are relevant to you.

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