Learning to Read, Reading to Learn: How Reading Can Influence Language Acquisition
There has been a wide body of research regarding the positive effects that reading has on a student’s literacy levels. Introducing more reading material, and, even cultivating a love of reading in the classroom, can thus improve a student’s fluency in a new language.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Sher L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
How does Reading help?
Acquiring a Language through Constant Motivation
One of the ways reading can help a student acquire a new language is by providing motivation to further strengthen the student’s grasp of the language. As a student, I learned English as my second language. A great deal of the English language material I encountered during English lessons was somewhat dry since it was primarily material prepared based on a syllabus. Moreover, lessons were often worksheet-based, which made it difficult to remain enthusiastic to learn this other language. For certain lessons, however, my teachers began to introduce the abridged versions of classic literary texts, such, as The Pearl by John Steinbeck as well as excerpts from the works of William Shakespeare. In reading and discussing these texts during class, I was then newly motivated to develop my fluency in English to deepen my understanding of these fascinating texts and explore what other riveting literature the English language had to offer.
Reading can also help students develop their fluency in the new language that they are learning. By being given prepared excerpts to read in class or by being provided a list of suggested reading material from other sources, a student will be able to glean new vocabulary from these sources as well as observe the different ways in which the new words they have learned can be applied. This can not only apply to younger students starting to learn a language but, for older students who need to develop the specialized vocabulary for their work and thus need to be exposed to the appropriate material. In my own experience, I have worked with both undergraduate and graduate students from different backgrounds and at different levels of English proficiency. While a number of my students had a reasonable grasp of English, it was often difficult for them to express their ideas fully, especially, with the terms used in academic English. It would have thus benefited them to be have been more exposed to various sources of academic English, which would have helped them become more fluent in this area of English.
The Level of Exposure to a New Language
Apart from that, reading can also be an important tool in language acquisition, especially in instances where the students’ exposure to the new language is limited. Reading texts in this new language can serve as a convenient and accessible resource for the student to practice their new language. In my own experience teaching younger students, I have often encountered instances where their exposure to English was limited. Oftentimes, they only spoke English during lessons with little opportunity to do so outside class. As a result, what was learned in a previous lesson was often forgotten, due to insufficient application. Reading, thus, could be a tool to reinforce what the student had learned outside of class. By making use of online resources for reading material, a teacher could easily supplement their lessons for their students in a low-cost manner. Not only that, but a student could also be encouraged to learn independently via reading, and, use what they have read in the time between lessons to foster a more collaborative teacher-student relationship by bringing what they have read into class for discussion.
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In conclusion, reading can serve as a powerful tool for language acquisition. So long as a teacher is helping a student read effectively and constructively, reading can be a useful tool to expose the student to a new language, and help them learn words and concepts in context, as well as a means to motivate their learning further.
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