Why is reading the perfect way to acquire a new language?
When we are born, our first contact with our native tongue is one hundred percent oral. Our mother is the first one to speak to us in her native language and as we grow we are constantly exposed to words, expressions, and conversations that we take in and start to understand in our everyday life. Once we reach a proper school age everything starts to change because we are introduced to a new way of communication that goes beyond body language and oral expressions. We are introduced to written language. This rite of passage is as normal as it´is expected to be, but we must take into account something that in the last couple of decades has become part of this experience; the simultaneous learning of a foreign language. This idea makes me wonder, if reading is one of the main ways we acquire our language and broaden our vocabulary can it also influence the acquisition of a new one?
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate María N. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
It is a fact that our vocabulary expands exponentially as we go through our academic careers, this much has to do with the reading process. Every piece of literature, every text, every poem, every publicity that we come across in our everyday life broadens our vocabulary as well as our view of the world. Now think about this process when learning at a young age a new language. The possibilities are endless.
Young Learners English Learning
It has become very common to teach children at a very young age a second language. These children often go to specific academies that teach them in courses, divided into levels, the use of a second language but with this knowledge comes to cultural exchange. Students are exposed in various manners to different types of texts that show them the world from another point of view. Usually, in the mentioned courses they will come across reading books that are graded for levels and that take students on a one-way trip. Reading is a magical experience that takes you into new places and if the reading material is carefully selected it can have a long term conscience: the love of books. The vantage point of these level books is the selection that is previously taken into account. The generally available stories are very appealing to students and take them to a new depth of learning.
Books to choose
In my personal experience as a teacher, I have seen how starting with level books has helped students in unimaginable ways. The use of a coursebook is always a big help when teaching English, but reading a book is different. In this process, you can see how students become completely taken by the stories without considering the somewhat lack of vocabulary or the difficulty in the verb tenses that they may come across during this exercise. They often use general deduction skills to understand the story and when they’re asked to talk about what they have read and explained it, you come across students who have gained a larger vocabulary and a newfound fluency.
As in their native tongue, the consequences of reading are the same. If you are a regular reader it is most likely for you to have a more broadened view of the world and in this case of the language. As time goes by, and the students level up in the courses you can always mix it up with authentic materials that are more alluring and always have great results. This way you have as a byproduct a new type of learner, one that doesn’t only learn mechanically a new language but one who gets used to thinking in it. People who have this type of grasp are usually the people who assimilate the new tongue as proper and therefore have no limits in gaining new structures due to the ease with which they can understand and interpret.
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To sum up this idea I think that introducing English students to reading is the best way of helping them to acquire a new language. This should be a resource that is always used or at least taken into account when planning our lessons because if we can´t help our students internalize English as a second language it will surely become one very complicated process to get them to be fluent.
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