Fluency Masterclass, Part 1: Reading

After my recent blog post on training four core skills, we know that fluency is a product made of all components. You need the core skills to be strong to produce and consume language excellently. So in this Fluency Masterclass, I will have a look at each one of the four skills and give you tips on becoming the best you can be. Let's start with..


Everyone has a natural preference for how they consume information, so there is no common base level for all. Some may get excited by the idea of having a book to get their head into, while others swear by hearing key phrases on their mp3 player everyday.

©Christian Cable on Flickr

©Christian Cable on Flickr

This is a step-by-step guide to leveling up in your foreign language reading skills. The steps start at an easy level and you can work on this as a path to becoming a great reader, no matter how long each step takes.

1) Become comfortable

When you are starting new reading exercises, make sure you keep your texts short and focused. The first stage should be appropriate to your level. If that means you stick with isolated words for a week or a month, then don't worry. Make sure you read little and often at stage 1. It is a great time for combining writing and reading by creating flash cards, examining fun materials for kids and playing spot the word games.

2) Find interesting content

No one's going to stick with the words and sticky notes forever. What do you enjoy reading in your first language? What do you like reading about? Find something interesting to yourself, be it classified ads or wedding blogs, and you'll stay motivated for longer. The key at this stage is to start with short texts and move on to longer texts gradually. For example, you could start with the TV listings, then the blurb on the back of DVD packets, and finally full reviews.

3) Aim higher

Here is where you need to bring some attitude. Challenge yourself, attempt a book or a newspaper article. Reading is practice in language consumption, with no pressure on you to keep up a certain pace or skip words. Using a dictionary 15 times per page is NOT a sign that you are bad at language, it's a sign that you are on your way to becoming really good at it.

So make the most of this fact and use reading for what it can deliver best:

  • a growing vocabulary
  • more familiarity with when which words are appropriate
  • visual support for your spelling and writing practice.

4) Mix it up

At all stages of this process, you have got to see reading as a skill in the package of four, which means it's important that you combine it with the other skills. Here are some tips for "fluency mixology":

  • Read out loud wherever you can.
  • Listen to recordings and read the transcripts. Sorry to all fellow Pulp fans, but for this one exercise you do have to read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings.
  • Write yourself notes to read again and again. Yes, sticky notes. They're my number 1 learning method.

I hope you enjoyed the first part of the Fluency Masterclass - why not share your own reading tricks in the comments?

Other great articles about reading in language learning