A few years ago when I was training hard to improve my French, I found I couldn’t fall asleep right after reading a French novel. My mind was too concentrated and so I had to read something in English or German to unwind.
But some weeks later, one evening I closed my French book, turned out the light and fell asleep.
Reading in French was no longer overstimulating my brain. And now, I could benefit from relaxed reading in French.
Why relaxed reading helps
As explained in this post, when reading for pleasure the brain relaxes and can subconsciously pick up patterns, such as le or la in French, German case endings and third person s on verbs in English. And of course new words.
Research says you have to meet a new word 7 times to get it. In novels, vocabulary tends to repeat, so absorbing new expressions is painless.
Sometimes I’ll later look up a potentially useful new word, but not while reading. I just keep going. If a paragraph is a bit hard to understand, I reread it and then move on. Because I’m sure I’ll eventually figure it out.
By reinforcing patterns and expressions, relaxed reading will make speaking and writing easier.
What to read?
I read all kinds of novels as I enjoy discovering new people, places and plots.
I’ve just finished John le Carré’s The Night Manager and am now re-reading Le Vieux qui ne voulait pas fêter son anniversaire by Jonas Jonasson. And after that, Charlotte Worgitzky’s Meine ungeborenen Kinder is waiting for me.
Want to try relaxed reading in English?
You can start by reading a novel that you’ve already read in your language. Or the book of a movie or TV series you’ve watched. Being familiar with the story makes understanding the English version less demanding.
As well, I find that reading a translated book can be a bit easier. This means I often read the French translations of Spanish and Portuguese books because I feel that another Romance language will bring me closer to the original sense and mood.
Most importantly, reading a story that is entertaining and engaging is your best bet of benefitting from the power of relaxed reading.
So choose a fun book and start a relaxed reading routine to help you master English.
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© Christina Wielgolawski