How to Learn to Read in English? (10 Tips to Remember)
We all know the importance of learning to read the English language in a globalised world which has been made possible by the speed of the Internet. Every day thousands of people in non-English speaking countries pursue the dream of proficiency in English.
Even in these non-English speaking countries the English language surrounds you in our daily life through songs, product names, brands. Therefore people in Brazil, and in many parts of the world, are tremendously exposed to English.
This means that those who do not develop their ability to read English run the risk of being left behind.
Okay, but now what?
How to learn to read in English and also why focus on reading, what is its importance?
The ability to read a text in English fluidly is something that we must develop as a priority.
English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland, Canada, among others are at the forefront of many fields of business, industry, academia and research.
We can see that in most professions, reading technical books and “papers” in English is essential to keep up to date with the best and most modern theories.
A doctor, for example, has to consult North American academic journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, PubMed or the British magazine “The Lancet”, to be aware of the most important studies of today.
It might take months for translations in your native language to appear, that’s if they do become available, and this will greatly limit your ability to keep up to date.
Some tips for learning to read in English that are very useful on this journey:
1 - Start slowly and identify your level of English
The first step is always to just start! Identifying which stage of learning you are at is also very important as it can show you which path to take at first.
Expose yourself to English as much as possible, read a little bit of English whenever you have free time. Just 5 minutes to read one article about a topic that interests you is very beneficial.
Studying topics we like is always make learning English easier. Reading something you've already read in Portuguese or your native language can be a good strategy too. So you can compare texts and build a process of language comprehension in your mind.
2 - Make notes while you read
You can read my article on how to learn vocabulary at home here. To summarise it, write new words in your notes and then try and construct sentences out of them.
This method is more effective at fixing this new vocabulary in your mind.
Look out for words that are repeated a lot. Search for other sentences that use the new words you have learned, this will expand your knowledge.
3 - Use dictionaries correctly
Investing in a good dictionary is very important.
If your English is at a lower level then a bilingual dictionary is best, but don't use it as a crutch, force yourself to try to understand the word as much as possible before using it.
Then use a monolingual English dictionary as soon as you are able. This will force you to understand different contexts and find other examples to use the new term.
Don't go straight to the dictionary every time you find a new word, try to understand the context and then check to see if you got it right.
You can read about the best English dictionaries, both books and online coming soon.
There are also good online dictionary tools to help you, which you can read in here soon.
4 - Access new media models
Today we have access to many different types of media for learning to read in English than we had even 30 years ago.
You can watch movies in English with subtitles in English, this process of listening and reading the same text that is being spoken can certainly accelerate your learning.
I don’t think watching movies or TV shows like this is the best way to learn English but it is one of the most enjoyable, and it is important that we enjoy our learning.
You can read about the TV series I think you should avoid here.
You can also follow the audio books by also reading the original while you listen.
Most students are curious about the lyrics to their favourite songs. Unfortunately a lot of the time the lyrics will be very informal and use incorrect grammar.
However here are some good songs to learn English, and also here are lists of songs that show you specific grammar such as past continuous, with modal verbs, and phrasal verbs coming very soon.
However, as I have said before, it is very important that you enjoy studying English, so if you want to learn about the lyrics of your favourite song then go ahead!
Do crossword puzzles in English, it may seem difficult, but it will be a very effective tool to improve your English.
5 - Read aloud
Reading aloud is a habit that will greatly help you improve your English reading level.
Those who read aloud are more involved with the text, you practice using three language formats at the same time. You will use your eyes, mouth and ears. This will allow your mind to understand the text better and create a visual, oral and auditory reference of this new information.
A another tip is if you record yourself reading, then this will show you your accent and the way you pronounce the words.
6 - Break big sentences into smaller ones
This tip can be applied to just about everything in life.
Do you have a very big task? Then break it into smaller tasks and solve these micro tasks one at a time. A sentence that is too big can be very difficult to understand.
So, break a big sentence into smaller pieces, and then try to understand it piece by piece.
After “digesting” the small parts of the larger sentence in the English text, reread the text to make sure you understand the message.
7 - Gradually increase the difficulty of the texts
At the beginning it is normal to look for simpler texts. As time goes by and as we improve our reading skills, then we can increase the difficulty of texts.
Try to study increasingly complex texts. It's almost like weight training, little by little we increase the weight of our texts and develop our reading muscles.
As always, the best option is to choose texts on topics that are of interest to you, this makes the reading process easier and more enjoyable.
You can read about well-known English books and authors that are easy to read here.
Or if you prefer poetry you can read about poems in English that are easy to read here.
8 - Use "flashcards" for new words
The use of “flashcards” is a very interesting method to remember and review new English words or phrases.
But what are “flashcards”?
In short, they are cards where you put sentences on one side and the translation on the other.
So you look at one side of the new phrase and say the translation or meaning aloud. Then turn the card over and see if you got it right. You can make the "flashcards" on paper or use a program on your mobile phone, there are free programs available, which you can find in your app store.
The great advantage of “flashcards” is that you can use them anywhere for example on public transport, before bed, or while relaxing.
9 - Do exercises
Look for books with reading and comprehension exercises, it is very important to have “feedback” on your successes and mistakes when learning to read in English.
These exercises present short texts and ask questions to see if you understand the context well. There are many sites with these types of exercises, for example here is one from the British Council which has a test to check your level and then texts with exercises.
Another good book is our eBook "Eliminate the 63 Most Common Mistakes Portuguese Speakers Make in English". Available in English and Portuguese it is only €6.99 and you can read more about it here.
10 - Persist and be consistent
Like any new skill, there is a learning curve.
You might have some difficulties when you start, but with diligence and dedication your skills will increase and your progress will be visible which will make you even more motivated to learn more.
Make reading a habit, nowadays it is very easy to find interesting texts and books online, many of which are free.
Remember, as I said even just 30 years ago you had to buy expensive books or go to a library to access content.
If you want to be more consistent in your studies, you can find out how to use a schedule to study English on your own in here.
You might also be interested in our video course on sale on Udemy for €29.99/69.99R$ "Eliminate the Mistakes that Portuguese Speakers Make in English". 4 hours of video exclusively for people that speak Portuguese. You can read more about it and watch free videos here.
To summarise, how to learn to read in English?
The important thing is to start as soon as possible. Take advantage of these tips and jump right into the learning process.
The English language is the most influential of our time and increasing your reading skills will open new doors for you in your life.
Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition and also access the most up-to-date information in various fields.