Books,  Languages

Reading books in a foreign language

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When you are learning a new language, the moment when you start actually reading books in this language is both exciting and a little scary. It is important to prepare yourself well and choose carefully which book you want to read

Reading books in a foreign language

The benefits of reading books in a foreign language

  • When you are learning a new language, reading a book is one of the best way to both increase your vocabulary and give you a better feeling of how the language works grammatically.
  • If you are fond of a foreign writer, reading his or her books in their native language is a great way to understand the author’s work better: some texts are very difficult to translate and it can really make a difference to read them in the writer’s language.
  • Reading books in a foreign language regularly helps you to concentrate better. Dry or difficult texts in your native language seem much easier after that.

Things to consider when you plan to read your first book in a foreign language

The choice of the book is really important. I you choose a book that is too difficult, you will struggle and you will soon be discouraged. If you choose a book that is too easy, you won’t progress that much. Here is some advice to choose the right book for you:

  • do not start with a big classic or a very literary book. Keep them for later, when you are more confident with your language skills.
  • Novels for children are often a good idea to start with. The first book I read in English was Matilda by Roald Dahl, for instance.
  • I would also advise to choose a book that you already read and loved in your native language. If there is a book that you are reading again and again, then just read it in the language you are learning. As you know the story so well, you will feel more confident and will be able to concentrate on the language.
  • As a special tip, I would advise to read the Harry Potter books in your target language. Why Harry Potter? Well, if you read them, you will have noticed that they were evolving as Harry was growing. The first book was quite short and the language rather easy. The last books were way longer and the writing was more complex. This is perfect for language learners.

Others things to consider

  • Some people will keep their dictionary around and write down every new word they meet, other will keep reading and try to guess new words from the context. There is no better option, I think. Do what you feel most comfortable with. As for me, I am more a word guesser. When there is a good story, I do not have the patience to search for words in the dictionary.
  • If you like audio-books, you can also consider listening to the book while you are reading it. I have never done that, I must admit. This is actually a pity because I had for years a very wide gap between my reading/writing skills in languages which were pretty good and my speaking/listening skills that were pretty bad.
  • Once you read your first book in your target language, do not stop. You have to read regularly if you want to improve.


  • ceridwensilverhart

    That’s a good point about the Harry Potter series. I think right now, I need to try picture books. I tried reading a comic in a language I’m learning, but it was still too hard to follow. 😅

    • momslovelearning

      Some comics may be more difficult to read than some novels. It really depends. Which language are you learning?

      • ceridwensilverhart

        I’m learning Japanese. It’s the writing system itself that’s trickier to grasp than the words, so that’s why I think something for children who haven’t yet learned the more complicated characters might be better.

        • momslovelearning

          This is a good idea. I have a colleague who learned Chinese and had bought a few children books to keep learning after a trip to China. One morning, he came to work sighing and explained “I spent the whole last evening reading Franklin his Teddy Bear!” For those who did not know of his language learning, that sounded a little strange 😊

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