Does Reading Help You Improve English?

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

This time we’ll be talking about reading and if you can improve your spoken English by reading plenty of English literature – starting with newspapers and ending with books. I’ve actually wanted to discuss this topic for a good while now, so believe me – I’ve got a lot to say in this regard! 😉

OK, here’s the controversy about reading and its effectiveness when it comes to improving your English. Reading is being mentioned all across the board as one of the most effective tools of improving one’s English. And I can partially agree with this only as far reading understanding is concerned.

My conviction is however, that being able to communicate effectively is paramount if you live in an English speaking country. While being literate when it comes to reading and writing English is undeniably an essential part of general English knowledge, I think that the ability to speak fluently comes above all else.

And this is why it’s so controversial – while the whole English improving industry is build mostly on reading and writing, hundreds of thousands of foreigners are struggling with speaking the English language!

What The Old-School English Teaching Says About Reading

Just do a simple research on the Internet – type ‘improve English’ in Google and hit the ‘search’ button. You’ll see that the overwhelming majority of websites, blogs and forums have the same old standard answer on a question ‘How can I improve my English?’

Their answer is – first of all, read a lot! Buy an English newspaper, and read daily. Buy an English book or take one in a library and start reading it by writing down new words in a notebook. Listen to English news on the radio or TV. Watch English films and turn the subtitles on if you’re not comfortable in the beginning. Read news websites on the Internet – after all, there’s a gazillion websites on the Net in English!

And the list goes on and on, and usually only at the very end they mention the speaking aspect of improving one’s English by saying something like – go to an Irish or British pub in your town to meet English speaking people. Or join online chatting rooms to speak with native English speakers or use Skype to practice English. But you see – these are just cliché phrases and tell me honestly – how many foreigners will go to an Irish pub to practice some English? 99% of those who want to improve their English will go great lengths to avoid activities that are outside their comfort zone!

So the average foreigner goes by the traditional list and focuses on passive language input such as reading or in the best case scenario – some listening.

Why Reading Won’t Have a Direct Impact on
Your Speech Improvement

The crux of the matter is the simple fact that passive input will only improve your passive English vocabulary. Moreover, you simply won’t improve your spoken English because:

1) by reading something in English you don’t exercise your speech and the the text you’re reading just isn’t imprinting itself in your mind to be used in speaking English later on;

2) written English differs greatly from English used in actual live conversations. Written English tends to be more formal and isn’t packed with phrasal verbs like everyday English!

3) to make English phrase, word, or word chunk stick in your mind for later use in a conversation, you need to repeat it a good number of times. You basically need to repeat the phrase and memorize it – and it doesn’t happen when you read an English fiction book!

So Do You Need to Read at All?

OK, now I’ll draw the bottom line regarding this topic. So here’s what I think. Reading English literature is definitely helpful to any foreign English speaker. It’s fun, it’s a great way to build up your passive vocabulary and increase your English understanding. The more diverse your English reading is, the better your general English knowledge becomes and it’s only a bonus for you, there’s no doubt about that.

I’m a passionate English reader myself, and in fact I think it’s not about whether you read English, French or German.

Reading by definition is deciphering written symbols by unveiling the respective abstract meaning in your mind. So no matter what language you read you can widen your knowledge in the respective aspects of life. And once you happen to be a foreign English speaker I think you’d actually lose if you missed out on opportunities to read about things you like in English.

If you would like to start reading English but you’re afraid you’re no god at it because of your vocabulary or other reasons, you should check out this blog post. You’ll find out plenty of useful tips on how to choose your first English fiction books and how to achieve reading fluency just by knowing 70 to 80% of vocabulary.

So as you can guess, to read fluently in English you don’t necessarily have to acquire large English vocabulary beforehand. You can start enjoying English fiction or any other kind of literature you’d like right away. In a couple of months time you’ll be having no problems with reading English books!

So here’s what you should bear in mind – focus on speaking English in order to improve your English because that’s where the true fluency lies. Even if you’re still not aware of it, it’s the spoken English that you want to improve most!

But of course, it never hurts to have an English book and pocket dictionary with you to kill time when you’re commuting to work or having a launch break but there’s no-one around to have a chat with. And by the way, it’s proven that having a ten, twenty minutes read before you fall asleep helps alleviate pressure from the daily stress! 😉


P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

    How about reading out loud? I read that the same area of the brain is activated both when having a natural conversation and when reading out load. The bottom line is the brain doesn’t recognize natural or artificial environment of input, so to speak. As a result, I’ve been tricking my mind for quite some time now by reading out loud your articles; in addition, I record myself simultaneously. To be really honest, I amaze myself sometimes, my fluency, pronunciation, and intonation have become damn good. This is partially because the software that allows me recording also has a natural intonation reader. Thus, just mimic it.

    By the way, my user name is racso, not mastermind. It must be something related to the wash out I did to my pc.

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