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Reading and Vocabulary

Reading in a Foreign Language and the role of Vocabulary

Reading novels and other texts in a foreign language is a must. It will allow you to have a greater understanding of the proper use of verbs, conjunctions, adjectives and other parts of speech. The one main difficulty with reading texts in a foreign language is that you will start off not having a large enough vocabulary. It will be sluggish, cumbersome and in the end very boring to get through even a short passage. It is not fun to read anything when you have to look up every other word for its definition and still have to guess as to the meaning and context of the sentences and paragraphs. Something that should normally only take you an hour will end up taking you three hours.

The other unfortunate aspect to reading foreign language texts in this manner is that even though you are spending the time looking up the vocabulary you are ONLY looking it up in order to get through the sentence or text at the time. You aren’t memorizing this new vocabulary and will most likely have to look it up again when you next come across it. It is actually more beneficial to boost your vocabulary separate from reading. The reasoning behind this is that you usually have to read a passage in a novel in order to be able to discuss it during class. Therefore you aren’t really concentrating on learning the majority of the vocabulary but only a few key words that you have to use in order to explain the passage. This is not an efficient way to learn new vocabulary nor is it an efficient method to reading the passage.

The best thing that you can do to make EVERYTHING easier when learning a language is to increase your vocabulary. Let us take a look at the perspective of someone with a large vocabulary. Every passage they read they have to look up less words and have a greater chance of understanding the major concepts without having to waste time looking up anything. The same person can also describe what they read with greater ability because they have the necessary vocabulary to draw from. They get through homework, papers and classroom discussions MUCH easier than the person who does not have a great vocabulary.

After the first initial classes, focus is never on learning vocabulary but on working with grammar. Such as reading, writing and discussing the language. It is true that you have to learn new vocabulary when writing or discussing something new but usually the amount of time you have to focus on that passage or context is limited and you as an individual will not have a full hour to discuss the passage with your professor or teacher but will have all of maybe 5 minutes to discuss your thoughts. This means that the information you ‘learned’ for that classroom will not truly be utilized and it will most likely be forgotten by the next lecture. It will be forgotten because you will have to read the next passage and prepare a new set of vocabulary that rarely builds upon the first.

I would say that the best thing to do when learning a language is to learn and increase vocabulary separate and in addition to this normal scholastic process. This is especially true if you focus on learning vocabulary that pertains to your class or lecture. A larger vocabulary will make even learning grammar much easier because you will understand what your teacher is trying to say, you will understand any classroom media and be able to outperform other students when having a classroom discussion.Do not under-estimate the importance of vocabulary.


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