How to Read

posted in: Great Ideas | 5

One of my friends, Goalkeeper, asked me the other day about how to read efficiently in English. It was a good question and I’m going to answer as best I can.

First, let’s talk about the traditional way. You look at the book or the photocopy your teacher wants you to read and you begin. Stop. I don’t know this word. Get out the dictionary. Oh, OK. Keep going. Oh, another word. Play with the dictionary again.

And after a half an hour of dull pain, you have ‘read’ about one page. You can hardly remember anything about what you have read, but you know you hate it. You put it down and watch Gran Hermano.

Next day, if you are feeling strong and life allows you, you look at the thing again and realise that all the words you looked up have gone from your mind. All you have is amnesia, and you hate the piece even more. You go back to Gran Hermano.

The traditional way is awful. It disobeys all the psychological laws we know about learning, and it’s so boring it hurts the head.

This is my method. I suggest you give it a try and adapt it to yourself. After all, every mind is different. This is how I read my first book in Spanish, Cien Años de Soledad. It would have been impossible to read in the traditional way.

First, choose at most about fifteen pages. No more. Then you read the whole thing is fast as you can without bothering to understand it. Do not use a pen and do not even think of opening a dictionary. Don’t worry about it.

This should take you about ten minutes. Then you can walk away and have a coffee or something. That’s done for the day.

Then, one or two days later, look at it again. Now you still read fast, but this time with a pen in your hand. Just mark the words you don’t know or the expressions that leap to mind. Be relaxed about it and read fast. This should take about fifteen minutes. Now you can watch football on the telly.

Then again, more than twenty four hours later but less than forty eight, you read it once more. This time you think. Think about the words you don’t know. Guess what they mean. What do they remind you of? Are they similar to other English words? Do they remind you of Spanish or French words? In general, try to guess what’s happening. Do not open  that horrible dictionary yet.

This could take longer, because real thinking always takes time. It’s fun, though. Once you’ve finished, you can watch Sálvame.

Notice that so far you have invested less than one hour for your fifteen pages and that now you have a good idea of what is happening. You have only one more step to go.

The following day is when at last you pick up the dictionary. Look up whatever you like. Discover how good you are at guessing, and laugh at yourself when you guessed wrong.

When you have finished, you can go back to the propaganda news on the telly.

I strongly suggest, though, that you quickly read the thing one more time a week later. Psychological research tells us that when we reinforce something like this, it stays fixed in the memory much better.

Thats it!
(1) Read it fast. Wait a day.
(2) Read it fast with a pen. Wait a day.
(3) Read it and THINK. Wait a day.
(4) Read it with a dictionary.
(5) Read it fast a week later, just for fun.

Comments, please. I would to know how this works for you. Have fun.

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great suggest. I Will do it

    • Good, Elisabeth. Why don’t you tell us in a few weeks how it worked for you?

  2. Thanhs Peter.

  3. Thanks Peter.

  4. Marisa Techn

    Thanks Peter. It’s a good method. I will put into practice right now!!
    Everything you explain sounds fun and easy.

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