Reading tips

Learn ways to improve both your reading speed and level of comprehension.

To improve your reading and build your vocabulary, read a variety of material and choose topics that interest you. Make sure the material isn’t too difficult to help keep your attention. As a guide, if you don’t understand more than 20% of a paragraph, you should select something else.

Strategies for reading

  • Develop your skill at predicting—what can you predict about text content from title, subheadings, first and last paragraphs, the first few lines, or pictures?
  • Improve your inferencing skills—try to guess the meaning of unknown words from context— eg what part of speech is it? What does preceding and following information suggest the unknown word might mean? When needed, use a dictionary.
  • Work on unravelling complex ideas by breaking sentences down into more manageable units and rephrasing the ideas for yourself in simple terms.
  • Keep a record of your reading, allocate time for it, and set yourself some reading goals.
  • Read the same materials several times, especially if you enjoyed them!
  • For languages with a non-Latin alphabet, (eg Chinese) there are extra challenges for reading, here are some tips:
    • Read a lot – highlight words you recognise. Are you actually certain you know what they mean or is it just that some characters look similar?
    • Write a lot – copy from your textbook or other material.
    • Memorise characters – see them as ‘pictures’ to remind you of the sound or meaning.

Activities for reading practice

  • Practise skim reading for gist and then ask yourself what the article is about. Based on this, what specific information would you expect to find in it? Is that information there?
  • Try ‘concentrated’ reading using a dictionary and noting down new words. Reread the text later to see if you’ve remembered the new vocabulary.
  • Try to speed up your reading so that you are not trying to understand every word but reading as fast as you can for gist or general meaning.
  • Recall what you read – either by writing or talking to a partner. Make a summary, or create comprehension questions about the texts you read.
  • Reading, especially in a foreign language, takes a lot of concentration. Try these practical ideas for making reading more comfortable:
    • Enlarge the text to make it easier to read.
    • Make sure you read in good light – natural daylight is best.
    • Choose the right texts for you (perhaps even ask your teacher) – the LLC’s range of reading resources includes simplified readers, and readers with glossaries and notes, plus authentic original texts. You will also find a variety of reading materials online.

Inspired by: Fernández-Toro, M. & Jones, F. DIY Techniques for Language Learners, London: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT), 2001, pp. 70-85