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Deciphering Vs Reading

March 16 at 20:00

I think I've slowly begun to realise that free-flowing, extensive reading of material, that is appropriate enough for your level to be able to do this, is the absolute key to rapid progress. Progress in reading, but also in speaking/writing/listening.

I spent so many years choosing material that is a level (or more) too hard for me, and I think that may have been the reason for why my progress was so painful and slow.

I'm convinced that 'deciphering' isn't reading, and won't produce the same results, or even anything like the same results as fluent reading does. The key is to find level-appropriate content.

I guess Steve would argue that the tougher the material the more new words you'll expose yourself to, which would make logical sense if you could read intensively at the same speed as you can extensively. I'd argue that the extra speed of reading level-appropriate content, where you have like 97%+ coverage of the words, will make up for this.

You also get the massive benefit of acquiring a lot more of the grammar patterns, and you give yourself the opportunity to encounter many more different genres and writing styles than you would if you fought your way through harder material at a much slower pace.

Obviously, enjoying what you’re reading is the most important thing, but if you can find comfortable content to read that’s also enjoyable, I now believe that to be the sweet spot of language learning.

It’s also important not to jump too far ahead of yourself. For instance, if you just finished Roald Dahl, you can tackle Harry Potter, and then perhaps Lord of the Rings after that. I see a lot of people on forums stating that they read one Harry Potter book and were then able to “read” adult novels aimed at natives. I find it hard to believe, with so little reading experience, that what they’re doing is ‘reading.’ I think they’re doing a lot of deciphering, which is slow, often painful (depending on how enjoyable it is), and as I’ve said, I don’t think we’re getting the same benefits of grammar exposure and overall fluency development.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that quantity is the most important thing. The words will come with quantity, no matter how few new words there are in what we're reading. I’d love to put that to the test actually - to find out just how many new words an extensive reader gets Vs a more intensive reader. If there is a difference, I doubt it’s that big of a difference, given how much more material the extensive reader can get through. If that’s true, and we add in the extra benefits stated, then surely extensive reading is more efficient?

I don’t think finding level-appropriate material is all that tough these days either, finding enjoyable level-appropriate content is a little tougher but definitely doable. If you find engaging content (I honestly think it's doable), then you’re golden.

I’d like to hear your thoughts if you have the opposite view and you’re more of an intensive reader.