I've said this on many occasions before: the best way to show off how fluent you are in English is to demonstrate how well you can use the language in a conversation. By this, I don't mean chatting on social media in real time. Speaking fluently is a whole different ballgame.
Now, if I were to point out only one of the four language skills - speaking, listening, reading, and writing - and say it's the most important one of them all for your fluency, there's no way possible I'd be able to do that.
You see, language skills co-exist. They work side-by-side and your fluency benefits from it... tremendously!
Today, we're going to focus on the unique role of reading in our language fluency and I'll show you a few reading techniques that virtually anyone can use to improve their English fluency, regardless of their current proficiency level.
Reading: The Highway to Speaking Fluently
Yes, you've read this headline correctly.
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." - Dr. Seuss
Steve Kaufmann argues that the combination of reading and speaking enables our brains to become used to any new language that we're learning. As such, it builds up our potential to speak well.
To understand why this occurs and why it has such a positive effect on our fluency, we must take a look at reading in action. Here are some of the best reading techniques you can use to boost your English fluency:
Stay Clear of Advanced-Level Texts
Your ability to advance is directly related to how you approach what you currently know. In other words, if you try to take on the challenge of reading something that's way above your current proficiency level, it'll probably end badly for you.
This might not only slow your progress down but also negatively affect your motivation and willingness to learn. Instead, try to read stories that you find either easy to understand or somewhat challenging to light that extra spark in you.
There's just no point in reading something you don't understand at all.
This is not to say you shouldn't ever read any high-level content and constantly expand your vocabulary, which you definitely should do - word-by-word.
Learn New Vocabulary (In Context)
Speaking of which, reading is your one-way ticket to an unlimited vocabulary wealth. That's just the way it is. If you're looking to learn new words and know how or when to use them, you can see all of that within a text. Actually...
You don't just see new vocabulary while reading; you see it being used in proper context, which shortens the vocabulary learning curve for you.
Contextual comprehension of vocabulary in English is a very important thing when it comes to your ability to speak with others and make speaking decisions instantly. It's what determines your fluency level - you know, how well can you talk without taking breaks to think about what you're going to say.
One thing's for sure, whether it's through language learning apps or long-form books, learning new words by reading means being able to constantly find new ways to improve your language, and consequently, your speaking skills.
Your mind is a sponge and each new text you read is a sea of new words, expressions, and phrases that can boost your fluency and get the quality of your English to a native-like level.
Read Out Loud, But Error-Free
Okay, now... this isn't something I want to keep the trademark rights to, but it's something I do in literally every single reading class with my students. And it works, which is why I want to share this technique with you. It's what we like to refer to as our own "in-class mini reading competition".
This is how we do it:
- One person starts reading aloud
- If they make two errors in reading, regardless of what those errors are (mispronouncing words, not taking a short break at the end of a sentence, etc.), they stop reading
- The next person in line continues to read
- The cycle continues until the end of the text
- The winner is the person who has read the most lines without errors
This is something that can be done either individually or in a group. If you're doing it individually, a good method is to record yourself and analyze your reading or ask someone more proficient (a teacher, a native-speaking friend) to point out what you could improve upon.
The point of this technique is to improve your reading and speaking fluency, pronunciation, and motivation to learn English - all at once.
It's just something that lights up that spark in each learner and demonstrates their language in action. It's an opportunity to see how fluent you are exactly and self-assess where you are and where you need to be as an English learner.
Pro Tip: Try getting into character when reading out loud as much as possible by using different accents and switching the tone of your voice. This really brings out the best out of you, as you have to focus on more things than just figuring out what to say.
Think in English
The whole point of reading in English is to get yourself to think in English at all times. You see, thinking in English is the key to speaking well and being able to communicate on a native-like level. In other words:
The highest level one can get to as an English learner in terms of language fluency is being able to command the English language in the same way native speakers do.
The prerequisite to that is a ton of reading, among other things. You see, just listening to native speakers talk in English lacks visual comprehension and talking to native speakers might not be possible for everyone.
On the other hand, anyone can afford to read, and as such, fully immerse themselves in the English language. A picture might sometimes be worth a thousand words. However, a book, story or a simple text is often worth much more, especially for English learners.
Conclusion: Reading "Is" Speaking
Just think about this for a second...
Whenever you're reading something, you're actually being spoken to by the person who wrote it. Technically, you're having a conversation in English, so reading directly influences how you understand, command, and master language while speaking.
You just need to know how to approach reading based on your current and desired level of English fluency.
Hope this article was helpful in that regard. Until next time... happy learning, everyone!