How to start reading in another language

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Dear reader,

Through the year I spent on Instagram, many people have been curious to know how I started reading in English even though I was French. Today, I am going to tell you my story before giving you some tips so you can start reading in another language as well. The last part of this blog post will be in French: I will give some tips to all my French visitors on how to start reading in English specifically and some recommendations to start with.


My story

As I already explained on another blog post about why I speak in English on social media, the English language has always attracted me. As I grew up, I started to want to learn more and more by my own and it started with watching tv shows and movies in English with French subtitles, then English subtitles. I also listened to the BBC every morning while I got ready, watched YouTube videos by English youtubers (and imitate their accent) and talked in English whenever I could (i.e. on social media). Of course, I soon decided to start reading in English, but to help me practice at first.

I started with some books someone in my family gave me. It was short ones, and most of them were chick lit. I hated them, as it isn’t a genre I like, but it was easy to read and perfect to start with. However, I soon realised that reading translations in French of books that were originally in English didn’t make sense: If I could understand the English language, why am I reading a translation? I would never read a French book in English for example, so I decided to switch to the original versions.

I have to be honest, another reason for this change was the price of the books. In France, you have to pay at least 16€ for a YA book – which is the price of an English hard copy on Amazon. An English paperback copy is usually worth 7€ on this website, so it was obvious that reading in English was definitely cheaper.

When I really started to read in English, I had nobody to give me advice so I was a bit lost. I just had one rule: I would read one book in French, then in English, then in French etc. I couldn’t yet switch entirely to the English language and I had to let my brain breathe a little. Even though I started with some tough reads (reading Illuminae wasn’t a good idea at all), I still made some progress and learned a lot.

Besides of that, I kept practicing the English language until finally, on the 1st of January of 2017 I decided to read only in English. I never went back and I learned so much. I can’t quite explain how much I improved myself. I know I am not speaking English perfectly and that sometimes it can take me a moment while reading to understand what is happening (especially while reading classics) but it really helped me and still does.

Starting reading only in English probably is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It made me feel better, as I am way more comfortable while talking in English, and helped me in practicing the language. I am learning everyday and am also evolving everyday. I highly recommend to anyone to try to read in another language – I promise it helps you grow as a reader but also as a person.

Some tips

In this list, you will find all the tips I wish I had when I started reading in English. I think that they are relevant for any languages, but feel free to send me any other tips you have as well.

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Pour les français qui veulent commencer à lire en anglais

Tout au long de mon année passée sur Instagram, beaucoup de personnes françaises m’ont demandé de l’aide afin de commencer à lire en langue anglaise. Puisque je donne toujours les mêmes conseils, j’ai décidé de les répertorier ici afin d’aller plus vite dans l’avenir. Je conclurai cet article en vous laissant également quelques recommandations de livres pour véritablement vous y mettre. Alors… C’est parti !

Mes conseils pour se mettre à la lecture VO :

  • Fuyez la fantasy et la science-fiction. Ces genres sont truffés de mots inventés ou venus d’un autre temps, ce dont vous n’avez pas besoin pour le moment. Inutile donc de se compliquer la tâche et concentrez vous sur les romans dits “contemporains”, c’est-à-dire ceux qui se passent à notre époque et qui ne comporte aucun élément fantastique. Tentez également les romans pour enfants : ils vous assureront une histoire simple à suivre et un vocabulaire facile à comprendre.
  • Relisez d’abord des romans que vous avez déjà lu en français. Grâce à cette technique, vous serez sûrs de ne rien manquer de l’histoire au cas où vous manqueriez encore de vocabulaire. Vous n’aurez plus qu’à savourer la langue anglaise sans trop vous en faire.
  • Ne vous arrêtez surtout pas pour tous les mots que vous rencontrez et ne comprenez pas. A moins que le dit mot soit vital pour la compréhension de l’histoire, laissez tomber et tenter d’en déduire le sens par vous-même grâce au contexte.
  • Allez-y doucement. Il est tout à fait normal de mettre plusieurs semaines, voire un mois ou plus, pour lire vos premiers romans en anglais. De plus, ne vous étonnez pas si vous ressentez de la fatigue ou lassitude bien plus rapidement qu’en français : votre cerveau va beaucoup travailler pour comprendre ce qui se passe sous ses yeux, alors ne vous forcez pas. Gardez un petit livre en français à côté et lisez quelques pages en anglais quand vous en avez le temps et l’envie.
  • Lorsque vous sentez que vous lisez un livre en anglais aussi ou presque aussi vite qu’un livre en français, mixez les deux. Lisez un livre en français, puis en anglais, puis en français et ainsi de suite. Ne vous forcez pas à changer de langue immédiatement : il faut d’abord s’assurer de savoir marcher avant de se mettre à courir.
  • Quand vous vous sentez prêts, tentez votre premier roman de fantasy/science-fiction en anglais. N’ayez pas peur du vocabulaire ou de l’histoire : il suffit de se lancer.
  • N’oubliez pas que lire en anglais est une chose, mais continuer à exercer la langue est tout aussi important. N’hésitez pas à regarder des séries en anglais sous-titrées en anglais, à lire la presse en anglais ou à écouter la radio dans cette langue également. Allez aussi suivre quelques comptes de lecteurs anglophones : vous verrez que vous en apprendrez beaucoup.
  • Et dès que vous le souhaitez, lancez vous dans la littérature anglophone complètement ! Vous pourrez maintenant lire tout ce que vous souhaitez, même lorsque les livres n’ont pas été traduits, et ce dès leur jour de sortie.

Quelques recommandations pour se lancer dans la lecture VO :

  • Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda par Becky Albertali,
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower par Stephen Chbosky,

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  • One par Sarah Crossan,
  • Fangirl par Rainbow Rowell,

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  • Maybe Someday par Colleen Hoover,
  • We Were Liars par E. Lockhart,

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  • Et finalement tout ce qui vous passe par la main !

I hope that this blog post was helpful to any of you who either wondered how I started reading in English or wanted to start reading in another language on their own. Do not hesitate to tell me your own story or add some more advice to those lists!

Love always,

Clara

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11 thoughts on “How to start reading in another language”

  1. Brilliant post! Growing up, I was in your exact situation! I’m not an English native speaker, but I absolutely adore the language and around 4 years ago, I decided to pick up reading in English and I’ve been loving it! It’s brought me together with a bunch of amazing lovely people and I honestly love it so much! I really relate to your situation- this journey of ours is quite impressive 💛
    Great post!!

    Like

  2. Great post! I can relate to this so much.

    I’m not an English native speaker neither but the language always called me. I did the same things you did, watch tv with subtitles, listening music, reading English speakers’ blogs and such, and finally, around 4 years ago started to read only in English. Now, I can’t read any other way; last November I read a translation of one of my favorite books and I wish I could erase it from my mind, it wasn’t good at all.

    There’s always a tip that I gave people who ask me how to read in English and that’s just to read in it, don’t try to translate the words in our minds because that’s only going to cause us a headache. If you know that “House” is “Maison” you just need to read “house” in your mind instead of “house = maison” or know what “house” represents, just as when we were learning to read as children and need to associate with figures but, at the end, we read in our own language. I don’t know if I explained myself well, I can do it better in Spanish but well, this is the principal.

    Now, I’m learning French (and this is a question I wanted to ask you for a long time), what books in French do you recommend me to start with? Thank you.

    Sorry, for the long post. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

    Again, great post!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m really glad you could relate to this and the tip you shared is indeed a great one!
      Sadly, I don’t read much in France so I don’t have a lot of recommendations but apparently Le Petit Prince is a great start!
      THANK YOU for the long post!

      Like

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