IGCSE French/Spanish: 4: Read all about it; how to understand more of what you read.

IGCSE French/Spanish: 4: Read all about it; how to understand more of what you read.

In today’s language blog an Oxford Open Learning tutor gives advice on improving your ability to read in French and Spanish.

IGCSE French/Spanish: 4:  Read all about it; how to understand more of what you read.

Most of what you learnt in the previous blog about improving your listening skills can also be applied to the skill of reading, all you have to do is READ as much as possible in the target language, instead of listen! The trick is to keep it interesting, so try to read the same kind of content as you would choose to read in English. Not only will you learn more that way but you will also be able to stay motivated, as you won’t be bored with what you are reading.

  • Websites – as mentioned in the previous blog, use google.es (for Spanish) or google.fr (for French) and type your search terms in the language. This will give you a wider choice of authentic material.
  • Know your limits! Remember that your reading skills will not be as strong in Spanish/French as they are in English, so don’t try to read material that is too difficult. This will only demotivate you and do nothing for your confidence. For example: if you are used to reading articles from broadsheet newspapers in English, try to start with some lighter, shorter articles (such as blogs) in the target language.
  • Don’t spend too long reading, you can easily get bogged down and then you will inevitably switch off. As with listening, ‘little and often’ is by far the most effective approach.
  • When you come across a new word, try to work out its meaning by looking for spelling similarities with a word (in that language or even English) that you already know. Try to spot links between words. If that doesn’t work, try working it out from the context (by understanding what the words around it mean). It really helps if you know what kind of a word you are dealing with e.g. verb/noun/adjective and sometimes it is entirely possible to decipher the meaning of a whole text in this way.
  • Look up or check new words from what you read, then make a note of them and their English meaning in a notebook/file that you know you will go back and refer to. Try to re-use them as much as possible in speaking and writing. Always limit how many you look up to 10 or less otherwise this useful task becomes an absolute chore!
  • A quick spot-test you can do with yourself to see how well you understand a sentence/passage is to ask yourself whether you would be able to explain to someone in English the main gist of what it is about. That does not mean you have to be able to translate it word-for-word as that is a totally separate skill. In an exam situation (or even in real life come to that) a general understanding of the gist is very often enough to be able to complete what is required of you.
  • As in listening go back to old texts that you once found difficult – this will help your confidence and show you just how far your reading skills have developed!

Good Luck!

Chloe Bullock


To find out more about studying French or Spanish visit the Oxford Open Learning website, or contact a Student Adviser for more details.

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