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    #1

    Encountering new words when reading a book

    First of all, hello to all. I'm new to this forum, and I'm not sure if this is in the correct section! Sorry if it isn't or if I'm breaking any rules.
    English is my second language, and although I'd consider myself a fluent speaker, I have a really hard time reading books in the English language. It's probably something to do with the fact that I'm a perfectionist and whenever I encounter a word I'm not familiar with, I will immediately look it up on the dictionary. I used to think that was the correct thing to do, but then it became very exhausting and took away the pleasure I get from reading. When I read books in my native language, I usually can infer the meaning of words/expressions I'm not familiar with very easily, so it's not a problem.


    Does anyone have any tips on how to deal with this? I feel like I can't keep avoiding Anglophone literature anymore because I've gotten to a level where I should be able to read books in English comfortably. But when an author starts meticulously describing things (especially places!) with all those complicated words, I get all OCD about it and instantly pull out a dictionary. Should I be focusing more on the overall meaning of things? Or should I try to expand my vocabulary even more in other ways?

    Thank you!

  1. Roman55's Avatar
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      • Italy
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    #2

    Re: Encountering new words when reading a book

    What I do when reading in another language that I'm comfortable with is keep a notebook handy. If I come across a word I'm not familiar with I write it down quickly and then carry on reading. When the reading session is over I look all of the words up in one sitting, and write down their meanings. This exercise is usually enough to fix the meaning in my mind and I don't need to look at the notebook again. Whenever possible I use a dictionary written in the language concerned.

    While learning a language I would use a bilingual dictionary, but once the language is more or less mastered I find it much more effective to not rely on a translation.

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    #3

    Re: Encountering new words when reading a book

    I would say that only looking up words when you really need to know the meaning would make your reading more efficient- many native speakers don't know the meaning of every word they read. If it sticks in your brain and won't go away, look it up.

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    #4

    Re: Encountering new words when reading a book

    I would suggest you choose your books more carefully when reading English. It's okay to ignore some words you're not familiar with, but eventually this will frustrate and discourage you. For the time being, don't try to read the same kind of books in English that you would read in your own language. Try to find books and authors that could serve as stepping stones for you. You might want try with something less literary for a while to help you build up your vocabulary. Not that I'm suggesting you read trashy novels, just books that are more accessible. When learning German I loved reading kafka, but Thomas Mann had me reaching for my dictionary every second line.

    Another technique I sometimes use is to read a book translated from my native language into the language I'm learning. For example, I'm currently reading a novel by Scottish author Denise Mina translated into French. I find the French language difficult, but I understand all the cultural references and can therefore appreciate the story a lot more than if the story were set in France. If I tried to read a novel set in 18th century France, then there would be too many aspects of the story that would confuse me.

    Alternatively you could try reading English translations of your favourite books from your own language. In this case you might be able to "kill two birds with one stone", as we say. You would probably have an enjoyable reading experience, re-reading your favourite book. At the same time, you would certainly learn lots of new vocabulary without looking in a dictionary.

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