When it comes to learning a new language, there are several factors that you might not expect to encounter. For English language learners, many of the nuances and quirks of English can make the language more complicated than they had anticipated, particularly when it comes to reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension is your ability to understand a written text. As you no doubt know from your first language, the way a person speaks can be quite different from the way he or she writes, and this gets even trickier when context is involved. For example, a cookbook may use the same words and form as a classic piece of literature, but the context can change the meaning of the words and make the text seem confusing.
If you are looking for ways to improve your reading comprehension skills in English, consider incorporating the following tips into your study routine:
1. Diversify your reading material
If you are learning English in a classroom or from a textbook, you have likely become familiar with a certain style of writing that is intended to help you master the mechanics of the language. While this style serves as an excellent introduction to English, it is also important to expose yourself to other types of reading material with which you may be less familiar. For instance, the owner’s manual for your computer, while dry, is written in a step-by-step format that can demonstrate how words and phrases operate in a specific context. Incorporating items like magazines and newspapers into your reading routine can thus help you deepen your comprehension skills across multiple genres.
2. Watch videos
Similarly, watching short videos can be a tremendous help when it comes to understanding words in context. While this requires little or no reading, the videos can instruct you in the ways in which language can change based on the context in which it is used. A visual demonstration of a concept can prompt you to approach information in a very different way than if you were to encounter it in a textbook. And, when you next see this type of phrasing or language in a text, you will have experience with it, and you will be better able to fully comprehend the writer’s message.
3. Capitalize on comparisons
In many cases, writers will use techniques like allegory and metaphor when telling a story. These kinds of literary devices can be difficult for native speakers and very challenging for English language learners. If you find that you are struggling with a section of text, locate a description or passage that is similar, and perhaps a bit easier to comprehend. For instance, if you read a sentence about a football player wrenching his arm, you may be thrown off by the word “wrench.” By finding other, more straightforward descriptions of similar injuries, you may soon see how the author is using colorful or descriptive language, and you will have a much stronger ability to comprehend the original text.
4. Use sources with visual aids
When it comes to technical writing in fields like economics or the natural sciences, you might already be aware that these areas use particular language that is often unique to the field. For that reason, it can be very useful to turn to articles or books that make good use of visual aids like charts and graphs. Not only does this help you better understand and interpret the information that you are given, it also provides an additional reference that can improve your ability to recall and fully comprehend the text.
5. Write summaries of texts
Depending on your skill level, you might find yourself reading complex sentences, paragraphs, or even entire chapters written in a variety of styles and formats. In this case, it can be very helpful to write a brief summary of the text after you have completed the reading. This exercise requires you to revisit the material and to consider what has been presented. Moreover, this is an effective way to test yourself on your reading comprehension skills. If, after writing your summary, you read it back and it does not sound correct, you will know that you may have missed something. You can then go back and reread the text.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.