Everyone knows that you need to be reading if you want to learn English.
It is one of the best things you can do to increase your vocabulary, improve your grammar and build your English comprehension.
But, just staring at a book, hoping your brain will absorb the words, will not improve English.
What we are going to do in this article is to show you a reading technique that focuses on active learning, that will help you develop the English vocabulary you need to talk about any topic you want to discuss.
For other active learning activities that focus on learning vocabulary, check out our articles on.
"Why Does This Reading Technique Work?"
Did you know, there are two types of reading that can be classed as active learning?
Both of these two types should be included in your study timetable.
- Intensive Reading: Best used with articles and non-fiction, focuses on understanding 100% of a text and developing your vocabulary.
- Extensive Reading: Best used with stories and fiction, focuses on guessing what you don't understand from context and what you know.
Intensive reading's strength is it's the ability to map out related/new vocabulary, for more advanced topics in English (IELTS, Business, interests...) and most importantly, allows you to track, which of these new words are important and common for this topic.
What we are going to do today is a step by step guide to Intensive Reading using an article from TechAsia.
Step One: Choosing The Right Article
Intensive reading is aimed at understanding 100% of the article or blog post, it is crucial you choose the article carefully.
You can choose a regular article that you find in the news; however, it's better if you choose topics around subjects you need to understand and talk about.
Check this out
"What Topics Are Discussed In Vietnam Through The Eyes Of Local Startups"?
This article is a great introduction for anyone doing business in Vietnam and it covers...
- Why Vietnam is a good place for Entrepreneurs and Startup companies.
- North South Business differences in Vietnam
- Overseas Educated vs Viet Kieu doing business in Vietnam.
As you can see...
Choosing the right kind of article will massively help you being able to discuss these topics effectively.
This is a useful method for learning specialized vocabulary for topics that you need to discuss.
Don't choose any articles, choose articles that go into detail about your chosen topic.
Step Two: Getting The Articles Background
Before we go to the steps, just a quick tip before we continue, to make things ten times easier.
Read a bit of background about the topic first... In Vietnamese!
If you are studying a new topic you should read some general information about this topic first because it will make learning the more complicated information easier.
I have no background in anything science and have never picked up a science book in my free time before.
By reading a 10-minute wiki article about Stevens ideas and watching a documentary, I can get a much greater understanding of the topic when I read it, probably enough that I can start to have real conversations about this topic.
Before you read your article, you need to make sure you have a general understanding of the topic.
This makes it ten times easier to learn the new vocabulary if you have this understanding.
You can get this general understanding from anywhere, Wikipedia is the easiest place to find this information from, however, I personally recommend graphic guides.
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Step Three: Read Paragraph One + Summary:
So you have your chosen article, and you have read a few summaries online about the topic you are interested in to get the background.
So what now?
The first thing you need to know, is you will not be reading the whole article at once.
You will be reading paragraph by paragraph.
Important: This activity takes time, you won't be able to say to your friends "I read five articles today" but you will understand the topic much fast this way.
Read the first paragraph (see bellow) and make a note of the words that you don't know.
Tech In Asia: Vietnam through the eyes of local startups
With a population of 90 million, Vietnam is the third largest market in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines. Like its counterparts, Vietnam is also home to a lot of young people, approximately 40 percent of whom are less than 25 years old. This growing population of young people will likely be the next generation of consumers and bring big opportunities for entrepreneurs tapping into this emerging market. The country is also well-connected, with 50 percent of the population on the internet and more than a third using smartphones.
Example of Unknown vocabulary from the example above:
Do not look up the new words, this will come later.
Create a summary about the paragraph you have just read.
Do not read the whole article, read paragraph by paragraph.
Once you have read the paragraph, you will write a small summary about what you think the paragraph was stalking about. Nothing huge, say less than 50 words. (Example bellow)...
This paragraph is introducing the advantages Vietnam has for its businesses and is also comparing Vietnamese to it's main counterparts in Asia (Indonesia and The Philippines).
If you have no idea what the article is about, then guess as best as you can.
"It's about Business in Vietnam"
"It's about Business in the North and South of Vietnam".
Its the summary where you will be learning the most, because it will give you the context to put the new words that you learn into and will help you remember the words a lot easier. (The Science of Accelerated Learning)
This is one of the most effective ways that you can learn new vocabulary ( How We Learn)
You will not be reading the whole article, you will be reading paragraph by paragraph.
Once you have read the paragraph, note down any words that you don't know, but do not look them up yet.
Once you have read the paragraph then write a quick summary about what you just read.
If you have no idea what the paragraph was talking about then do your best and still write something.
Step 4: How To Never Forget New Words:
Once you have written your summary, then what you need to do is look up the new words.
Write your own definition, make it as simple/complicated/funny/ personal as you want.
See the example below for an example of writing your own definition.
The next thing you need to do is to write to examples of the word using the word in different ways.
Again don't copy, what you are doing here is getting used to how the word is used and will help you recognize and use it in conversation and when you are reading it in text.
“"Do I need to do this for all the words"?
Yes, and you also need to make a note of how frequently words appear in articles.
The more often the word appears in the article, the more common it is for the topics you are studying. If the word appears in several articles about related topics, then I would spend more time on that word and learn it effectively.
When you are writing down the words you don't know from the article, make sure that you note down how many times the unknown word appears in the article.
The more often the word appears in the article, the higher the chance these are important words to this topic.
These words turn into customer made and personal flashcards.
"Do I Have To Make Flashcards For Every Word?"
No... let me give you an example here.
In Harry Potter, when Harry is choosing his Wand, we are given a description of what the different types of Wand are made out of.
In the book, we are told that different wands are made form different types of wood.
- Silver Birch
If you were doing this activity on this page, you would not need to know by heart what type of tree the Wands are made of, you only need to know that they are trees and they are a type of wood.
This you can understand from the context around the word, not just learning the word by heart.
Don't make your life harder by giving yourself more work, use common sense and the background information to get a better understanding of useful words and non useful words.
Choose which are the most useful words for your topic and learn those words using flashcards.
Step 5: Read Again + Summary + Compare:
"So I have my words, now do I start reading more of the article"?
Now you read the same paragraph as before.
(Oh and make sure you read out loud, this will force you to actually read the words and not skim over them).
Read the same paragraph and write one more summary, but this time you have a greater understanding of the words, once you have finished writing the summary compare your first summary to the second summary.
This is where you will learn the most, by noticing your mistakes.
Read the paragraph again once you understand the new words.
This will further reinforce what you are learning and will then show you if you have understood the new words in the context.
Step 6: Why Intensive Reading Will Help You Learn English:
"So if i do this activity everyday I will quickly learn how to talk about these topics"?
Yes and no...
This activities strength is in it allows you to acquire new vocabulary about topics, in context and track the most common useful words, allowing you to use them in conversations.
I recommend you do this activity two or three times a week, for around 30 minutes to 45 minutes, anymore and you start to lose concentration and don't absorb the information anymore.
However, this is not a one size fits all study technique, there are different parts of the language that you need to work on for you to be fluent.
For advice on how to put a study timetable together (what you should study and How), check out our support group.
Intensive reading will help you when you are studying and it is one of the more effective activities when you are studying.
However, it is not the only activity you should be using when studying English.
Intensive Reading is one of the most useful study techniques that you can use to get from intermediate to advanced levels in English.
Do this before you have your English lesson/ conversation practice to build up your knowledge of the topic and then discuss with your partner/teacher to practice.
If you want to practice speaking about these topics then check out Italki, for a free language exchange.
And for further recommendations and support then check out our Facebook Group, the English Support Group.
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