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Reading techniques

As we all know, reading is a great way to increase our vocabulary, but there are many ways to go about it. What's the best one in your opinion?

Let's break it down...

  • Computer screen (+ online dictionaries) vs. Kindle (+ dictionary) vs. Book
  • Looking up every single word vs. Looking up only the most important ones vs. Writing words down and looking them up later
  • Saving words on a website or software vs. Writing down words on a notebook vs. Reading without getting distracted

I don't like reading on a computer screen, but unfortunately Kindle's dictionaries are a bit limited. And I don't like saving every single word, it gets too tiring after a while.

I was thinking of reading Harry Potter in my target language. I've got the ebook, the audiobook, and the actual book that I read when I was a kid. I might also use my phone as an online dictionary, in case the Kindle isn't enough, and my old book to check the most difficult sentences. Actually, I'm not really sure what to do here, I don't know what's the best way to go about the words I don't know. Should I save them all? Or is it better to just go with the flow? What do you guys think? :D

April 29, 2017



I think you should only look up words that appear a lot and can't be guessed from the context, and skip the others, otherwise you will spend too much time searching and becomes frustrating. The idea here is to practice the language, not to actually read Harry Potter.


You're probably right, I shouldn't worry about words that don't appear often. Thanks!


Hi, I think you should read with a pencil and a sheet of paper in order to write the words you don't understand. And the following day you'll have to check them in your dictionnary. if you're not pleased with your book, you won't learn. Maybe i'm wrong.


Great advice, thank you!


Go with the Flow! Yes, It can be done on a Kindle easily if set up properly. I am reading Harry Potter in Russian on the computer or phone app using ReadLang and it operates in a similar fashion (ReadLang also sets up flashcards automatically for any word you check, a nice plus if you want that feature) - when you get to a word you want the definition for, tap it and the dictionary definition in English will pop up. I've listed a couple of links discussing this and how to set up your Kindle for this below. Harry Potter reads at a B2/C1 level according to ReadLang, so be ready to see a lot of words you don't recognize. I am reading Russian at an A2/B1 level (finished the tree a month ago), so I run into a lot of Russian words I don't know. I only look up a word or two every now and then because it would otherwise break the flow of reading. I do know the story so well that it does not stop the flow of reading too much and is still enjoyable. One thing I do do is read out-loud. This helps a lot with my verbal pronunciation and is easier to do with languages that are written phonetically as they are spoken, like Spanish and Russian. I actually looked at the Spanish version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Spanish just now (I'm also A2/B1 in Spanish reading) and found it fairly easy to follow along with - much easier than Russian due to there being a lot more congates/transparent words and not being written in cyrillic. I would say, set it up on your Kindle and give it a go. Then report back on how it is going. Good Luck.



PS - I just noticed you are also working on the Russian tree, although very early into it. I would wait to start reading Harry Potter in Russian using the technique I talked about above until you are comfortable at at least half way through the tree if not completely finished (you can start the Spanish version mush earlier due to the numerous congates and alphabet). However, I would say you can start listening to the audiobook right away (this is true for Spanish as well). I started listening to the audiobook for Book 1 when I was only one month into Russian, probably at level 8 or 10/ 20% complete. First, just listen to try to figure out what might be going on. I had my audiobook in 5 minute mp3's. Listen to a section 2 or 3 times - the repetition helps a lot. I set up my music player to select the audiobook files randomly and then I would try to figure out where the audio was from in the book. I don't do this anymore, since I know enough Russian now (and the story) that I can follow along with the story fairly easily at this point. I have now listened to the first 4 Harry Potter Books this way (several times each, I listen to them when driving long distances) - but I am still only half way through reading Book 1 (about a chapter every 4-5 days).


Thank you so much, such a great and detailed answer! So, if my Kindle can't find the translation of a particular word I should just ignore it, right?

Your method also looks very interesting, very interesting indeed. I was planning to listen to each chapter after having already read it at least once, I didn't even think of moving on with the audiobook while still reading the first chapters. Isn't it too difficult or confusing, though? (my level is also around A2/B1, but I never drive long distances)

One last question: after having listened to the first four books, and having read the first half of the first one, how much would you say your Russian has improved? (in CEFR terms, if you like!)


Good idea. I might try the exact same thing.


Anything that's about the right level for you, and where there's a dictionary available. I use Kindle, FBReader, and Wiktionary.


About the dilemma of looking up in the dictionary - I found that reading comics solves some of the problems. Not sure if any simple ones exist in Spanish / Russian, but for French I found Tintin to be reasonably good and simple for my nearly elementary French. Of course I didn't know half the words initially.

Since you see the pictures, even if sometimes you get tired of looking up the dictionary too often, you can admire the picture and get the gist of the story anyway

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