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How should you approach reading stories in your target language?

I'm not talking about Duolingo Stories (but when they do it for Italian and German, I'll be there day 1), I'm referring to actual books/novels/short stories, etc...

In Italian, the problem I'm having is that children's stories (Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, etc...) are at about the right level for me right now to be able to understand 90% of what's being said verbatim (with some vocab I won't understand), but for the most part I get it, and it's satisfying. The problem is that the stories aren't interesting or engaging, beause they're made for little kids, so the satisfaction part of knowing what I'm reading goes away when I realize the story is not very interesting to me.

Now, here's the thing. I recently found some Goosebumps books in Italian online and I bought one. I thought if I can understand these, I would enjoy it so much, because the story is at least engaging ENOUGH to be able to keep me entertained while I learn and push through. It's honestly a huge struggle for me to read. I can understand maybe...20% of it. If I didn't already know the story watching it when I was younger I'm not sure I would know what's going on entirely. My memory of the story is filling in the gaps when there's a scene where I can't grasp what's going on.

My question is...is this good for me to do, or should I go back down to really young children's stories and picture books? I think Goosebumps is like an 8 year old reading level, and while that's definitely above my level, I do understand some of it, and like I said, my brain is able to fill me in to what's going on in a scene because I'm so familiar with the episode from when I was younger. Yes, it's frustrating and it takes me about 20 mins to read a chapter (they're really short), but is this actually helping me with the language at this point, or is it counter productive? It's not like I understand nothing and I'm picking up a Stephen King novel in Russian (I don't know any Russian), I do understand some of it.

So when you're reading material in your target language, is it better to aim at your level, or go a bit beyond what you know? I'm not sure if reading this is too hard for me to be efficient or if it's just hard enough so that I'm getting something out of it. I've only read the first two chapters by the way. I feel like it also might subconsciously help me with sentence structure and prepositions and stuff like that, but I'm not sure if it's actually helping me in the long run or if it's a waste of time at this point. What do you guys think? Should I keep pushing through or should I shelf it for now?


December 1, 2017



I do this in French all the time and it actually helps me immensely. I do it with movies too (I don't use subtitles but I'll read a blurb on what it's about before hand if I don't know the movie). This forces your brain to listen to what their saying to try to understand and fill in the gaps or, in the case of reading, try to comprehend what it's seeing. Trust me, I've read some things that were WAY over my head but I still managed to learn new words and phrases. Just try not to translate every single sentence or you will exhaust yourself, pay attention to the words you don't know that are surrounded by words you do know, write them down and look them up later. It definitely can be a challenge but I find it's super helpful to use translated versions of my favorite books to learn vocab that is interesting to me. Have fun!


I started straight with simple adult books and read them on a kindle with a built in dictionary, so I didn’t have to break my flow of reading to look things up. It’s enough effort that I didn’t want to spend all that time reading something of no interest. I will skim a few sentences for meaning/feel and then go back and read more slowly trying to understand it all. It’s hard at first but gets easier with practice.

This is an low intermediate level book aimed at Italian learners that I enjoyed. It’s not super great writing, but it’s entertaining enough. I felt quite proud when I had finished it.



What works best for me is to read books on a Kindle with a foreign language dictionary installed on it. That way I can read a "difficult enough" book to keep me interested and I can look up unfamiliar words with the touch of a finger. When I tried to do this with a paperback dictionary, by the time I found the unfamiliar word I had forgotten what the sentence was about. It just slowed me down too much for me to keep going.

Here's a great post about reading a book on a Kindle: http://gregreflects.blogspot.com/2014/09/how-to-read-foreign-novel-on-kindle.html


in my opinion, i think you start reading books your comfortable with, and if you feel like you can do more, then read the goosebumps book. If its too hard then go back to before, maybe find other books in the same learning level as Red riding hood, etc until you feel like you can move on. I hope this helps!


You could also listen to ebooks with audio online to help with your pronunciation of words.


Have you tried www.bliubliu.com or http://readlang.com?

Well, that does not mean that I have a real clue how BliuBliu truly works / should work as for my Portuguese one screen sticks to the same words and I can NOT refresh them anymore.

I may return to it after I finished the Portuguese stories as I have completed my EN-PT tree and BliuBliu was nothing for a true Portuguese beginner with missing "very easy" material early this easier after just some months of learning when I registered.

With much more vocabulary (incl. Memrise) knowledge after ~1 year it may (hopefully) finally work to use BliuBliu for my first stories....

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