Learn/Teach English – the joy of reading in a new language!

I forgot what it feels like, for the first time, to read and understand a text in a different language!

In this video I share my experience when I read and understood one page in Russian!


Hey there! Something happened yesterday, that gave me great joy. I read a page in Russian and understood almost everything.

(Intro: English without Fear where you can learn to speak English naturally, through listening to stories)

Yes, Russian! Why Russian? You might say: “Maria, I thought you were working on Spanish. I thought you were acquiring Spanish!”  I am, but I studied Russian for three and a half years in university. Decades ago.

I have a friend, whom I have never met, named Michelle Whaley. She teaches Russian in Alaska. She also teaches beginning Spanish to little kids and Spanish is not her strongest language. So, in addition to teaching Russian and teaching Spanish, she’s also writing a little novel for Russian learners. It’s at the intermediate level.

She wrote about it in her latest blog. And I typed a comment saying, “Well done, Michelle, you have so much going on. And you are writing a reader for Russian learners! That’s awesome.” I then said, “I studied Russian years ago in college. I actually had three and a half years.” 

She wrote right back, “Maria, I’ll send you the first four chapters of my reader, if you would like.  I think you could understand it.”

I said, “Sure…Michele, send it and I’ll see.” I had very low expectations. After all, this has been years since I was thinking and speaking and reading Russian.

I sat down yesterday with the first chapter, just a page. And she had provided a glossary. So, I had the glossary handy and I started to read. I started to figure out what the letters meant and what the words meant. And I could understand it! I was so surprised. I did look up two words in the glossary. One word I should have known, and one was new to me, but I understood what I read.

And all of a sudden this explosive sense of joy welled up and came out –  the power of reading and understanding something in another language. I had forgotten that, in learning Spanish. I think it’s because my level of Russian is so low, so scanty, so minimal. But it’s enough that I was surprised and very happy.

My point in telling you this is…. if you, as a language teacher are not acquiring a language yourself and reading in your target language, the new language, then you don’t know about the power of reading and understanding. You need to do that. And as a language teacher, you need to give the gift of reading to your students.

And if you’re an English language learner, you need to be reading. Pick a text that you can understand, eight-five (85), at least 85%, 85 to 90%. That way you will experience the joy. You don’t want to struggle with trying to figure out what the whole thing means. You just want to understand the text.

This is important to me for another reason because I’m teaching two boys beginning Spanish, me with my intermediate-level Spanish. They are eight and 10 years old. 

We’re reading together a Spanish reader for beginners called Brandon Quiere un Perro, (Brandon wants a dog). I always give them a homework assignment, (we’re doing this by zoom.) And one time recently, I had them read, to translate. “Read” means, translate, translate into English or the other language. Translate into your native language,  your first language.  I had them, the assignment was: read out loud to a parent, a chapter that we had worked on. 

Now these are boys. They didn’t come back to me and say, “Oh, Mimi! (that’s what I have them call me because one is my grandson, Noah, and Mimi is my grandma name.) They didn’t say, “ Mimi, oh, it was wonderful. I experienced joy!” Eight and 10-year- old boys, don’t talk about joy like that. But from yesterday and my experience with understanding the Russian that Michele sent me, I know that these boys must have felt some satisfaction in reading and understanding, and I hope their parents were impressed.

What about you as a learner, as a teacher? Are you reading, are you experiencing joy? If not, why not find something? Read it to understand, not to understand every word, but to understand the story and let me know.  Leave me a comment below this video. There’s joy to be had. 

And if you would like the transcript, the written words for this episode, go to my website, www.englishwithoutfear.com. And there you can find the transcript to this episode and many others. This is Maria from English without Fear. Talk to you next time.

(Outro: Thanks for watching. For questions or comments, here’s my email.)

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