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Extensive reading - success stories?

  Tags: Reading
 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
9 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
United Kingdom
Joined 3291 days ago

17 posts - 18 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Korean

 Message 1 of 9
02 August 2015 at 10:17pm | IP Logged 
I'm curious to hear about other people's experiences with extensive reading. How much
time do you have to put in a day to feel the effects? I've seen some articles saying it
would be months before you feel the effects, was this the case for you?

For the past couple of weeks I've been reading Korean children's books for 45 minutes
to an hour a day and it's been quite enjoyable (no other study apart from reviewing my
old Anki deck). The texts have varied in difficulty but I've generally followed along
whether it's a story I'm familiar with or not. However, I'm kind of worried that I'm
not actually learning that much compared to my previous studies using Subs2SRS which
was great but after 6 months I got a bit tired of. Is 45 minutes of reading even

The benefits to extensive reading is just so hard to 'quantify' that I guess it would
be reassuring to hear about other's success stories!
2 persons have voted this message useful

Lucie Tellier
Joined 1835 days ago

21 posts - 27 votes
Speaks: French*, English

 Message 2 of 9
03 August 2015 at 1:06am | IP Logged 
I've read tons of articles in English (and I mean tons), but not that many books.

I've probably read over 10,000 pages of blogs/articles in English by now, and I wouldn't be surprised if my actual number of pages read was more like 100,000.

I don't think I got much out of reading that many articles. I mostly did it for fun anyway. I've read tabloids, PhD papers, newspaper articles, regular blogs...

I bought a new smartphone yesterday (the cheapest one I could find). I was reading the user manual and couldn't figure how to insert the SIM card, because it kept getting stuck (and it was only partly inserted into the slot, so I couldn't put the battery in).

I showed the user manual to my mother, and she told me "But this is in English!".
I answered something along the lines of: "Uh, no, last time I checked that manual was in French. Seriously, I swear it's in French."

Now, I've read an embarrassing amount of "tech" stuff in English. Thus, my vocabulary in that field is stronger in English than in French.

Turns out the user manual was in English. I proceeded to translate the manual into French, which was actually a really simple exercise for me.

I'm not sure how I knew those words, since I have never been interested in smartphones. I love computers, so I suppose I stumbled upon these same exact words, except that in the context of the articles I was reading, they were applied to computers.

All I can say is that all the extensive reading in the world isn't going to replace a good vocabulary-learning method.

2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3374 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 Message 3 of 9
03 August 2015 at 2:35am | IP Logged 
All three of my learnt languages improved immensely after a few thousand pages. I started reading at different points for each of them. First jump in my ability to read tends to come after a few dozens pages, than it gradually and slowly feel easier until the moment I realize no longer it is a foreign language while reading. However, when I am not that strong yet, my skills "drop" every time I start a new author. But that settles down over time.

I'd say the amount of material is more important than the amount of time in the end. But when it comes to time, I think fewer longer sessions per week are more useful than short everyday sessions. You just cannot read extensively for ten minutes a day, in my opinion. It won't lead to much progress, from my experience.

However, I've only had experience with easier languages than Korean so far. 45 minutes a day is a lot of time, it would certainly lead to quite fast progress in easier languages but you might want to check the logs of other asian language learners.
5 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Russian Federation
Joined 4962 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 Message 4 of 9
03 August 2015 at 5:20am | IP Logged 
It's important to experience flow while reading extensively.
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Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2221 days ago

239 posts - 327 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: German, Swedish, Esperanto

 Message 5 of 9
03 August 2015 at 1:23pm | IP Logged 
Perhaps try alternating intensive and extensive reading if you're worried about making progress? I've found that reading extensively helps with learning a few new words, but that it is more useful in consolidating words I already know, and for teaching me how they are used.

I prefer intensive reading for learning new words, and I am currently trying out a listening technique used by Bakunin, which I will soon summarise on my log here and on the .org site. I have used anki, although not subs2srs. It is useful, but I don't like using it a lot for long periods of time.
4 persons have voted this message useful

United States
Joined 3897 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 Message 6 of 9
03 August 2015 at 2:07pm | IP Logged 
Here's how it worked for me:

- 500 pages (all one big book): I could kinda-sorta read French, and enjoy it, but I missed a lot.
- 2,500 pages: My reading took a big jump. Both my speed and comprehension were up.
- 7,500 pages: I could read at one-third to one-half the speed I read in English, with an "opaque" word every couple of pages.

I did some Anki sentence cards and cloze cards along the way, but it didn't account for more than 20% of the words I learned at most.

Overall, I'd say that extensive reading, extensive TV watching, and talking to people in French during my day-to-day life were the most effective things I ever did. (At least after A2 or so.) Most of the other things I did were useful, too, but they were useful in more of a "filling in the gaps" sort of way—Anki, grammar study, looking things up.
8 persons have voted this message useful

Mork the Fiddle
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2334 days ago

86 posts - 159 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Norwegian, Latin, Ancient Greek

 Message 7 of 9
03 August 2015 at 4:32pm | IP Logged 
Call my strategy “modified” extensive reading, and my response sort of answers the OP's question and sort of does not. My apologies, then, if this is off-topic.

Roughly five years ago, as a false beginner I began reading French for about an hour a day, seven days a week. Following that routine for about a year and a half, I could read and understand French without needing a dictionary.

During that time I toyed with ANKI and Memrise and other on-line SRS programs, but soon got bored with them and stopped. I did little or no grammar review, or should I say if I did any I do not remember.

All this reading was accompanied by listening to the text, usually while reading but sometimes without the text. I read my French at Lingq, whose software “remembers” defintions for words that you have looked up. From then on they are available to you whenever you encounter the word again.

I became “fluent” in reading French after I had read about 1,200,000 words. Lingq makes it easy to keep track of the number of words you read. That amount of words is just about the total number of words in Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, so I have dubbed 1,200,000 words a proust.

Toward the end of my daily reading of French, I also began reading Spanish, in which I was also a false beginner. Following the same routine, I became “fluent” in reading it, too. Once again, it turned out that reading a proust of words did the trick.

Once I finished Spanish, I moved on to Ancient Greek, where, again, I was a false beginner. Switching from Lingq to Learning With Texts (LWT), I have read Ancient Greek for over two years. In the beginning I did some SRS with Ancient Greek, too, but again soon gave it up. From time to time I do consult verb tables. The vocabulary of Ancient Greek, including the extensive number of verb parts, is quite a bigger bear than that of French or Spanish, so I am still plodding along. LWT does not track number of words read, so I am in the dark about that.

To sum up, with all three languages I was a false beginner. I had learned the rudiments of grammar and vocabulary years and years ago, but I am sure I was not beyond A2. Because “extensive” reading means that one reads as much as one can, not stopping to look up a word one does not know, I was not really doing extensive reading. I'll call it modified extensive reading.

Finally, being “fluent” in reading French and Spanish does not mean that I know every word I encounter and never have to use a dictionary. Recently I picked up a copy of Vol de Nuit by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I find a few words per page that I don’t know, and I look them up because Saint-Exupéry and the lyrical beauty of his writing are worth the trouble.

13 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 3531 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 8 of 9
03 August 2015 at 8:20pm | IP Logged 
I have mixed feelings about extensive reading.

In May 2014 I started the Super Challenge for 4 languages: Norwegian, Mandarin, Russian and Georgian. The idea was reading extensively.

My Norwegian was an average B1. Let's put it: bordering 50% of text comprehension. I noticed progress. I eventually reached basic reading fluency about 1 year later.

The other three were an average A2. I suffered and I regretted the effort spent on this extensive reading while I abandoned textbools and thus any intensive reading I used to do. I consider 2014 to be a lost year for those three languages. After 1 year I decided to resume taking at least 1 page intensively from other sources - more textbooks or reviewing the old ones, podcasts, news articles - and I slowly got back on track. Now, 8 months later, I'm finally seeing some progress for Georgian and Mandarin through combining both strategies, and Russian is a bit behind. Georgian is the closest to becoming a language I can read extensively at and get the hang of, Mandarin comes second and Russian is, again, lagging behind. As a matter of fact, my Russian now still isn't suitable for making good progress and still enjoy the reading when doing it extensively. My goal now is to reach this appropriate level in all those three languages by the end of the year, so I can do the next Super Challenge in them the proper way.

What people usually underestimate in terms of more 'exotic' languages is the time you spend before you can look at a text and get the hang of it. French and my native language, Portuguese, share 75% of vocabulary; English 50%. I can transfer a bit of English to German, though much less than I would expect. But you get a negligible vocabulary discount for Georgian, Mandarin and Russian. Might be the same with Korean in your case. So, when it gets to extensive reading and your expectations, it's all about timing. Maybe it helps to start all-intensive and slowly add a couple of pages extensively and then keeping moving the balance to the other border as you notice you become more comfortable.

EDIT: Typo

Edited by Expugnator on 03 August 2015 at 11:50pm

9 persons have voted this message useful

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