3 Tips for Teaching Reading in a Foreign Language

Reading is a great skill to have. It's something we can do anytime, anywhere. So when we're learning another language, it should definitely be on our to-do list. As a language tutor, reading is something I encourage students to actively engage in when they're learning foreign languages. However, looking at a text and not understanding a single word can be quite daunting. Sometimes it's about teaching students how to read in other languages without losing their minds. Today I want to share with you some tips about teaching reading skills in foreign languages to young learners. Ready? Let's go.

1. Traffic Light Reading.


This is one of my all-time favourite exercises for teaching reading. The idea is that you pick an appropriately levelled text (this can be adapted to any level!), take the text in question, or a segment of it, and reread it three times. The first time you read with a green pen or pencil in hand and underline every single thing you understand. This is great because it includes numbers, places, and names meaning that every student is guaranteed some green on their page. What a confidence booster!


Then students re-read the text. This time with an orange pen at the ready. The orange is for those words that look familiar or could be guessed, but that students aren't 100% sure about. There should be less of these. Encourage students to also have the green pen ready as they may notice 'green' words they didn't see the first time around. And finally, as you may well have guessed, the red pen comes in and underlines every completely unknown word. Providing that the text is of the right level, there should be a nice shade of green filling the page with the odd orange and red spec. 


I find this activity constantly boosts students confidence as they see a black and white page in a foreign language come to life in colour. So many students are amazing and really pleased with themselves about how much they can actually understand when they take the time to focus on a text. One of my all-time favourites.

2. Read The Jabberwocky.


Or some other equally weird and wonderful text...in English. Why? To read something such as The Jabberwocky, with words created specifically for it that definitely aren't in everyday use, shows students two things. Number one, they don't know every word in their own language. For some this comes as a shock, and a welcome one when...number two, they can figure out what's being said by the sound and properties of the words. 


It's surprising how intuitive young learners ears are. When they hear the word 'méchant' for example, many students correctly have it down as a negative word rather than a positive word when questioned. Children are great at this! Not only does this boost their reading confidence, but if you read things out loud to them, emphasising the words you want them to learn using varying tones and such, they can often guess the general 'idea' of the word - positive or negative etc. This is also great to help develop their listening skills in foreign languages. Win win.

3. Duolir!


How could I not mention Duolir?! When I first discovered the app, I loved the idea so much that I immediately got in touch to say thank you! Let's not beat around the bush here, children love technology. I've even seen toddlers tapping and swiping at shop windows. They're growing up with it, they're pretty good at it, there's no escaping it. So the idea of reading with students and them being able to tap to reveal what we've just read is brilliant. What's more, I love how it's chunks of text rather than just individual words or sentences. Sometimes, knowing a word isn't enough to decipher the meaning in a phrase. Duolir has got it covered. Woop!


So there you have it. Three simple yet effective tips to help to engage students with reading in foreign languages. Do you teach languages? How do you use reading in the classroom? Share your ideas in the comments!