Is reading that important when learning a language?

I want to discuss a question I get quite often. Is reading that important when learning a language? Some people say that reading is not very important when learning. They say that a child learns to speak first then eventually gets to the reading and writing. So, is it even important to read if you want to learn a language? While growing up I was never into reading. I actually hated to read when I was younger. I never liked fiction books that we were forced to read in school. After high school, I found an interest in Real Estate investment. I grabbed a few books on buying and flipping homes as well as some business books. It was the first time I found any enjoyment from reading. I realized it wasn't that I hated reading, it was simply that I had to find content I liked.

I have studied many languages throughout the last 10 years of my life. I spent 2 years on and off studying Mandarin, 2 years studying French and 3 years on Spanish up until 1 month ago when I started a 90 day challenge to learn Tagalog.

I can say that when studying each language I have had a focus when I started on the listening. I used programs like pimsleur and multiple beginner podcasts like frenchpod101 and the duolingo pod. While I think that listening was a great way to start learning, it wasn't until I stumbled upon a Canadian Polyglot, Steve Kauffman, that I was pushed into trying to focus on listening and reading at the same time.

Because of my past experiences hating to read, but then finding enjoyable content, I knew that if this method of listening and reading at the same time was to work, it would have to be content that I was very engaged in.

I used the LingQ.com program to setup my studies. This program allowed me to add articles, books, and course content that I found engaging. It allowed me to download books like Rich Dad Poor Dad (or in my case Padre Rico y Padre Probre - the Spanish Version) to the platform as well as the download the audio version on my Audible APP so I could read and listen at the same time.

I will do a future post about how I enjoyed the LingQ program. For today I want to focus on how I feel about the process of listening and reading at the same time when learning a new target language.

When I started this focus on listening and reading, it was while I was in my Spanish learning phase. Prior to that I had never read and listened at the same time while trying to study a new language. I always did every study session separately with either a listening section or focused reading section.

I found that incorporating the listening and reading together allowed me to accelerate my learning. It allowed me to add vocabulary faster. It also did one other thing that I think was one of the biggest helps. The reading aspect actually helped me listen better. It allowed me to pick up on the nuances of different pronunciation of a native speaker and how a word would be spoken if I was in a conversation instead of a classroom.

I can say from experience that whenever possible it is best to listen and read at the same time. This is obviously not always practical. It is however, in my opinion, the fastest and most effective way to learn a new language. There is a strange thing that takes place after you listen and read for long enough. IT IMPROVES YOUR SPEAKING! This was the biggest surprise. I found that after listening and reading I could speak much smoother while not always grasping for the next word with hesitation. I felt more comfortable in a conversation with an online language partner.

The bottom line here is get to the listening and reading as much as you possibly can and you will accelerate the progression to a fluent level in any language.


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