Knowledge and confidence.

Reading review form for English classes.

Speed Reading Course


Reading a lot is the best thing you can do to learn vocabulary, which in turn helps you also learn language. However you must understand a few things before you start reading so that you can make sure your time and effort are effectively used. When it comes to language learning, besides simply for pleasure, there are three main reasons to read for language learning:

1) Reading for pleasure

2) Reading to learn vocabulary

3) Reading for speed

1) Reading for pleasure

The main reason to read anything is to gain some sort of benefit from it, and what better reason to read than for the sake of it? Reading is fun, and if you don’t get enjoyment out of something you are reading, it would be a good idea to read something else!

2) Reading to learn vocabulary

If you want to learn vocabulary by reading, there are certain conditions that must be met to make sure that you do so effectively and efficiently, the most important of which is an understanding of at least 95% of the vocabulary you come across.

That’s right, 95%. At least. Ideally you should aim for 98% known words in your reading (easier said than done, right?). Any less than 95% and you will find that the unknown words disrupt your flow, which means you cannot read fast enough for it to be effective.

Not only that, but knowledge of 95% of the vocabulary is about the stage where the remaining unknown words can be guessed from context, one of the tips I mentioned in learning vocabulary.

Did you know that half of the vocabulary in any book only appears once? It’s true. Or thereabouts. Zipf’s law (link from Wikipedia) states that “given a large sample of words used, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. So word number N has a frequency of 1/N”. This means the most frequent word in English “the”, will be about 7% of the running words in a text, whereas a word that has a low frequency, will be less than 0.5% of the running words in a text, depending on how long it is.

If you’re learning English, you are at a major advantage because of the sheer number of one of the best inventions in Applied Linguistics: Graded Readers. Graded Readers are designed for second language learners, and the words and expressions are split into frequency bands, meaning that if you read a book, you can be confident that the words you come across will be useful to you. Remembering Zipf’s law, if half of the words in a book appear only once, those words being high-frequency is a great advantage to you (which should encourage you to read more, right?).

So, if you want to learn vocabulary in a second language, as much as possible you should read graded readers. With a solid base of high frequency vocabulary, your language skills will be hard to beat. Plus, there are a lot out there (for English, unfortunately not so much for other languages) so it won’t be too difficult to find something that is related to your interests!

Find the level of graded readers you should read by finding your vocabulary level, and then read! A lot! The more you read, the more you learn!

3) Reading for speed

The other main reason to read, is to read for speed. Reading for speed is different from reading to learn vocabulary, because you are simply trying to become more proficient (i.e. fluent) at reading what you already know. When you read to gain reading speed, you need to have knowledge of at least 99% of the vocabulary.

You could then say that reading for speed then sounds much harder than reading to learn vocabulary. Well, you’d be wrong to think that! All this means is that you should read easy things, such as Graded Readers either at or below your level, or anything that you’ve read before.

So, find something at or below your level and read it! A lot! Remember to focus on reading for speed, try to read faster every time.


Besides for enjoyment, there are two main reasons to do reading; reading to learn vocabulary, and reading for speed. Both are important to help gain proficiency at a second language, so what are you waiting for? Get out there and read!




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