How To Improve Your Foreign Language Vocabulary by Reading Books

Fall in Love with Books All Over Again While You Accelerate Your Learning

Television and the Internet have coaxed many people away from books. However, you can reawaken your love of literature as you learn a foreign language.

  1. Search for simple classics. Begin with books that were originally published in English and translated to the language you are attempting to learn. Look for classics that are simple and straightforward and do not contain numerous idiomatic expressions.
  2. Seek out novels written in uncomplicated English. Visit the library and peruse the shelves for authors like Ray Bradbury and Pearl S. Buck. Anne Rice's recent books about the life of Jesus are relatively simple, but her vampire novels would probably not be a good choice.
  3. Try to find modern foreign language translations for these books. A novel written in 1935 and translated in 2005 will utilize contemporary grammar, spelling, and idioms.
  4. Avoid the temptation to consult the dictionary as you read. Keep a mini-dictionary at hand, but use it only for occasional words that you must comprehend to decipher the meaning of a passage.
  5. Try to see 'words within words.' For instance, 'Durchgangsort' is not a term you are likely to find in a German-English dictionary. However, when you break it down - 'durch' + 'gangs' + 'ort,' you will see that it means something like 'a place to go through' or 'portal.'
  6. Do not analyze every single word. You will usually get the gist of a passage even if you only understand 75% or so of the vocabulary.
  7. Stick with the same author and translator when practical. Each person will have a basic vocabulary with favorite words that he or she tends to use. Repetition is the key to learning any foreign language.
  8. Remember that titles will vary from language to language. For example, Pearl S. Buck's novel, 'The Patriot' is titled 'Land der Hoffnung, Land der Trauer' in German and 'Le Patriote' in French. You can use the Internet to research titles, or search for the author's name at sites like or
  9. Try to find books with accompanying audio. Unfortunately, it is not easy to locate a book and audio-CD with exactly the same translation. If you do find one, remember the name of the company for future reference.
  10. Save money by finding used books. Visit secondhand bookstores and libraries. Internet sites such as liaise with booksellers from all over the world to provide used books in several different languages. eBay is another popular online site that will allow you to purchase used items from other countries.
  11. Keep your book with you wherever you go. You can squeeze in a few minutes of reading at the bus stop, standing in line at the bank, waiting for the kettle to boil, etc.

There are many more foreign language tips and German-English stories in parallel translation at A-Language-Guide. Also, be sure to check the 'Reference and Education' section at 1st Rate Articles for additional resources.

Kathy is an author and webmaster who writes articles for 1st Rate Articles, travel articles for 111 Travel Directory, and foreign language articles for A-Language-Guide.

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