On revisiting old books

in #thoughts6 months ago (edited)

So, since the end of last year as well as the beginning of this year I have been studying English both formally and on my own, and one of the language learning tips that has stuck with me since I heard it is one I picked up from here that says "to improve comprehension don't try to understand". In other words, when we are exposed to material in another language, it is important not to focus too much on trying to understand those words that we are not familiar with or don't know, and to move on to those words that we do understand. Because what happens when we stop to check those few words we don't know is that we lose the flow we are carrying, we lose the momentum, and it becomes a very tiresome and slow process. It is very difficult to read a book if we have to stop every moment to look for the meaning of a word. This can happen even while reading in our own language. And what ends up happening is that we miss the bigger picture by focusing on trifles. You end up not understanding the whole because you want to understand the parts.

Instead, if we accept uncertainty, what happens is that because of the context we end up understanding the gist of it many times. And the goal is after this to also give it a second look to review anything that was not clear enough.

I find this to be particularly good advice because I think it applies not only to language learning, but to learning in general. It is quite applicable when reading a new book that deals with a subject you don't know, since there are books that are very difficult to understand at the first reading. Moreover, there are books that have so much information, where the difficult part is not the understanding itself, but the fact of remembering everything you can learn from it. There are people who try complex memorization methods for this, but what I find best, at least in my experience, is to keep the book and continually revisit it over time. Since a good book is made, I think, not to be read once and then forgotten on a shelf gathering dust, but on the contrary it is meant to be a place you come back to and revisit. With time you will understand more and more, and when you understand, any memorization trick will be useless, because you will already know the essence of what is written, you will have a better comprehension of the text. And I believe that learning is not so much about memorization as it is about understanding and comprehension.

I particularly think it is a more pleasant experience to read a book more serenely, knowing that you will read it again if necessary, than to beat your head over page after page trying to understand every inch of what is written. You may actually realize that you will comprehend more if you don't try so hard to understand.


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The best books are the books you always go back to. I have books I have read five, six and seven times or more. If a book it’s not worth a second reading, then it’s not worthy of your time. And it is true what you say that you don’t always have to stop to look for a new word, but you also have to keep in mind that those new words will surprise you with their meanings and will enrich your vocabulary. I always read a book, whether it’s fiction or not, with a sturdy dictionary next to me; and, while it is true that I don’t always look for a new word every time I always end up looking for at least one new word. Give the dictionary a chance, you’ll be surprised with what you’ll find there. I liked this post and if you like to read books I recommend you to check my most recent post about books here: https://ecency.com/hive-180164/@thereadingman/5-amazing-books-i-hope. Take care.

I agree.

I do look for words, but only when it is really necessary. Otherwise you can tell the meaning of many words just from the context. And through exposure one is also able to enrich one's vocabulary.

At the end, it depends on the book.

Yes, I can tell from experience.
Learning English is a process of making milage. I read, and read, and read, and even though first I understand just the basic things, and miss out on the more subtle meaning and foreign terms, the longer I read and listen to the language I want to learn, the better I someday will be.

In fact, if you ask me certain words, I wouldn't know the exact translation, but if I read or listen in a context, I understand. Also, when I speak myself, I use terms that come to my mind in such rapid pace that I do not think of them, or question them for their correctness, but have heard the same sequence many times before, so that my memory steps in, before I even have time to think.

If you are together with native speakers they will correct you when you misuse a sequence of expression, or you can see it in their faces, when they look irritated. Then you realize your mistake. Hard online though, through written language, but even there you can notice if someone translates from his tongue literally into English, or if he talks like a native.

I like to see myself as someone who is still learning English, and not as someone who really knows about it. Because that way if I make a mistake or don't understand something, I can say "I'm just learning", and avoid getting irritated. Although I know it doesn't really change too much. Deep down it irritates me. Haha.

I'm joking.

In fact, if you ask me certain words, I wouldn't know the exact translation, but if I read or listen in a context, I understand.

This happens to me a lot. Sometimes I find that although I can understand perfectly well what someone says, I can't find the words to translate it. Understanding something is not the same as being able to translate it. At least not literally.

Maybe one day I will have the experience of speaking directly with native speakers and thus improve my proficiency.

Meanwhile I welcome any kind of feedback, correction, etc. :)

This is very helpful to me. I used to check for every new word meaning and to my surprise I don't always finish that chapter

I'm glad to hear that you find the idea helpful, it has helped me too. So that you can continue reading in the same flow, so to speak.

Thanks for stopping by!

I felt the same when I was trying to learn Portguese on Duolingo. Each time I tried to understand the grammar I ended up failing... It's best to let it sink in.
Also, many years ago when I first started reading books in English I was struggling... and that was after studying English since second grade. To this day, if there's a word I don't know, I can always guess from the context. English has become so natural for me I rarely read in my native Romanian. Enjoy your books!

I still struggle to read some books in English, but the context helps me a lot. It depends on whether the author uses a lot of fancy words. Haha.

And that's despite the fact that I'm exposed to a lot of English content almost every day.

But, anyway...

Thanks for stopping by and cheers!

I hate long descriptions of nature, but it doesn't matter if I don't understand what tree it is. I wouldn't recognize it even if I did know its name... 🙂

Hahaha... but yes.