Reading implies teaching skills like: listening, speaking, reading

Reading in Language Learning

 

 

 

1.    
What
is reading?

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2.    
What
is the importance of reading in language learning?

3.    
Objectives
in reading

4.    
Skills
and strategies in learning how to read:

ü
the
importance of vocabulary and comprehension in language learning;

ü
the
importance of decoding words in language learning;

ü
the
fluency in reading.

5.    
The
3 stages in reading a text:

ü
Pre-reading;

ü
While-reading;

ü
Post-reading.

6.    
Intensive
and extensive reading in language learning

7.    
The
importance of the reading material in language learning

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.      What
is reading?

Learning a language is a step-by-step process. This means that a person
who wants to know a foreign language has to develop the ability to produce an infinite number of sentences in
response to an infinite number of stimuli.1
Teaching a foreign language implies teaching skills like: listening, speaking,
reading and writing. Reading is a receptive and active skill because it
involves checking, predicting, guessing and asking oneself questions. It also
represents an interactive process between what a reader knows about a certain
topic and what the writer knows. It is also defined as being a process of
looking at and understanding what has already been written. When reading, we
develop a certain learning style and we become visual learners (persons that
learn better by visual means). Reading is a good way to learn and practice
language.

2.      What
is the importance of reading in language learning?

Being one of the four skills in language learning, reading has an
important role in learning a foreign language. Listening, speaking, reading and
writing are always found in a relation of interdependence. When reading, we
develop our capacity for inference, anticipation, deduction, analysis and
synthesis. Reading also sharpens and stimulates the capacity for appreciation
as well as the critical thinking by discussion and reflection on the text. It
raises the awareness of language use and it gives confidence to the reader.

Why is reading so important in language learning? Well, if we read we
complete the process of listening, speaking, reading and writing. We can have
further practice in language, leading to improvement. The new language taught
my reading can be re-used in writing. By reading learners can learn how to make
sense of texts, in order to extract the information required and last but not
least, they can find enjoyment through reading.

3.      Objectives
and approaches in reading:

When beginning reading, the learner should be able:

ü 
to
read texts of a general nature with comprehension ( The reader is able to identify
the topic of the text, as well as its function and its purpose. As a language
learner, the reader can confront himself with vocabulary issues, like unknown
words, so he has to develop certain techniques in order to handle these
problems. Not all texts require reading for comprehension, but the learner
should be able to understand and interpret certain sentences. Without knowing
the exact meaning of some words, this activity is rather difficult.

ü 
to
read flexibly according to purpose ( The learner should be able to read
intensively, extensively, he should be able to skim or scan a text according to
the task he was given. The variety of text type is very important in creating a
so called flexible reader, a person that adjusts immediately his way of reading
as to comply to the task required)

ü 
to
learn language and content from reading ( An important amount of information,
called “new language” will be met through reading. Guessing the meaning of
words from context is one way of learning vocabulary. Being able to learn
content from reading means that the reader is able to pick only the important
information from the text, distinguishing between main ideas and details.)

ü 
to
read with some degree of critical awareness ( The reader should consider the
text from an objective point of view. He should be able to understand what the
writer is trying to do and how he is trying to do it.

When introducing these objectives into a teaching plan
with emphasis on the importance of reading in language learning we must create
a positive attitude towards reading. When dealing with beginners we must select
the texts that appeal to learners and that are within their knowledge of
language. At an intermediate level and above learners are considered to be
intellectually mature enough to begin working towards these four objectives:
comprehension, flexibility, learning language and content, critical awareness.
Using texts of different types develops a variety of reading styles and
encourages reading for different purposes. Throughout this process of reading
vocabulary is developed and consolidated.

4.      Skills
and strategies in learning how to read

In order to make a difference between a skill and a strategy, we must
define each term particularly. A skill is something that you do without
thinking it, an automatism. You do it the same way every time. A reading skill
is instantly recognizing and saying different words when you read (e.g.: the). In contrast, a strategy implies a
plan. You reason when you do it, and you adjust your plan along the way. This
is no longer an automatized process. In reading we often make predictions about
a story, or about the characters, but we change our predictions as we continue
reading, according to the clues that the text gives us.

ü 
Vocabulary and comprehension

Vocabulary and comprehension are two fundamentally important parts in
reading, because if we do not understand the message of a text, it means we are
not reading. Comprehending oral messages requires the same strategies for
comprehending printed messages. Reading comprehension depends on prior
knowledge or knowledge about the world. When the meaning of a word is unknown,
it means that the reader has no background knowledge in that area. (e.g.: a
music teacher has problems comprehending a paper on bio-chemistry, because he
has no background in that area). We cannot construct meaning if we do not have
experience with those words from special fields of interest.

 Comprehension is a continuous
process of using text clues to guide our reading. It is also strategic, because
if we have prior knowledge about a topic we construct meaning based on our
experience. When reading we abandon or adjust our first prediction in favor of
a new one that fits the new information we are given

E.g.: (from ch.2.): We
look first at the title. It says “The Unanticipated Destination.” As soon as we
see that, our minds begin to generate hypotheses, or predictions. We begin to
activate our own experiences about trips and about starting out to go to one
place but then ending up in another. Assuming we all have similar background
experiences, we anticipate that this is a story about a trip, and we get ready
for that meaning. Then we look at the first line of the selection. It says, “I
flew into GEG.” Several things happen at once. You look at the word “flew” and
access the “flying” category in your mind. While you may have originally been
thinking of a trip by car, you now dump that image and replace it with an image
of airplanes (again, if your background experiences are different, you might
generate a different image). If you have experience flying commercially, you
probably think about a large jet airplane, and you see an image in your mind of
rows of people sitting in the coach section (teachers seldom create an image of
the first-class section since few of us have had experience sitting in first
class). If you have never flown, however, your image of what it looks like on
the inside of an airplane will be limited to what you have experienced in
movies or in magazines and, as such, will probably be less detailed. And while
you may use the syntactic clue “into” to figure out that “GEG” must be a place,
you will probably be mystified as to exactly what that place is (unless, of
course, you fly a lot and have lots of experience finding your baggage, in
which

case you have already figured out that GEG is an
airport identifier, and that GEG is an airport). You may even know that GEG is
the Spokane, Washington, airport if your experiences include travel to the
northwest. Now let’s look at the next line of the selection. It says, “But they
wouldn’t let me land.” If up until now we had pictured people sitting in the
coach section of a large jet airplane, that image is now replaced by the image
of a pilot in the cockpit of an airplane. Our experience tells us that if the
passenger image had been correct, the sentence would have said, “But they
wouldn’t let us
land.” It is only the pilot who
says “They wouldn’t let me land.” So we change our prediction.
We begin thinking about pilots, not passengers.2

            Comprehension
is proactive,
because a reader is actively thinking and constantly focusing on the meaning, tentative,
because our predictions change from time to time according to new information
given by the text, personal because every reader gives a different interpretation
according to his prior knowledge, thoughtful because the reader has
to analyse the clues given by the author, imagistic because the reader uses
the descriptive language of the author in order to built a mental image of what
it is happening and reflective because good readers evaluate what they have read
and determine its significance.

            The
most important strategies in comprehending a text are : making predictions,
monitoring and questioning what is happening, adjusting your predictions as you
read, creating an image of what is happening, removing blockages from meaning,
reflecting upon what has been read.

ü  The importance of decoding words in language learning

Word recognition is decoding the printed words,
letters or phrases written on the page. There exist two major ways of decoding
words: by instantly identifying many words at sight or by analysing the word to
figure out what it is.

            It
is proven that a person cannot read smoothly and fluently, in oral or silent
reading if he cannot quickly say the words. That is why, it is better for the
reader to learn sight words by performing a visual memory task. Without this
sight word recognition, reading becomes a laborious, slow and boring activity
because you have to figure out word after word. This sight recognition (a fast
process) should not be confused with phonics, because phonics is a rather
slow process by which the reader sounds out a word letter by letter in order to
recognize it.

            When
a word is not recognized at sight and it must be figured out, readers do a so
called word analysis using techniques like phonics, context and
structural analysis.

            Phonics
implies using alphabet letters and their sounds to figure out unknown words. It
has 3 major components: phonemic awareness (the ability to hear and
discriminate sounds in the mind), letter-sound association (when a reader is
capable of saying what sound goes with what letter), decoding by analogy (a
strategy in which a reader uses known spelling patterns to figure out unknown
words having the same pattern (e.g.: cat, bat, rat, sat, flat).

            Another
way for decoding words is by using context, a technique in which the meaning around an unknown word is used to make
a calculated prediction about what the unknown word could be.3
Context is a strategy because the reader has to pay attention and he has to
use prior knowledge to decide what the unknown word is.

ü  Fluency in reading

Word-recognition
and fluency go hand in hand. We cannot speak of fluency if the reader is not
able to recognize words at sight. Fluency is the ability to read the text
smoothly with appropriate phrasing and intonation. Being fluent both in oral
and silent reading implies how fast or slow one reads and if the intonation and
phrasing reflect the meaning of the text. Fluency
bridges comprehension and word recognition.4
The most important technique in improving fluency is ensuring that readers
do a lot of easy reading.

5.     
The three stages in reading:

Pre-reading: This first stage has the aim to
introduce the reader in the topic of the text, and arouse his interest. This
stage also helps motivate readers by giving them a reason for reading and it
provides some language preparation for the text.

While-reading: This stages focuses on the text
itself, rather than the previous reader`s ideas. The aims are: helping the
reader understand the writer`s purpose, the text structure and clarifying the
text content. According to different tasks that the reader is given prior to
reading the text, he can develop four tactics in order to seek the information
required:

-skimming: running the eyes very quickly
over the text in order to get a general impression, to catch the main idea of
what has been said in the text;

-scanning: reading the text very quickly
in order to extract the information we need;

-sequential: reading the text from the
beginning up to the end;

-focusing: intensive reading of the part
of the text that is of special interest for the reader.

Post-reading:
a
stage in which the reader develops and improves his reading strategies, his
skills in reading silently and orally, he can make predictions or recognize
discourse markers, as well as he develops his ability to use an index, a
dictionary or a table of contents. This stage has an important part in language
learning because it invites the reader to reflect upon what has been read, to
consolidate some information, to relate the text to its own knowledge,
interests or views.

6.     
Intensive and extensive reading in language learning

Intensive
reading is used in order to acquire a certain competence in reading. It is an
accurate type of reading, during which the learner takes notes, identify
details, highlight the main ideas, focusing especially on comprehension, on
linguistic and semantic details. The texts that develop an intensive reading are:
instructions, letters, postcards, menus, recipes, charts, maps, time-tables,
essays, reviews etc.

            Extensive
reading focuses on direct and fluent reading for pleasure.  Usually the reader selects what he wants to
read. Extensive
reading is generally associated with reading large amounts with the aim of
getting an overall understanding of the material. Readers are more concerned
with the meaning of the text than the meaning of individual words or sentences.
(http://www.jalt-publications.org/tlt/files/97/may/extensive.html). The
following types of text are usually preferred by extensive readers: diary
pages, tales, stories, newspaper and magazine articles, poems, jokes etc.

7.     
The importance of the reading material in language
learning

People
do not usually read, unless they have a reason for reading. An exception would
be involuntary reading. For example if we see a warning sign, we would
generally have no conscious reason for reading it, but seeing it and reading it
would occur in the same time. Of course, this action is performed involuntary.
If we take into consideration a train timetable, the same thing happens. We
usually scan the timetable, in search of the information we need, but we still
read involuntary through the lines. If we have a certain column article in a
newspaper, we usually skim it for information, for the general purpose to see
what is about. When dealing with an extract from a novel, we talk about
extensive reading, which is performed out of pleasure for a certain topic.

The
language learner would read these texts not for pleasure, interest or
information, but rather to learn a certain language. In this case the reading
material should not contain a large amount of difficult language. If reading
texts are too difficult than reading will become a very slow process and
boredom will occur, making the reader loose his interest in the reading
material.  Advertisements and
instructions taken from real life are the ideal texts for reading, because they
contain a simple language and they are easy to follow by a language learner.

 The reading material should come from
textbooks, integrated course books which contain reading texts, texts from
“real life”, also called authentic texts, or “simulated authentic texts”. These
texts should not be too difficult because otherwise we discourage the learner.
It he same time they should provide a balanced amount of new language mixed
with vocabulary structures that they should already know. Limiting the reader
to texts that he already knows, or to texts that contain vocabulary items he can
recognize at sight and understand their meaning, will not lead to improvement,
and will not allow development in fluent reading to take place.

Reading
in language learning is a step-by-step process. The transition from easy to
complex must be made gradually by practising new vocabulary structures as well
as comprehension.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Books:

1.     
 Eddie Williams,
Reading in the Language Room,
McMillan Publishers LTD, London, 1992

2.     
Gerald G. Duffy,
Explaining Reading:  A Resource for
Teaching Concepts, Skills, and Strategies, The Guilford Press, New York,
London, 2009

3.     
Elena Bonta, English Teaching Methodology(Curs), Bacau, 2001

Sites :

1.     
http://www.jalt-publications.org/tlt/files/97/may/extensive.html  (18.04.2010)

1 Bonta,
E.(2001): English Teaching
Methodology(Curs), Bacau, p.4

2 Duffy,
Gerald (2009): Explaining Reading: A
Resource for Teaching Concepts, Skills and Strategies, The
Guilford Press, New York, London, pp. 17-18

3 Op.Cit.:Duffy,
Gerald (2009), p.30

4  Ibidem, p.32