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Reading Part 2: Reading Fast and Slow

So once you’ve picked your book, what can you do with it? Well, as I see it, there are three styles of reading  in another language, and I vary them depending on what I’m reading and what mood I’m in:

Slow Reading

This is the hardcore, grind-through-it-with-a-dictionary option. The aim is to translate every word and understand every sentence to know exactly what is being said and what tense it’s being said in. You’ll need a good dictionary for this of course, and you’ll need a lot of patience, usually, or at least you will if your vocabulary is as pitifully limited as mine is.

If you are a fan of kindles, this method becomes a lot easier because of course it has a built-in dictionary so you can just highlight the word and it’ll tell you the meaning. I’m not a fan of Kindles but I’ve used this and I can see the attraction.

Fast Reading

The aim with this one is only to practice your accent and your reading skills: read the text out loud and don’t worry too much whether or not you can understand it. Have someone listen to you and correct your pronunciation. Obviously the drawback of doing this with a book you’re actually trying to follow is that it become a black hole in the narrative, and you’ll have to go back and read it properly if you want to retain your grip on the plot, but if you’re reading a book of short texts like the running manual I mentioned in part 1, it won’t matter too much if you just read one section for phonetics, especially if it’s covering something you already know.

Half-and-Half Reading

I saved the best for last. I sometimes like to read the text at a sort of half-and-half pace, without looking up any of the words, but slow enough that I can follow most of what is being said. I use it as practice for understanding the language as a whole, following enough of what’s being said to draw out the general gist. I only really use a dictionary if there is one word that comes up over and over again, and seems key to the text, but other than that I just skip over the gaps in my understanding. It’s a bit like watching actors on stage under a strobe light. There are gaps in what you can see, but your mind fills it in. I don’t think I could read a whole novel like this, but at times it can be quite thrilling and a good alternative to the hard work of looking up every unfamiliar word, and it forces you to think of words in their wider context rather than as individual dictionary-entries. In short, it’s the nearest thing I can really get to “Thinking in Portuguese” producing a stream of language and trying to process it without really having time to translate it all.

Want to know more? If you’ve read this post and the preceding one and you are hungry for even more reading tips, there’s an article on FI3M about reading that has some interesting tips you could look at. Have a look here. And when you’re feeling suitably inspired, go and find out…

Where to Get Books in Portuguese

Amazon have a few of course, but they’re gits who don’t pay their taxes or their workers. Foyles has a better selection and, if you’re in the UK they’re pretty much just as fast

Bertrand (My favourite Portuguese bookshop)

LIDEL (Mainly academic books, textbooks and language-learning materials)

FNAC (Not just books, actually – they have all sorts of stuff!)

Project Gutenberg (Public domain ebooks)

Kobo (Ebooks if you like that sort of thing)


Just a data nerd

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