You know a lot of Italian words, right? You can put some together but most of the time you get lost and confused and you never know if what you’re saying makes sense.
And, let’s be honest, it’s not that easy to always remember words. You spot them and you remember them sometimes, but not all of them. There are some who escape your watchful eye from time to time.
Hang on a second, because I’m about to tell you about something that you might find helpful and, interestingly, something that I used to hate when I was a kid: reading.
“But I already read in Italian and I can understand a little bit already.“
I know, I know. But when you’re learning Italian (and when you’re learning languages in general) you need to choose carefully.
Not every text is a good text for you. You need to read something at your level but challenging enough for you. Do you want a number? Ok, let’s say that you should know around 98% of the words in your text. This means a maximum of 2 unknown words every 100 words.
You might think that that’s quite a lot, and it is. But there’s a reason for that.
The type of reading that I’m telling you about is called extensive reading. You might have guessed by its name that you should do a lot of it. And with the mere aim of enjoying the content. This is why you need to know so many words, you can’t enjoy a text when you have to look up a word in the dictionary every two seconds.
How can you choose the right text?
I know, this is a hard choice. But, luckily, graded readers can make your life easier. You can choose the one (or the ones) that you like the most based on the level that you see on the cover et voilà.
Make sure you pick the right level. Don’t bore yourself but don’t overwhelm yourself either.
Why you should read in Italian?
There’s plenty of evidence that extensive reading boosts your reading skills in Italian, improves your grammar, and… consolidates your vocabulary too.
This, of course, is not the only method that you can use to increase your vocabulary, but it’s surely a really effective strategy to strengthen what you know and what you have learned.
How you should read?
Ok. this is really important. You should read a lot. We’ve talked about it already but it’s worth repeating. A few days are not enough. If you want the benefits that I talked about above, ideally, you should be reading for months.
Not joking. Extensive reading has a lot of benefits, but you need to keep doing it for a long time if you want to see those benefits.
So, try with 30 minutes every day for around 8 months. It feels like a lot at first, I know. But after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day (Morcheeba was surely right).
To sum up
- Extensive reading means reading for a long time to something easy for the mere purpose of reading something that you enjoy.
- By easy, we mean that you should know around 98% of the words in the text (not more than 2 unknown words every 100 words)
- Extensive reading boosts your reading skills, improves your grammar, and consolidates your vocabulary.
- To get these benefits, you should read for a period of a few months (8 is a good number) and for at least 30 minutes a day.
Lethaby Carol, Mayne Russell, Harries Patricia, An Introduction to Evidence-Based Teaching in the English Language Classroom – Theory and Practice, Pavilion ELT, 2021
Nation Paul, What Should Every EFL Teacher Know?, Compass Publishing, 2013
Nation Paul, What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand, 2014
Nation Paul, Newton Jonathan, Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing, Routledge, 2009