How to Improve Reading Skills in a Foreign Language

improve your reading skills

Reading is a powerful tool when it comes to learning a new language. It not only exposes you to authentic language use that you may not find in textbooks, but also offers a plethora of real-life expressions.

However, the key lies in knowing how to read effectively in a foreign language, and selecting the right materials to suit your learning needs.

In this article, we’ll introduce several tricks to improve reading skills in a foreign language and make your reading time more productive. Let’s go!

How to improve reading skills in a foreign language effectively

Balance Intensive and Extensive Reading

As the name suggests, intensive reading is reading intensively and dissecting every sentence and phrase. It usually involves checking your dictionary a lot and keeping notes. Intensive reading really helps you with improving grammar, and overall reading skills.

Extensive reading, on the other hand, is about the volume of your input. By consuming a large amount of texts on a broad spectrum, you get to familiarize yourself with reading all kinds of texts and scanning for information quickly.

Both intensive and extensive reading plays an important role in improving your reading skills. Combine them to get a maximum outcome in your reading time.

Keep a Dictionary Close

Always keep a dictionary within reach during your reading. It can be either an online or paper dictionary. Dictionaries will be your go-to tool for quickly looking up new words. A good dictionary should also provide you with plenty of example sentences so you can learn vocabulary in context.

Don’t Worry About Not Understanding Everything

It’s perfectly normal to come across words or phrases you don’t understand while reading. Don’t let this discourage you. It’s how you learn and improve, right? As you continue to read more and come across a word repeatedly, it will leave a deeper impression.

When you come across an unfamiliar word, the first thing is not to directly check the dictionary. Only look for the keywords that appear very often or hinder understanding and take notes of those you find useful.

Take Notes and Review

One of the most important assets you can get from reading is a notebook of authentic expressions. Don’t let new words and concepts slip away when reading, make sure to jot them down after reading. 

When taking reading notes, try to write things down from memory rather than simply copy and paste. This way they can better stick in your memory. Also, review your notes regularly to reinforce understanding.

Read Regularly: 

There’s no substitute for consistent reading. Aim to read in your target language every day, if possible. The more you read, the faster you’ll build your vocabulary and improve comprehension.


Reading materials (From hard to easy)


This doesn’t mean you need to start with Shakespeare or Tolstoy. There are plenty of leveled reading materials specifically designed for language learners. For an enjoyable, smooth reading experience, the ideal percentage of known words in the text is around 85 %.

When reading literature, there is no need to rely too much on translation. It’s more important to immerse yourself in the story, get comfortable with the unfamiliar phrases, and sometimes allow the context to guide your understanding.

Start as early as possible and you’ll be surprised at how much you can gain in all 4 language skills from reading!


News articles can be tough to crack for beginners due to their formal, and often complex language. But don’t be discouraged, news is an invaluable resource if you wish to reside in a country where the target language is spoken. 

Reading news articles can familiarize you with local affairs, societal issues, and cultural norms – bringing you one step closer to your target language and culture.

Wiki page

Here is a lesser-known, yet unexpectedly useful reading material for language learners – Wikipedia. You may be pretty familiar with the standard English version of Wikipedia. But actually, Wikipedia is available in 334 languages, including a “simple English” version that is easier to read than the standard English version!

wikipedia - multiple language choices

Wikipedia articles are often written in formal and informative language. They not only offer a rich resource of subject-related vocabulary, but also help you improve overall reading skills on complex texts. So if you wish to have an advanced reading experience, just pick a topic and dive in.

Blogs and articles

Blogs and articles are less formal and more personal than news and wiki articles, making them perfect for leisure reading. They cover a wide range of topics: sport, cooking, travel, fashion… You’re bound to find something that interests you. This makes blog articles excellent materials for extensive reading, helping you get used to the natural flow of the language while reading something you enjoy.


This may be a bit surprising, but watching TV shows with subtitles in your target language can actually improve your reading skills. You’ll hear how the language is spoken in real life while also seeing the written form, helping you enhance listening and reading skills simultaneously. In this process, you can quickly pick up natural and conversational language.

Social media posts

Whether it’s twitter, quora or reddit, diving into the world of social media in your target language can bring you many up-to-date slangs and casual languages. It’s also a window into the daily life, values, and humor of native speakers.


If you are a visual learner or wish to find leisure reading, comics are the way to go. Unlike novels, comics are short, easy to read, and less overwhelming, making them excellent choices for beginners.

Texts in comics are mostly presented in dialogues or contexts, so you can learn many conversational phrases. Plus, comics are usually fun and engaging, keeping your motivation up in your language journey.


Yes, even memes can be an entertaining part of your language journey! Memes usually feature brief phrases paired with amusing images, making them enjoyable even for beginners.

While understanding the humor and cultural references behind memes can be challenging at first, making efforts to understand them can make your language learning journey more fun and rewarding.

language learning meme


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