Read, Read, Read (For Krashen!) | TROLL 014

Back in the 5th Rule of Language Learning, we had a very pithy rule that was summed up like this: Review, Review, Review

Genius, I thought!

Another bullet-proof rule of language learning, delivered in three simple words…

Good job Olly!

Or so I thought… for all of about 5 minutes. Until I checked Twitter and saw myself being firmly put in my place by a certain Stephen Krashen…

“Review review review, what about read read read?” — he said!

Had I just got it epically wrong? It’s not review, review, review, Olly, you muppet… it’s read, read, read!!!

That’s how you learn a language!

Now, when Stephen Krashen speaks, you pay attention…

After all, he’s done as much for language learning and teaching in the last 30 years than anyone else alive…

He’s good fun over a beer…

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Wine, ice cream and great conversation with Dr Stephen Krashen.

A post shared by Olly Richards (@iwillteachyoualanguage) on

And gave a particularly good interview on this blog not so long ago…

Read, Read, Read Or Review, Review, Review?

So…

Which is it?

There’s a very simple concept behind the idea “review, review, review”, which is this:

We very rarely learn things first time.

The first time you see a new word, or a new grammar construction, the normal thing to happen is that you completely forget it within 5 minutes.

That’s totally normal, totally fine… and part of the learning experience.

You can see this pattern of “forgetting” visually in the what’s called the “forgetting curve”, which basically shows that the more times you review something, the longer you remember it.

ForgettingCurve

The original uploader was Icez at English Wikipedia. [Public domain]. The red line shows forgetting without review. The green lines represent review sessions and increased retention.

And so the fundamental principle here is that you need to get plenty of review of the stuff you’re learning, in order to remember it.

Simple, right?

Straightforward…just the way we like it!

So now…

If the higher-order principle is that you need to get lots of review, then the next question is: How do you get that review?

And this is where Krashen and I start to converge…

Because, when I say the word “review”, you might have a certain image come to mind…

You might have an image of sitting down with a notebook or flashcards, looking back over your notes from class… “reviewing your notes”, if you like.

And that’s one way to do it.

But there’s another way to get regular review…

Another less obvious way to review stuff…

Drum roll please…

Reading!

That's right.

Reading is also a source of review. Let me explain why.

Obispo, Me, & An Argentinian Mountain Top

I remember the very first book I ever read in Spanish. It was called Crónica de una Muerte Anunciada, or Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Garcia Marquez.

A fantastic book.

But, you see, I read this book on top of a mountain in Argentina… back in 2005, ladies and gentlemen… 2005!

Back when smartphones didn't exist. And even if they had existed, I certainly wouldn't have data coverage on top of that mountain. So I couldn't Google anything.

I didn't even have an old fashioned paper dictionary.

All I had was the book…

And I read it cover to cover.

Right at the very beginning of the book, they started talking about this thing called an Obispo.

Obispo, in Spanish.

I had no idea what that meant, but I kept reading anyway.

As I carried on through the story, I still didn't know exactly what Obispo meant, but I did figure out he was an important figure that everybody revered, and he had something to do with the church…

So that was enough for me to know basically what it meant. Enough for it to make sense in the story.

Now, this word came up over and over again, because this Obispo, was central to the story…

The word would crop up on every page, sometimes multiple times

And because of that repetition, by the end of the book, that word Obispo was firmly embedded in my memory… and has been for the last 15 years!

(And Obispo, in case you're curious, means “bishop”.)

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So…

Built into the act of reading is review.

Review, review, review.

You see something new, you see it again, and you see it again.

As you read, you're learning new things, and then reviewing them.

The most important stuff crops up a lot, and so you review it more.

And guess what…

If you keep it up, you end up knowing that stuff really rather well!

Krashen himself has called learning vocabulary in this way “distributed exposure to vocabulary” …which sounds altogether more convincing.

But I'll stick with the basic concept of “review” right here… because that's exactly what it is!

So, ladies and gentlemen, when Stephen Krashen tells you to read, read, read… he's absolutely right, and you should do exactly what he says!

So How Do You Implement The Read, Read, Read Method?

Now…

You might be wondering…

Well, I'll let you into a little secret…

This “read read read” method is also the easiest language learning method in the world.

Krashen, who has a knack for giving this stuff fancy names, suggests “Free Voluntary Reading”…

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So, it's reading that's not dictated by a course or a teacher, but rather reading that you do out of choice, in free and unstructured time.

And here's some of the “Free Voluntary Reading” that I've done in the last few months…

And if you're wondering why I read my own book…

Well, I didn't, I'm just trying to promote it… you'll forgive me, I know.

So let's make this simple…

1) You find a book you like…
2) You make sure it's not too hard…
3) You read it, enjoy it…
4) And then you do it all over again! (With a new book)

You learn a tonne of new stuff, and have a great time in the process.

So, thanks for reading, and remember…

Do yourself a favour, and

Read, Read, Read

So tell me in a comment below – what was the last thing you read in your target language? What was the last Free Voluntary Reading you did? And if you haven't read a book in your target language, tell me a book you'd like to read — and then go and read it!

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