Reading is one of my favorite past times. Ever since I was a child I have been able to sit down and read a book for hours on end–often finishing a book the same day I start it. With my love for other languages, I had hoped–and continue to hope–that my love of reading will be present in that other language, and that my language skill reaches a point where that is a possibility.
For that reason, I try my hardest to find easy things in Korean and Japanese which I can read. It started out with manga/manhwa, childrens stories and television gossip magazines: things I was familiar with in my own native language and could use the picture to ensure I was on the right track.
However, as I began to progress in my language skill and as the novelty of anyting in a different language began to wear off, these books were not enough for me. I began craving the satisfaction of reading a novel, of reading something I would read at my age and level in my first language. Because of this I went on a search for a good book to read. No, not just a good book, the PERFECT book. This book had to be easy enough that I could understand it without pictures and small sentences, and engaging enough that even if I was having a hard time understanding the words I would remain engaged. At this point with all my criteria, the search seemed a little hopeless. Then I found Harry Potter on hanbooks.com.
Harry Potter basically defines my childhood. My dad read me the books before I was able to read, and when I was 8 years old I read the 4th book by myself starting the day it was released. (OK, it took me like a month, but I still read it by myself!).
Following what I learned from my ESL class last year, I knew this would be the perfect book. All the material and the storylines were familiar. I had read the books and watched the movies dozens of times. Because of this, I had a leg up. There is nothing more challenging than learning a new concept for the first time in a language that is still new and challenging.
So anyhow, I chose to read Harry Potter and I have been reading it over the past few weeks when I have some time. I have finally read over 100 pages…though I am still about 1/4 of the way done with the book. 😛 So far it has been my reading strategy to read through the book without stopping to look up grammar points and unfamiliar words–at this point there would be too many, and one of my goals is for speed and fluency. I read when I can and stop when I become distracted or unfocused, instead of forcing myself to finish a chapter as I would if I were reading an English book.
As I mentioned, one of my goals is to increase my reading speed. This is incredibly frustrating for language learners, especially to those who are fast readers in their native language. In English, when I am reading lighthearted books for pleasure I read faster than a page a minute….but in Korean even at my level I am reading at a pace of a page every 3-5 minutes. Although I think this is something every language learner faces to some extent, I think it is more of a challenge for people learning a language with an alphebet that is different from that in their original language, and requires more effort to reach and maintain a similar reading speed.
Besides reading more challenging material/novels to improve reading speed, I am trying to increase my awareness and ability to use written grammar, gain a wider vocabulary, and maintain my Korean in general as I continue to study it alongside Japanese. Truth be told, according to what I have learned in my ESL training and adapting it to my own language learning, this book is on the challenging side for me. However I have also learned that with new language learners it is good to initially focus on understanding the gist and the bigger picture of what is happening in the story instead of focusing too much on each individual word.
Another advantage specific to reading the Harry Potter books is that there are 7, and they get more complex, more advanced and (in general) longer as you go along. This is perfect for language learners, because it helps you work up your ability gradually.
Overall I would rate Harry Potter a 5/5 for language learners, though I would only recomend it to intermediate level learners.
Thats all I have for now. If you have tried reading HP in a foreign language, I would love to hear how it turned out for you! Let me know what other books are good for language learning! 🙂