One of my ongoing projects is to read one million words in german. At the start i had severe problems understanding anything, despite having taken german classes in highschool for several years. I barely got any of the plot, and most of the words on the page were new to me.
I’ve passed 300000 words of reading in german so far, and i’m still going strong. Right now I’m reading Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban, and i’ve finished the first two harry potter books. I read the first two while listening to the german audiobook at the same time, but with the current book i’m already on page 63 and i haven’t used the audiobook yet.
I’m able to read at a reasonable speed now, and the book is very enjoyable. I know the majority of the words on every page, and i almost never feel lost. There are still words that i don’t know, but missing them usually doesn’t affect my understanding of the plot. I’m able to guess a lot of words from the context because i already know so many of the words.
There are still some spots, however, where a bunch of confusing things happen all together, usually at some really vital plot point when something surprising happens. In those situations, i might mark a few words for later lookup in a dictionary, but i try to keep reading.
My habit lately has been to read with a highlighter felt pen beside me so that i can highlight sentences that i like, or sentences that i had trouble with. Later on, i can flip through and put all of those into Anki (my flashcard program) so that i can review them later. This means that i’m constantly stretching my vocabulary powers by getting the harder sentences reinforced many times. New words tend to stick better this way.
At this stage, reading is very enjoyable, and not a chore at all. I’m really much more focused on finding out what happens next in the plot than with meeting my weekly goals for words read, and as a result i’m exceeding all of my goals by quite a lot. I have the rest of the german Harry Potter books up to book 6, and if i complete all of those then i’ll be at around 1.5 million words read total. Whereas before it felt like i’d never reach 1 million, it seems like it’ll be quite easy now, and i should hit that before the end of the year hopefully.