reading a million words: 300000

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.

5 Responses to reading a million words: 300000

  1. Mr. Fixation,

    Just curious: do you read aloud all, most, some, or none of the time in German? Do you believe language learning would be improved by reading aloud or would doing so hinder, e.g., by perhaps mispronouncing words.

  2. doviende says:

    Hmm, i don’t really see much point in reading aloud. If you’re by yourself, and you want to practice pronunciation, i suggest you just listen to a recording by a native and try to say things exactly like they do. Make sure you rewind and try again a lot, and record yourself if you can so that you can listen to your own mistakes.

    You should also only do this after you’ve done many many hours of pure listening, because then you’ll have a better ear for what’s good and what’s not. Then when you listen to the recordings of yourself, you’ll be better able to spot the faults.

    If you’re reading aloud, then it just sounds like an opportunity to reinforce mistakes. I can’t think of any way that it would help you understand the stuff you’re reading. Once you get better at reading, then reading aloud will slow you down too. You can read faster if you don’t pronounce things.

    Do you think there are some benefits to reading aloud? Maybe some reasons exist, bit i can’t think of any, and i never do it.

    • Amanda says:

      For me, reading out loud can help clarify thing. Sometimes I get lost or lose rhythm and reading out loud slows me down and increases understanding. When I was really new to Korean, I had to subvocalize everything or my eye would “read” every syllable but my eyes were getting ahead of my head. Sort of like what we call “calling words” in education. (When students can read something fluently orally but can’t tell you what they just read.)

  3. Cesar M. says:

    @Doviende: I do agree that readng aloud should only occur when one has done, say, 200 hours of pure listening/watching L2. And including your method of following along an audiobook witht the actual text, especially if one is not familiar with L2 alphabet/script, would precede reading aloud. Reading aloud, however, as does writing, gives the language life, makes it more real, even more memorable. At least to me.

    • doviende says:

      hmm…that does sound interesting. I might try that if I’ve done a lot of practice first, like trying to say exactly what a native speaker is saying on a recording. I just don’t want to practice any bad habits at the start.

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